|Saturday, 29 May 2004|
President receives prestigious 'Ceres' medal
by Ranil Wijayapala
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, following in the footsteps of her mother, the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, received the prestigious 'Ceres' medal from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations for her commitment towards eradicating poverty and hunger.
History was created yesterday at the Ceylon Continental Hotel as it was the first time the FAO was presenting the 'Ceres' medal named after the Roman Goddess of agriculture to a daughter, whose mother had been awarded the same medal earlier.
The FAO awarded the 'Ceres' medal to Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1976 for her commitment towards poverty and hunger.
Dr. Jacque Diouf, Director General of the FAO handed over the 'Ceres' medal to President Kumaratunga in recognition of her efforts to 'foster rural development and peace in Sri Lanka as well as her personal collaboration with FAO in 1970s'.
The FAO in 1971, initiated the presenting of medals in the name of the Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture to honour distinguished women for their commitment towards eradicating poverty and hunger.
President Kumaratunga's name was added to the list of distinguished women recipients which include the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
In her address on receiving the medal, President Kumaratunga called on the international agencies and donor governments to continue their assistance towards eradicating poverty and hunger, specially in the conflict affected areas in the North-East.
Addressing the diplomatic community and representatives from UN Agencies gathered at the Ceylon Continental Hotel to witness the award ceremony, she pointed out that Sri Lanka's challenge of eradicating poverty and hunger at the national level becomes more complex in situations of conflict.
"The conflict in the North and East of our country has resulted in an unfortunate imbalance in the indicators of social progress, malnutrition and hunger between the conflict-affected areas and the rest of the country," the President said.
She said her Government was in the process of setting up an institutional framework for relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the war-ravaged areas of the country.
"In this regard, we will continue to seek the assistance of international agencies and donor governments," the President added.
President Kumaratunga said the present Government has long recognised the necessity of creating a social, political and economic environment in which the problems of poverty alleviation and securing access to safe and nutritious food for all, could be vigorously addressed.
The FAO Director General recollected President Kumaratunga's commitment towards eradicating poverty as an employee in the Agrarian Reforms sector in 1970's.
"The Organisation confers this medal as a token of its esteem and respect for President Kumaratunga's commitment to improve food security and nutrition and achieve the target set by the international community to halve the number of undernourished people in the world, by 2015," Diouf added.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar proposed the vote of thanks at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Minister and Head of Missions in Sri Lanka were present at this ceremony.
Produced by Lake House