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EXCESSIVE EXTERNAL PRESSURE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE : Professor G.L. Peiris

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Prof.G.L.Peiris with Mr. Vuk Jeremic , President of the 67 th UN General Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Serbia

Establishing an international mechanism for the purpose of accountability is misplaced as primacy needs to be given to local remedies rather than have external entities seeking to prescribe solutions, stated Professor G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs when he addressed members of the academia, diplomatic community and think tanks yesterday at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights of the Columbia University in New York. Relating this aspect to Sri Lanka, he questioned the need for external expertise as the country has highly developed institutions and therefore would be against its national prestige and pride. The Minister observed that the people of Sri Lanka are proud to be heir to their political culture and he was confident that they would surmount all challenges in the same manner of overcoming the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization three years ago.

Referring to the recent Provincial Council elections in the Eastern province, the Minister pointed out that although demographically there are approximately only 27% Sinhala voters, the ruling party emerged as the single largest party, which was a clear indication of the extent of appreciation and support of all communities. He stressed that each country had its own culture and mechanisms to deal with the respective issues and it is inappropriate to thrust external solutions as the people are best placed to decide on the required options. Minister Peiris reiterated that Sri Lanka needs time and space to deal with the plethora of challenges and was making clear progress in this regard.

Minister Peiris provided an overview of the developments relating to the post conflict era which included the successful completion of resettlement of the IDPs, status of demining, rehabilitation of ex-combatants, demilitarization of the former theatre of conflict and repeal of the Emergency Regulations. He explained that the Government of Sri Lanka embarked on massive programmes for infrastructure rebuilding in the North, based on its firm conviction that reconciliation can be sustained only with economic development. Further he stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has pursued policies to ensure the percolation of economic benefits to the rural people, and create an economic renaissance. Minister Peiris observed that over 600 delegates attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference which was held in Sri Lanka recently and the Parliamentarians were impressed with the progress and developments on the ground. Noting that after winning the war, three and a half years ago, Sri Lanka has every intention of winning the peace, the Minister extended an invitation to interested persons to visit the country and witness at first hand the progress.

The Minister added that the trilingual language policy of President Rajapaksa is a cultural cross pollination to extenuate the challenges. He pointed out a Land Commission to deal with disputes concerning ownership and title deeds would be another mechanism to be established by the Government. Further, inconsideration of the diaspora as being an essential part of the country’s development process, the Minister encouraged efforts at bringing them on board.

Observing that it was incorrect to assume that if results are not arrived at speedily, it is the fault of the Government, the Minister noted that while the Government is ready to move forward with the Parliamentary Select Committee, this was not possible without certain stakeholders who were delaying their participation, as an open and sincere dialogue involving all political parties was required to address the issues. He noted that the political talks with the Tamil National Alliance had been useful in identifying some of the issues and seeking possible options. Further, with regard to the holding of Provincial Council elections in the Northern Province, he pointed out the necessity to conduct a census and thereafter compile the electoral registers, which process is now nearing completion.

Minister Peiris also met Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th UN General Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Serbia yesterday and briefed him on the efforts of the Government to ensure equitable distribution of economic benefits and peace dividends to the rural areas of Sri Lanka. He noted that apart from the mega projects to construct highways, bridges, airports and harbours, there was substantial investment from local and foreign companies, all of which was opening up new opportunities on the economic front. He pointed out that the growth of the economy was resulting in tangible improvements in the quality of life of the Sri Lankan people and the country is at a new and exciting chapter in its history. Minister Peiris added that as a result, the Government continues to strengthen its position at each election and that the machinery for development at grassroots level has been effective. Minister Peiris also discussed ways and means of sensitizing the UN General Assembly to Sri Lanka’s hosting of the World Youth Forum in 2014.

The President of the UN General Assembly briefed Minister Peiris on an envisaged consultation mechanism to be established between the G 20 countries and the rest of the world, noting that the decisions of the Group are felt by the rest of the world and such an initiative would enable all countries to put forward their views on global governance. He said that a process of consultations will be conducted in this regard. He also briefed the Minister regarding the debate on equality of economic progress, observing that while the GDP of countries varied, its wellbeing was not indicated. He clarified that this has correlation with sovereign equality and the Millennium Development Goals and the manner in which they can be combined in a mutually re-enforcing manner to achieve sustainable development as discussed at the Rio + 20 Summit.

Minister Peiris and Mr. Jeremic recalled the warm relations extending back to the times of former Prime Minister late Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Marshal Tito, former President of Yugoslavia.

Ministry of External Affairs

3rd October 2012

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