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58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference Colombo, Sri Lanka September 2012 Issue - No. 5 NEWS BULLETIN Wednesday, 12 September 2012 We will uphold the principles of Democracy His Excellency Mahinda
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58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference Colombo, Sri Lanka September 2012 Issue - No. 5 NEWS BULLETIN Wednesday, 12 September 2012 We will uphold the principles of Democracy His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka At a time of clashes between democracy and terror, we have shown the world that terrorism can be effectively defeated, and the cherished values of democracy restored to people who were denied it for nearly three decades. stated His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Vice Patron of the CPA yesterday. The President was addressing a galaxy of over 650 distinguished delegates, observers and spouses of delegates from 54 Commonwealth countries and Sri Lankan invitees participating in the official opening the 58 th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference last morning at the state-of-theart Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond) Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Colombo. The overseas Parliamentary representatives comprised Delegates (Hon. Speakers, Members of Parliaments, Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs), Observers, Secretaries, Accompanying Persons, Society of Clerks-atthe-Table (SOCAT) participants and Spouses. Extracts from the President s speech is given below : As the current Vice Patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I am pleased to welcome all delegates to this 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Colombo and honoured to address you on this occasion. This is an organization with a long and distinguished history in the annals of modern It was begun in 1911, as the Empire Parliamentary Association, when the British Empire was at the height of its strength, when the Sun never set upon it. Later, as the success of key freedom movements from imperialism and colonialism succeeded, as in India and Sri Lanka - then Ceylon, it was changed to the Commonwealth Pa r l i a m e n t a r y Association, as we know it today. Sri Lanka, as one of the earliest members of the CPA, is glad to host this important i n t e r n a t i o n a l p a r l i a m e n ta r y conference for the third occasion. It is also important to recall that Sri Lanka is among the members of the CPA, having one of the oldest traditions in p a r l i a m e n ta r y democracy, being the first country in Asia to have universal franchise, from as far back as We have continued this tradition of parliamentary democracy through the past 81 years, protecting it from those who plotted against it, both in uniform and through insurrection. continued in p.3... On behalf of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I am honoured and privileged to welcome you all to the opening ceremony of the 58 th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. This is the third time we are hosting this meeting in Sri Lanka and that is a reflection of the strong commitment Sri Lanka and our people have towards the values of the Commonwealth and our dedication for Parliamentary democracy which form core values of this association. Members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association are bonded by a shared history : the history of British colonialism. This shared history runs as a thread that binds us together and undoubtedly it has enabled us to create this association and to promote Parliamentary democracy and good governance among our member states. We, Sri Lankans received universal franchise in 1931, over eighty years ago, when we were still a colony Since receiving independence in 1948 the country has had an unbroken tradition of multi-party democracy with regularly held elections and political power alternating between different political parties. We are intensely proud of the democratic tradition we have nurtured over these 64 years since gaining independence and will continue to ensure that Parliamentary democracy remains vibrant and robust in this part of the world. It is because of this commitment to Parliamentary democracy that the Commonwealth has bestowed on Sri Lanka, the honour of hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in The Sri Lanka branch has been an active member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for many years. It has played a positive role in the main forum and within the Asia 2 My country is proud of its history, its people and its tradition of constitutional Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, Speaker and President, CPA Regional group. Currently, our Branch functions as the Regional Secretariat for the Asia Region and hosted the CPA Regional Conference in Our Branch also sits as the representative of the Asia region in the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Steering Committee. These are all testimony to our unreserved commitment to the Commonwealth and to its future progress. Let me say how proud we are, to be hosting this meeting at a time when peace in all parts of our country is irreversibly established. For thirty years Sri Lanka had to fight the worst of terrorism. It simply destroyed the social fabric and almost divided the Sri Lankan nation into pieces. I admire the resilience, courage and patience of all our people who had to endure tremendous hardship during the long period of the conflict. It is our firm intention to strengthen the bonds of friendship among all communities that inhabit this island and ensure that their children will grow up in a culture of peace and co-existence. All our actions today are directed towards building a harmonious nation where discrimination will not be tolerated. As a people we are thankful to the Commonwealth for the continuous support member nations extended to us and for the understanding you showed at a time of need. My country is proud of its history, its people and its tradition of constitutional While in Sri Lanka, may I humbly invite you to savour the natural beauty and the splendor of our motherland and to engage with her people, among the most hospitable people you will find anywhere in the world. Ensuring a Relevant Commonwealth for the Future is the theme of this meeting. During these few days you will discuss topics relating to health and education, democracy, rule of law and human rights, the role of parliaments, conflict resolution and peace building, gender responsive governance, terrorism, youth unemployment and the role of social media. All these topics are of great relevance to democracies around the world and no doubt your deliberations will