'International support vital to sustain peace' - Ranil
[TamilNet, Monday, 25 November 2002, 12:42 GMT]
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at the opening
session of the Oslo support meeting 25 November appealed to the
International community to help Sri Lanka rebuild the economy devastated by war. "Without continuing international support and help with resources to build the peace dividend, the momentum for peace could be retarded. With the re-creation of
opportunities for growth politicians and negotiators alike will be driven
to stabilize and advance the peace," said Mr. Wickremesinghe.
The full text of his speech follows:
"Honourable Foreign Minister of the Royal Norwegian Government, Hon
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
This is indeed a historic occasion.
For the people of Sri Lanka who have been yearning over so many years, for
an end to conflict and for a genuine and durable peace in our land this is
a moment of particular significance.
All of us assembled here in Oslo at the invitation of your government share
the goal of supporting and consolidating peace, justice and development in
Sri Lanka. Each of us, in different ways, have worked steadfastly towards
that goal. Our success here will consolidate the peace process and propel
it forward. In a world where some of the promising movements towards peace
appear to be faltering, our process, of which all of you are such vital
stakeholders, remains a rare beacon of hope. We should not; we cannot,
allow it to fail.
To your country Mr Minister and for what all your officials of the Royal
Norwegian Government have done to make our journey to peace effective and
fruitful, we offer a special word of thanks. Norway’s role as facilitator
in the peace process has won the highest praise both local and
international. Norway’s active involvement in our peace process took place
before this Government took office in December of last year.
The process was commenced some five years ago when our President, Chandrika
Kumaratunga appointed Norway to facilitate discussions between the
Government and the LTTE to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict. As
could be expected, with the conflict raging, the process was limited.
However it has to be recorded that a considerable amount of ground work was
initiated between the then Government, the Parliamentary Opposition of the
time and the LTTE.
At the General Elections in December last year a new Government took office
bearing the people’s overwhelming mandate for peace. This was reaffirmed in
the local government elections held earlier this year. This led
progressively to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and
the LTTE, the ceasefire and the positive steps since then towards the
restoration of normalcy.
In all of these landmark events Norway was crucially involved as
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission ( SLMM ) composed of representatives of all the Nordic countries
for the impartial manner in which they are conducting their difficult
assignment. Its contribution in keeping the peace process move forward
smoothly has been most valuable.
All this dedicated and sustained work on our behalf has impacted positively
on the recovery of our society and economy.
Firstly there is the palpable sense of people enjoying the benefits of a
Similarly the economy is showing positive signs of recovering its vibrancy.
The stock market continues its rapid rise since the ceasefire; tourist
arrivals have increased; and business both local and foreign- is showing
strong interest in the many sided opportunities Sri Lanka offers for
profitable investment and trade.
These are all encouraging signs. But, with them comes a risk. The
imperative for peace is growing. The people are demanding permanent peace
and the politicians and negotiators on both sides have to deliver.
Our Peace is people driven.
That our long night is ending and that the dawn is surely breaking, is
manifest in the success that has attended our Talks in Thailand, both in
Sattahip in September and in Nakorn Pathom two weeks ago. The agreement
between the Government and the LTTE to move the peace process forward was
self-evident. The firm desire on both sides to strengthen and consolidate
peace and development was stated clearly. These discussions have been
conducted with the candour, specificity and openness which presage
continuing confidence and faith in the process. Participants from both
sides at those meetings will no doubt confirm this fully at this Conference.
In these early stages of our negotiations we are addressing some of the
immediate practical needs of the people that can bring relief and normalcy
to our society. The pressing day to day problems of the people need to be
resolved as early as possible. Economic re-construction and development,
particularly of the areas devastated by war will be a deciding factor in
sustaining the momentum of political negotiations. Development is part of
the healing process in a wounded, divided society. Development is
underpinning peace in Sri Lanka. Peace will sustain development. The two
processes of peace and development have become inextricably inter-twined
They form the core of our vision of ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ which provides
the foundation for the restoration of growth and development of the economy.
Indeed at the two meetings in Thailand, there was strong endorsement of the
urgent need for economic growth to ensure early dividends for the people of
the peace process.
However two decades of war have left behind with us some formidable
challenges. These have been referred to in some detail in the White Paper
prepared by the Government as part of the documentation for this Conference
in Oslo. This complements the direct appeal which will be placed before you
by the Sub-Committee formed between the Government and the LTTE for
immediate humanitarian support for the North and East.
The challenge for the Government extends indeed to meet the needs of not
only the ravages of war in the North-East, but also to the damage it caused
to our entire economy. In all parts of the country and to every section of
the Sri Lankan community, the war has brought distress and dislocation. In
short, the country’s economy has been shattered. Sri Lanka’s appeal for
support to the international community at this critical time of rebuilding
has, therefore, to be considered in this light.
The conflict has dragged our economy to near bankruptcy. Last year, for the
first time in independent Sri Lanka, we recorded negative growth. We are
now reversing the process. The momentum of growth is being re-established.
Our people want to see complete normalcy restored today. They are not
prepared to wait.
Herein lies the role for the international community. Without continuing
international support and help with resources to build the peace dividend,
the momentum for peace could be retarded. With the re-creation of
opportunities for growth politicians and negotiators alike will be driven
to stabilize and advance the peace.
Meanwhile, there is an immediate security dimension we have to deal with.
An estimated two million mines need to be removed from the land to make it
safe for resettlement and farming. We are reviewing our position on the
Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines.
We are grateful for the support we are receiving from the United Nations,
and members of the International Community in our mine action programme.
My Government is determined to ensure that people in all parts of the
country enjoy the same security, the same quality of life, the democratic
forms of government and rule of law and the human rights, which as
citizens, is their birthright. The political aspirations and rights of all
communities Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim, who live in our multi ethnic
society have to be safeguarded. The right to equality for each and every
member of our nation must be maintained in a democratic, pluralistic polity.
Peace will enhance all this; but its dividend must go to all Sri Lanka’s
Our nation has resolved, with the conviction that served us well at
critical moments in our eventful history, that a paradigm shift is
necessary. The wellsprings of a cultural tradition that derives from
respect for diversity and pluralism will fortify us as we prepare to make
crucial decisions, for today and the future at this critical moment of
We are together turning our backs on war as a means of realizing the dream
Our collective experience of pain and deprivation, of armed conflict of
eighteen long years, has banished forever the appeal of arms.
Human aspirations are anchored in legitimate expectation. During the past
10 months our people, whatever their ethnicity have savoured deeply the
fruits of peace.
The fear which stalked a generation of Sri Lankans has become a thing of
the past. Our people have rediscovered for themselves regions of their
country, which had been inaccessible to them in recent times.
There is no way that the people on the threshold of such possibilities,
would give it all up to return of their own volition to the pain and trauma
Therein, deep in the hearts of all our people, lies the durability of the
peace process on which we are now firmly launched.
And we will not let our people down. That is our pledge.
However with your sustained help now we can make a permanent peace in Sri
Lanka happen sooner than later. Support now is of the essence. Let us leave
no room for future generations to say that we have missed an unique window
of opportunity and be faulted for having done “too little, too late”.
This is the opportunity for the international community that our meeting at
I thank you all."