Your Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Your Excellency Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, visiting Senior Statesmen of Asia, Founding Chairman of ICAPP Secretary General of ICAPP, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
May I, at the outset, express my sincere gratitude to President Rajapaksa for inviting me to attend this important ceremony, as Guest of Honour.
Mr. President, Excellenices,
We may not agree on every issue. We may, in many cases, have contrasting ideologies and vastly differing approaches. After all, it is this variety that makes pluralism so appealing to the people. However, let us always respect these differences. And, thereby, respect one another. Let us recognize that, by serving a political party or a political ideology, we are, in fact, serving the people.
The 21st Century is surely the century of Asia, in more ways than one. In economics, trade and commerce. In social upliftment. In achievement and prosperity. Through forums such as these, we can also ensure that Asia is also at the forefront of pluralist political ideology.
We, in the SAARC region, believe that, by pooling our collective resources and emphasising on our comparative advantages, we can overcome our most pressing problems and eradicate our most worrying scourges, including poverty, environmental degradation and unemployment. The strength of ICAPP is undoubtedly in its breadth of membership.
I firmly believe that SAARC, too, can adopt a similar path to advancement. The Conference theme “Building an Asian Community” aptly encompasses this visionary approach. SAARC can become more relevant and vibrant through engagements with Dialogue Partnership and Observers from various other regions, including members of the Asian family. I believe that it is time for SAARC to open up its doors for stronger engagement with the breadth of countries represented in this Conference.
Our region is blessed with visionary leaders like President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Modi of India. At recent meetings with both President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Modi, I was impressed with the commitment to strengthen our regional bloc, in its political and economic dealings with other global spheres of influence. We also share common views on reforming the United Nations, including the Security Council, to make the UN system more democratic. We seek a stronger voice for developing countries; for small island developing states; for land-locked developing states; for Asia as a whole!
In SAARC too, our political parties can, through greater cooperation with respective governments, ensure that national endeavours, programmes and projects that are designed to uplift the lives of our peoples, receive bipartisan support. Such maturity, I believe, will raise the confidence of the people in pluralism and participatory democracy. Our political parties must be willing and able to engage in such dialogue and to connect with the people!
This Conference is fortunate to have President Rajapaksa as the Chair. Your Excellency’s experience, fortitude and astuteness will, undoubtedly, drive proceedings to a successful conclusion.
My warm congratulations to Sri Lanka on bringing this important Conference to our region. I wish you success in your deliberations.