strengthen constitutional democracy and good governance in the CPA s member states. The CPA is currently engaged in a study to look at how the Association could provide better support to Parliaments from member states. Our Branch has expressed its views through our Regional Representative and we are concerned to ensure that the CPA remains vibrant and relevant in the years to come. Before I conclude, I would like to express my profound gratitude to His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka for the support, guidance and encouragement extended to us in organizing this event and your presence this morning has encouraged all of us. I must also acknowledge the support we have received from the Rt. Honourable Sir Allen Haselhurst, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the CPA, Dr. William F. Shija Secretary General of the CPA, and from the staff of the CPA Headquarters. May you have a rewarding meeting, may you forge stronger bonds among your fellow Parliamentarians, and may your deliberations contribute to strengthening democracy in all parts of the Commonwealth. I do hope that you will carry warm memories of Sri Lanka to your home country. Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege and great pleasure now to call upon His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, to formally declare open the 58 th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. May the Noble Triple Gem Bless you. We will uphold... continued from page 1... More recently, we protected our democratic system, and the democratic rights of all our people, against what has been correctly described as the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. At a time of clashes between democracy and terror, we have shown the world that terrorism can be effectively defeated, and the cherished values of democracy restored to people who were denied it for nearly three decades. You are meeting here today, just two days after democratic elections were successfully conducted to three Provincial Councils in the country, and you may be observing how the people have freely expressed their choice. Sri Lanka s long tradition of parliamentary democracy has seen governments change via the ballot, and constitutions being similarly changed and amended. It is also noteworthy that among the first things done after the defeat of terrorism, first in the Eastern Province, and later in the entire country, was to quickly hold local government, provincial and national elections to obtain a proper mandate from the people, large sections of whom were deprived of their franchise by the forces of terror. In fact I myself sought a second term in office, even before the expiry of my first term, to obtain a truly national mandate, because the terrorists whose agents are still active in some parts of the world, denied many people in the North and East the right to vote, the first time I sought t h e Presidency in November We will also hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council next year upholding the principles of The many successful aspects of post-conflict developments have drawn much especially the speed with which nearly 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons were resettled. Another important aspect has been the efforts at national reconciliation, First copy of the Commemorative Stamp and the First Day Cover is presented to His Excellency the President by Hon. Jeewan Kumaranatunga, Minster of Posal Services at the Special Post Office after a bloody conflict that dragged on for nearly three decades. It took less than two years from the end of the conflict to set up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). It was to learn from the lessons from the conflict, understand how we could avoid such situations again, provide justice to those who had been affected, and, most importantly, seek the path of reconciliation as a nation, through our own experiences. The recommendations of the LLRC are already being implemented, according to a well worked out Plan of Action that we have presented to the nation and the world. With our undoubted commitment to parliamentary democracy, we have a keen interest in the work and progress of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Your efforts to promote parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and understanding of democratic governance, and interest in building an informed parliamentary community among the member nations, has our strongest support. The many educational programmes on parliamentary practice and procedure, the efforts at studying matters of regional importance in the development of democracy, the study of democratic systems in the world s smallest nations, the efforts to train knowledgeable and efficient parliamentary staff, are all in keeping with the goal of strengthening democracy in the world. continued in p.4... His Excellency the President is introduced to the Members of the Executive Committee attention by the Rt. Hon. Alan Haslehurst, Chairperson of the CPA Executive Committee to Sri Lanka, 3 We will uphold... continued from p.3... A matter of special importance is the work of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians to increase female representations in Parliament and recognizing the importance of gender considerations in all activities of the CPA. A s the country that produced the first elected woman Prime Minister of the world, Sri Lanka is particularly interested in the moves to assist in encouraging the professional contribution of women in democratic bodies, from local authorities to parliaments. As an organization that seeks to strengthen representative democracy, your efforts to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections are most encouraging. Similarly, your focus on countries with new or revived parliamentary systems is very useful, especially with the high intake of new members to parliaments after each election. The vast resources of human experience available to the CPA, which has 175 branches and 17,000 parliamentarians at the most recent count, places it, in an excellent position to contribute to better understanding of practice and procedure in parliaments, examine international trading systems, and look at new policies on science in an age of rapidly advancing technology. It will also be extremely useful to explore increasing trade among 4 Commonwealth countries and devise ways to facilitate such trade. I have no doubt that the CPA has achieved much success in realizing the aims of its Strategic Plan , especially in assisting M e m b e r s and Branches to adopt good practice of democratic governance and strengthen the institution of Parliament. You have no doubt helped the Commonwealth deepen its democratic commitment, in big and small nations by promoting best principles of representative