Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
Your Excellency, permit me to express my good wishes on your election as President.
I am deeply honoured to represent the people of Sri Lanka on this historic occasion.
Sri Lanka has always reposed great hopes in the United Nations for effective collective action to achieve our central aim of socio-economic development and thereby ensure social stability and peace for our people.
The transition from the Cold War era to a new world order has shifted the arena of conflict from the international to the national.
Whatever the overlay of such conflict--whether they take on religious, racial or other forms, they stem from poverty and social inequality. We believe therefore that the foundations of peace must be built on economic and social stability.
As a developing country, Sri Lanka attaches great importance to the role which the United Nations can, and must, perform in advancing the development process. Unless the principles of the Declaration on the Right to Development adopted in 1986 are applied positively with the full commitment of both developed and developing countries, the development process will not be sufficiently advanced.
We believe that the effective strengthening of the United Nations system is an essential requisite for advancing it's goals. The organisation has regrettably sometimes come to be seen by the more vulnerable States as primarily serving the interests of the more powerful States. We welcome the timely initiative of the President of last year's General Assembly to strengthen and empower the United Nations system.
Such an effective empowerment requires, in our view, that:
Firstly, development priorities should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of politico military operations which must be set at realistic, even modest levels;
Secondly, decision making by the United Nations in all areas must be based on the full engagement of all members. The Security Council in particular must become more representative and more responsive to the general membership of the United Nations;
Thirdly, commitment made for multilateral action in all fields must be honoured and diligently pursued.
In short, the revitalising process must enhance the capacity of the United Nations rather than merely effect economies and scale down its scope.
In the index of human development Sri Lanka rates high among developing countries, but we have been traumatised by ethnic tensions kept unnaturally high by the forces of terrorism and chauvinism. Nonetheless my Government is resolved to fulfill its mandate by seeking, through political negotiations, solutions to our problems which would enable our people to live in peace, security and freedom.
There are however obstacles in our way.
An armed group which claims to represent an ethnic minority has been engaged in violent acts against successive popularly elected Governments, preventing them from ensuring peace and justice for all in our land.
This group, which also operates on foreign soil, maintains an international network for fund raising based on coercion and blackmail. That network has a close nexus with powerful commercial interests engaged in narcotics trafficking, trade in illicit arms and smuggling of illegal immigrants.
Concerted international action is essential to combat terrorism and to compel the terrorists to renounce violence and enter the democratic process. Unfortunately, effective action to that has been frustrated through sterile philosophical debate about the nature of terrorism.
However, in the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) we have overcome that difficulty by focusing our attention on manifestations of terrorism. The SAARC Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism provides for a collective response. This centres on a comprehensive legal regime and practical measures to combat terrorism.
I would urge similar action by the United Nations to give legal effect to the obligations arising from the Declaration on the Elimination of Terrorism adopted last year. I was happy to hear the statement of President Clinton. I hope that our common realisation of the terrible consequences of terrorism, drug trafficking and other antisocial activities would usher in a new era of international co-operation to combat these problems.
My Government is committed to provide full opportunities in Sri Lanka for the development of the total human person. While promoting rapid economic growth, we seek to distribute its benefits equitably. This involves the maintenance of democratic institutions, and the preservation of human rights. It makes of politics the discharge of a public trust, where decision making is transparent and free of corruption, and everyone in public life is accountable for their actions.
In end, the United Nations will essentially be what we, the member States make of it, not what individual States seek to make from it.
On behalf of the Government and people of Sri Lanka, I take this opportunity to wish the United Nations success in its endeavours to transform the separate dreams of all the nations into a multifaceted yet harmonious reality.
I thank You All.
Speech from http://gos.sbc.edu/k/kumaratunga2.html.