Remarks by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute Convocation Ceremony
Remarks by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI)
24 November 2016
Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Hon. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva,
Foreign Secretary Mr. Esala Weerakoon,
Director General of the Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute,
Recipients of Certificates and Diplomas,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to be here at the Annual Convocation Ceremony of this important Institution set up just over two decades ago, under the guidance of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was Prime Minister at the time, with the aim of advancing training courses in diplomacy and international relations.
It is also a great privilege today to have with us, our Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has played an important role in shaping the foreign policy of our country since starting his political career as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1977.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is heartening to see that there is so much interest in this area of study, and I congratulate all of you who are receiving your Diplomas today, and also all those who will be receiving special prizes.
I am sure you must have spent a lot of time working towards this important day. Today is your day to receive your awards and celebrate your hard won achievements. Therefore, without taking too much of your time, I will use this opportunity to share a few thoughts with you.
You are here because of your interest in international affairs; and I assume that many of you will be contemplating about what your own future roles might be in connection to our country’s relations with the world, and in advancing causes that would shape what we all strive for – that is, a better country and a better world.
We are living in complicated and complex times in the international sphere including in our own region. At the same time, we are living through a very significant moment in our own nation’s history. Perhaps the most decisive and most important period since Independence in 1948. This should be a cause for optimism and a cause for hope for all of you and us. A moment when all of you can and must rise to play your own active part in shaping our nation’s future.
I am sure many of you have heard me say this before; but I think it is important enough to be repeated again here today. At the time we gained Independence in 1948, 68 years ago, an editorial in one of the British newspapers, I believe it was the London Times, on the 5 of February 1948, hailed that in no time, Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known then, would become the ‘Switzerland of the East’. Later in 1965, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew presenting the first budget of independent Singapore, having broken away from the Malay Union, said that his ambition at the time was to surpass the growth rate of Ceylon in the first five years.
But then, as you all know very well, we, as a nation, lost our way, between then and now, plunging into conflict.
Now, having seen the end of almost three decades of conflict including insurrections in the South, and having overcome a brief descent towards authoritarian governance, we have an opportunity to define our nation’s persona afresh, and chart our path towards equitable and sustainable development, socio-economic progress, a strong democracy with strong institutions, a nation that respects and upholds the rule of law, and promotes the rights and dignity of all. A nation that is at peace with itself and with the world. In fact, a nation which will be a model for other post-conflict developing nations in the rest of the world.
This journey is an extremely important one for our country. A journey in which each and every one of you has a role to play as citizens of this nation. This is the time for action – for responsible and decisive action to make every effort, no matter how small, to support initiatives and also initiate measures that will help institutionalize good governance, democratic norms and practices, a strong judicial and rule of law regime, sustainable development, promotion of individual rights, and ensure reconciliation and durable peace in our country.
In the age of instant communications and 24/7 breaking news combined with new technologies and social media, it is necessary that all of us make a conscious effort to not get carried away and get caught up in the stream of news alerts that bombard us. It is important more than ever to study issues carefully and sensibly, and make this important journey of nation-building and peace-building with a sense of responsibility and dignity at all times. Extremist ideologies have taken a toll on our country for almost three decades and we must ensure that our nation never treads that path ever again.
In fact, this journey is too important for you as young citizens of Sri Lanka to not consider reconciliation and nation-building as your personal responsibility as well. In fact, it is our common responsibility as a nation today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All of you must have worked very hard to achieve the honours that you are receiving today. You must be driven by the same sense of ambition, the same sense of optimism, and the same sense of confidence and inspiration to play your part in building our nation – a strong, progressive and peaceful democratic society with a strong and industrious people. A nation that we can all be proud of, for which the foundation has already been set by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The difficult times of conflict, suspicion, and division are now over, hopefully, for once and for all. We must not be stuck in that past. This does not mean that we must not learn from that past. We must not live like frogs in a well, as we Sri Lankans have done. It’s time we started looking at the future. We must help each other heal from the painful experiences of the past, we have to come to terms with the tragedies of our past if we are to move forward with optimism and a renewed sense of energy and determination to each play his or her part to ensure that our present and future generations do not have to suffer the same pain that many of us have, the older generation, have had to suffer over the years.
Of course it will not be a smooth journey. There will be difficulties to overcome as we progress. But we must not lose hope. We must persevere. After all, this is our common future that we are designing and we must not lose hope because that would mean yet another lost opportunity. Our nation has lost far too many opportunities and we must not let this window of opportunity we have today pass us by.
Our world is far too interconnected for any country to succeed on its own. Sri Lanka certainly cannot succeed in isolation, and we will, and we must, continue to work in cooperation with countries in our region as well as beyond, and also work for a strong rules-based international order.
I would like to conclude my brief remarks with a plea to each and every one of you. This is a historic moment in our nation. Each and every one of you must use this opportunity to think beyond just your own individual professional advancement. Think of the role you can play as individuals in building a strong democratic nation and forging durable peace and reconciliation, and take determined action towards those goals. I have noticed sometimes that in our country, we spend far too much time complaining about what is wrong instead of looking for ways to improve things.
Our country needs its young people at this time to articulate their vision for this nation’s future and work with determination. Our country must look to abandon division and hatred once and for all, and unite with wisdom, compassion and justice in creating a new future.
I wish you all the very best and I hope that you will all work at all times with a commitment to peace and understanding; respectful of nature; respectful of freedom of thought, speech and religion; and dedicated to upholding the fundamental dignity of each and every individual.
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