government that removes barriers to equality in gender, community, faith and other aspects that seek to limit This Conference in Colombo will discuss and decide on the CPA s new Strategic Plan for the next four years. This is a good time to think of strengthening the core values of Our work should not be confined to theories and concepts but should look at the more practical aspects that affect the people. Our emphasis on the will of the people should lead us to give the most importance to policies that best serve the interests of the people. There is the need to give the highest priority to the welfare of the people to economic progress and development that positively impact on the lives of people. In this context, it will be interesting to look at Sri Lanka s own record of success through Our achievements in education and health stand out as examples to other countries and societies. Our 96 per cent literacy is a proud record that has come from the blend of democracy, with a great tradition of education that came down from Buddhism and later advanced through the Christian churches. Similarly, our success in providing free health services to all also comes from a great tradition of healing that was advanced through It is also important to note that Sri Lanka achieved 8 per cent GDP growth last year, and the year before, after 6 and 7 per cent growth earlier even during the battle against terrorism because of our commitment to the people and the values of It is our strong belief that there cannot be peace without development. The reverse is also true; there cannot be development without peace. These are all subjects of much relevance today. One must look forward to this conference recognizing the proper priorities in furthering the democratic process. You will no doubt take into consideration the current global realities that often seem to threaten proper and effective democracy, and also seek to challenge the sovereignty of nation states. Your presence in Sri Lanka gives you a good opportunity to see for yourselves the progress of democracy in our country, after the major threat it faced under terrorism. This is important in the context of the barrage of lies being spread about Sri Lanka today. As you will see, there is full freedom of travel to any part of the country. You can also speak to anyone, from Government or the Opposition and different communities. I urge you to make use of this opportunity to learn of the real Sri Lanka, in its postconflict era, when the highest priority is given to nation building through reconciliation. It is unfortunate that today, many impressions of Sri Lanka in foreign countries, are based on un-verified facts, and wrong or deliberately manipulated dis-information, carried out by those who once supported the forces of terror. These same elements continue to sow the seeds of division and separatism through various media, and also influence politicians in their new countries of domicile, to act against Sri Lanka, based on such dis-information. These are people who claim to speak for Sri Lanka or a section of our people, while slandering the country from their shelters abroad. They do not bother to continued in p.6... Vote of thanks by Hon. Mininwa Johannes Mahlangu, MP Vice President CPA and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces South Africa. Thank you. Allow me to recognize a few people around the Table. His Excellency the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Hon. Chairman, the Hon. Speaker of Parliament of Sri Lanka and the CPA President, the Hon. Leader of the House of Parliament of Sri Lanka, Members of the Executive Committee, Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst, Chairman of the CPA Executive Committee, Hon. Hon. Chandima Weerakkody, Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Sri Lanka, Dr. Shijia Secretary-General of the CPA, Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Dammika Dasanayake, Secretary-General of Parliament of Sri Lanka, Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. In making my closing remarks, please allow me also to make brief remarks in this Conference. I welcome the opportunity to address delegates on the occasion of the 58 th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I hope the Conference will give us an opportunity to reflect on the issues that impact on global and country matters. Traditionally, the CPA brings together countries with diverse social, political and economical backgrounds which are regarded as equal in status and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals. It has long being an Association of Commonwealth Parliamentarians who irrespective of gender, race, religion or culture are united by a community of interest, respect for the rule of law, individual rights and freedom and by the pursuit of positive ideals of Parliamentary Its mission is to promote the advancement of Parliamentary democracy by enhancing, acknowledging and understanding of democratic government. It sits to build and inform Parliamentary community able to depend a commonwealth democratic commitment and to further cooperate among its Parliaments and Legislatures. This mission is achieved through a strategic plan which ensures CPA activities continue to meet the changing needs of today parliamentarians. South Africa is honoured by the opportunity to host the 59 th CPA Conference next year. You are all invited to come and enjoy. The theme of the Summit for the 58 th Conference is ensuring a relevant commonwealth for the future. All of us as a global community must commit ourselves in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, just to remind you, with some of them to eradicate poverty and hunger amongst our people, which is a very crucial issue among those developing countries, especially, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and to empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve mental health, to control HIV and Aids, Malaria and other diseases, to environmental sustainability and to develop a global partnership for development. Therefore we over rate this year s Conference that we understand the nature of the many challenges that are facing us, importantly, we need to know what is being done to address them. I am saying this because as public representatives from Parliaments and State Legislatures, we have the responsibility to represent the interests of the people. It is our duty to see that the resources that our nations have individually and collectively are being used effectively and efficiently in order to advance development. As public representatives, we should not be afraid to be unpopular with Members of the Executive, if they are not acting in the interest of the electorate. It is exactly for these checks and bal
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