Mr. Chairman, Secretary-General
I am pleased to address the 16th Ministerial Meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Doha.
At the outset, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to the State of Qatar for hosting this distinguished gathering and for the gracious hospitality extended to me and my delegation.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the Secretariat of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, spearheaded by His Excellency the Secretary-General, and his able team at the Secretariat for the institutional support extended towards the achievement of goals of the ACD. I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the State of Kuwait for the continued generosity in hosting the ACD Secretariat in Kuwait.
The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka demonstrate that terrorism is a global threat and one which needs to be dealt with the concerted efforts of all States.
Combating terrorism and other transnational crimes and dealing with the rise of violent extremism has become an issue of global concern to governments. With the rise of Terrorism in the Indian Ocean region- from East Africa to Australasia including the Arabian Peninsula to South Asia and to South East Asia, states need to be vigilant about its soil being used for terrorist activities and attacks.
Terrorism has a direct impact on human rights, on the physical integrity of individuals, their right to life and liberty. In addition terrorism can destabilise Governments, jeopardise peace and security and negatively impact on social and economic developments which also have an impact on the enjoyment of human rights. The Easter Sunday attacks struck at the heart of human rights of our citizens and their right to civil liberties.
Terrorists at times use indiscriminate and at other times selective, lethal force, creating untold suffering among the public in pursuit of their objective. Terrorism therefore needs to be condemned in all its forms and manifestations.
We appreciate the messages of condolences and solidarity expressed by all ACD Member States and others in our time of national mourning. These dastardly attacks carried out on our innocent citizens gathered at a place of worship on the holy day of Easter, exercising their right to religious freedom and foreign nationals who were enjoying the tourist attractions of our beautiful island have been unequivocally condemned at home and abroad.
Sri Lanka’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric is one which is fiercely protected not only by the Government of Sri Lanka but also by its people. The terror attacks that took place on Easter Sunday and the public outpouring of solidarity and support from all communities clearly demonstrate that tragedy, loss of life and grief transcends ethnic and religious boundaries.
We are extremely proud of the effectiveness of our emergency response and their ability to bring the situation under control in a short span of time. We are also grateful to the police and security forces for the tremendous work they have done in the past few days to ensure the safety and security of our people and visitors to this country.
We are also cognisant that such terror attacks can happen in any country as we have seen with the attacks that have recently taken place globally including in New Zealand. We must increase our resolve to stand together in the global fight against terrorism. We in Sri Lanka stand firm in our resolve to ensure that such incidents do not take place on our soil in the future.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
Bestowed with diversity that has emanated from multiple cultural spheres, Asia is home to several of the world’s oldest civilizations. It has a shared heritage dating back to the times of Silk Route linking East Asia with Central, South and West Asia as well as other regions including Europe. Today Asia is recognized not only for its diversity and past grandeur but as an engine of global economic growth and number of emerging economic powers.
In this august forum, 34 Member States Asia in varying stages of development have come together to work towards the common goals of economic progress for the whole region.
I wish to reiterate Sri Lanka’s commitment to being a constructive player in the achievements of identified ACD targets and seek partnerships with other Member States within the framework of ACD to achieve tangible and genuine benefits to the prosperity of Asia.
Against this backdrop, I urge Member States to combine efforts to collectively identify challenges and solutions to issues affecting the region.
Sri Lanka attaches great importance to Regional and Interregional Cooperation through dialogue between regional and sub-regional organisations and finding new avenues to connect our people and economies. In this regard development of cooperation in the SME sector as a driver for economic growth, particularly in middle income countries and developing countries is an important area of focus.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
With our unique geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean and having excellent relations with all ACD members, Sri Lanka finds that connectivity is crucial to progress, prosperity and security in the region.
I therefore reiterate the importance of recalling the ‘’ACD vision 2030’’, the Bangkok declaration and our commitment to implement the Road Map towards achieving goals of ACD. These three elements which are interlinked will pave the way for achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in Asian Community which will bring about positive benefits for the Governments, private sector and the people.
Sri Lanka is of the view ACD processes should look more into ways of delivering tangible results to our communities and this Meeting’s theme of ‘Partners in Progress’ reflects on the need to go beyond the rhetoric and look for awareness for expanding the links between various segments and find common ground within this diverse Asian tapestry of life.
For its part, Sri Lanka launched the Sri Lanka Foreign Policy and Economic Diplomacy Dialogue last year which brought together a diverse group of diplomats from 23 countries and contributed to Sri Lanka’s efforts in promoting concepts of regionalism through building partnerships and networks with friendly nations. The two-week dialogue provided a comprehensive picture of Sri Lanka’s foreign relations, with a special focus on our active approach to economic diplomacy.
This year Sri Lanka is pleased to invite mid-career diplomats from ACD member countries to join this programme in the spirit of building relationships between future decision makers of our countries during which we can discuss ACD objectives.
This platform will enable budding policy makers of our countries to discuss and find commonalities of the challenges faced by Asia and also to learn about the potentials in Asia. I take this forum to welcome representatives of your countries to avail this opportunity as an event to show ACD solidarity and our resolve to work together as one grouping.
I believe the Business Forum organized on the sidelines of this Meeting will provide a greater scope for the respective private sectors of Member States to develop stronger engagements and form linkages with each other to enhance bilateral and regional trade and investment activities.
In this digital age, the concept of partners should transcend beyond traditional platforms and new avenues should be explored to complement existing process at play.
I would like to highlight the need to find mechanisms of technical cooperation in key areas such as tourism, energy cooperation, Information communication technology, capital markets and market infrastructure that would promote economic growth.
Sri Lanka as the co-prime mover of Science and Technology and Innovation believes that within ACD, our membership is diverse in their strengths as well as their stages of advancement. This diversity should be transformed to bridge the divide and connect and form partnerships.
In addition, Sri Lanka looks forward to working closely with Member States in order to share knowledge and capabilities to strengthen cooperation in field of cyber security, fighting organised crimes, human trafficking and to face the new forms of terrorism through use of digital media.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
By strengthening knowledge, research, and academic networks, as well as the development of high tech industrial clusters, ACD countries should generate and share knowledge and innovation can help build much-needed economic diversification across Asia.
On behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, I express our confidence in the current chair for steadily steering the ACD processes to achieve its noble goals aided by effective support of the ACD Secretariat.
This is the Asian Century and the time is opportune to reinvigorate the ACD to work towards a common vision. I wish to reiterate that Sri Lanka remains committed and supportive towards realizing objectives of ACD and wish to be an active partner in progress to the ACD member States.
I hope that the activities of our meeting will be successful and yield decisions capable of contributing to the reinforcement of collective cooperation among us in all fields and look forward to working closely with all of you as Partners in Progress.
We would like to welcome Palestine as our new member.
Finally, I would like to express Sri Lanka’s fullest support to the next Chair, the Republic of Turkey in their endeavours to provide leadership and further promote the ACD objectives in the interest of the region.
I thank you all.