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Deputy Minister's Speeches

Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the Non-Aligned Movement, 21 July 2011 Welcome Address by Hon. Neomal Perera, the Acting Minister, External Affairs

The Chief Guest Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation,

Your Excellencies and the members of the diplomatic corps,

Hon. Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament,

Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, Secretary External Affairs,

Mr. Nihal Rodrigo, Former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Secretary General, SAARC Secretariat,

Mr. C.R.Kuruppu Chairman / Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you today to this special event organized jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement.

My minister, Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, who was scheduled to address you today, is engaged in an unforeseen event, thus sends his warm greetings to you.  

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

50 years ago in September 1961, the Non-Aligned Movement was founded with the participation of just 25 countries. The leaders of these countries met in Belgrade, the capital of then Yugoslavia, laying the foundation to a new beginning and a new journey in international relations, and international politics, resulting in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, called the NAM.

We are proud that Sri Lanka, then Ceylon in 1961 was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. We take pride that Sri Lanka since then remained as an active and influential member of the NAM, vigorously involved in all its Summits since its inception in 1961. We are equally proud that Sri Lanka’s participation has contributed valuably to shape the organization, especially in its

infancy stage, and then reshaping it to a strong and robust inter-governmental organization represented today by over 120 members and observer countries.

At the 1st NAM Summit in Belgrade, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was a loyal supporter of the non-aligned policy, addressing the leaders, stated that “we in Ceylon count ourselves fortunate that the people of our land were spared the horrors of two World Wars…”

However, later we were subjected to the most horrific terrorism the world has ever seen; perhaps horrors that the 2 World Wars may not have experienced.  After untold  sufferings and bloodshed for over 3 decades, we stand proud here today, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the NAM, once again in a peaceful country, thanks to the strong and unservile leadership of H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and to the countless sacrifices of the selfless and dedicated security forces and the patriotic people of Sri Lanka. I am absolutely convinced that this is the beginning of a new era of nation building in Sri Lanka.

At the same Summit in 1961, the comments made by Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike on the policy of non-alignment movement, is so apt today more than ever before, with profound significance. Madam Bandaranaike then stated that “this conference does not wish to pass moral judgment on the policies of nations. We do not profess to be the guardians of international morality. Nor do we consider that our position of non-alignment makes us in any way morally superior to other nations in the international community”.

This exactly is the Non-Alignment Movement: not to pass judgment on policies of other nations, not to profess to be the guardians of international morality, not to be the so called “morally superior”.

However, it is regrettable to note that still, the ignorance and the blatant neglect to uphold these fundamental values have made the world such a vulnerable place, purely because of the non-existence of a second power block in the world.  Do we then, even have to question the relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement today? The dominance of the idea of a moral superiority itself is all the more reason for the relevance of the NAM. Therefore, it is timely for the NAM to reiterate with emphasis and vigour to the world over, to the UN, and to the people of its member countries the weight of its values today. NAM should resolve to commit itself to face the current global challenges while maintaining the middle path – the non-aligned policy – the non-moral-superior ideology, intact. It should resolve to nurture the positive aspects of diverse cultures and moral value systems in the world rather than submitting to a single, stereo type value system.

As the trusted founding leaders of the NAM, it should reiterate its commitment to the “panchaseela” principles.   Panchaseela was the bedrock on which the NAM was founded and over the last 50 years the members have chartered its course.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sri Lanka was the host of the 5th NAM Summit in Colombo in 1976. Until today it remains the biggest international conference ever held in Sri Lanka. It was then a landmark summit which adopted the Colombo resolution on South Africa. We were honoured have to chaired the movement from 1976 to 1979, and a privilege to preside the 31st session of the UN General Assembly in 1976.   The 5th  NAM summit raised Sri Lanka’s profile to greater heights with universal acceptance of Sri Lankan representatives at international levels. Thus, the period that Sri Lanka chaired the movement is of much significance in the affairs of foreign relations of Sri Lanka.

Throughout the 50 year history of the NAM, Sri Lanka has stood tall, defending its core values, and at the same time benefitted immensely through its membership.   It had been a platform to boost Sri Lanka’s stature to the world.  Sri Lanka developed many friendly relationships with other nations along the way through the association of the NAM, and who have since then stood alongside Sri Lanka, displaying solidarity in the hour of need. Our commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement as well as the connection to it; bond and affiliation to the NAM principles are inseparable.

In this backdrop, we believe, it is most opportune for Sri Lanka to hold this 50th  anniversary celebrations of the Non-Aligned Movement, co-hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, under the theme “NAM - Half a Century of Achievement : Our Common Vision for the Future”.

This is such an honour to me, to warmly welcome our Chief Guest Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama today, Honourable Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation to grace this occasion. Welcome sir, to the 50 year celebration of the Non-Aligned Movement.

I am pleased to welcome Mr. Nihal Rodrigo, Former Secretary of the Foreign Ministry and former Secretary General of SAARC Secretariat, who accepted our invitation to deliver the keynote address today under the theme “Sri Lanka and 50 Years of the NAM : Change and Continuity”.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To mark the important occasion, a commemorative stamp has been designed by the Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau, with the courtesy of the Minister of Postal Services, depicting the spirit of the NAM with flags of all the member countries. Earlier today, it was ceremonially issued, by H.E. the President at the Temple Trees. Ladies and Gentlemen, you will receive a souvenir of the first day cover at the end of this event.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Dr. Vidanage, Director of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, Mr. C.R. Kuruppu Chairman of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and their team for co-hosting this important event and for the excellent arrangements made.

I am extremely pleased to note the valuable support and cooperation extended by the Director General – Department of Information Dr. Ariyaratne Athugala and his team to produce the special commemorative documentary film which will be viewed this evening. Thank you for all your efforts on a job well done, in such a short time.

I must also extend our appreciation to the Director General and the staff of the BMICH for their excellent cooperation in arranging an exhibition of photographs featuring landmark events that will give you a glimpse of NAM’s history and progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We wish and hope that this celebration today in Sri Lanka; the 1st  such event at national level in a NAM member country, as well as, all the other events that will be held in other countries to mark this historic occasion, will be an opportunity to re-strengthen, reinvigorate and revitalize the Non-Aligned Movement, to face the global challenges of the day.

In closing, let me urge all nations, be it member countries,   observer states, and more importantly non member countries, to unite in upholding the values of the NAM policy which could and should be universally accepted.  Need I elaborate here?  Please, Let it be a level field for all!!  Thank you.





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