Self-reliance answer to global economic uncertainties
The address delivered yesterday by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the
Second ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and
Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC),’ Summit in New Delhi.
On this landmark occasion of the Second BIMSTEC Summit in New Delhi,
I express my deep appreciation to Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of
India and the Government of India for the warm and gracious hospitality
extended to me and my delegation and for the excellent Summit
arrangements. I felicitate the Prime Minister of India on his unanimous
election as Chairperson of BIMSTEC.
May I also take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Manmohan Singh,
the Government and the people of India on your great achievement of
launching the “Chandrayaan”. We, as South Asians take pride in this
This is the first BIMSTEC Summit that I am attending as the President
of Sri Lanka. I wish to reiterate my commitment to furthering the
objectives of the Grouping. I propose that we meet bi-annually as
Our Summit is taking place at a time when an international financial
crisis, originating in Western capital markets, is sweeping across the
world. While the BIMSTEC nations have constructively and prudently
engaged in the process of globalization, nevertheless the economic
challenges faced by many of our major trading partners, will inevitably
have some impact on our own pace of growth.
The situation has therefore made all of us very much aware of the
protection that regional self-reliance can afford, against global
economic uncertainties. Our host India, with its vast capacity and
economic potential can indeed serve as an engine, driving and guiding us
to withstand the fallout of the global crisis while ushering prosperity
for our region.
Poverty is an issue for not just some countries of our Group, but for
a significant part of the world population. The recently concluded
Ministerial Meeting on Cooperation in Poverty Alleviation, manifests the
importance that BIMSTEC attaches to this subject. In addition, the
fisheries and agriculture sectors which have great potential for poverty
alleviation merit the strongest possible focus by BIMSTEC.
The alleviation of poverty forms one of the core objectives of my
government. After three years of active implementation, a majority of
the proposals contained in the’ Mahinda Chintana’ which is my election
manifesto, have delivered many benefits to my people. A number of
poverty alleviation programmes, both direct and indirect, indeed have
proved to be success stories, and have empowered the rural people. Sri
Lanka will continue to share her experiences in this field with the
other Member States, while contributing whole-heartedly to the
collective effort against poverty.
Achieving energy security has come to the forefront of the global
agenda and has posed a tremendous challenge, particularly to developing
countries. Oil prices have increased significantly since 2002, although
there has been a decline in the prices in recent weeks.
Our efforts at developing alternate forms of energy such as solar,
wind and bio-fuels for domestic consumption and for use by industry must
remain paramount. However, we do not support the use of arable land to
produce bio-fuels to drive cars.
As the lead country for BIMSTEC cooperation in Technology, Sri Lanka
urges that the highest priority should be assigned to the BIMSTEC
initiatives for the establishment of the Energy Centre and the Trans
Power Exchange and Development Project.
The promotion of trade among us is an important means for regional
development and growth. The operationalisation of the BIMSTEC Free Trade
Agreement, has despite our best efforts been delayed. Nevertheless, we
are all looking forward to the timely finalization of an Agreement that
provides for all Members equitable benefits. We are pleased that Sri
Lanka had been unanimously elected to continue as the Chair of the Trade
It is in our collective interest to pursue initiatives to promote
inter and intra-regional tourism. The move to establish a Tourism
Information Centre and very importantly, a Tourism Fund is commendable.
We should also seriously consider the joint marketing of the BIMSTEC
region as one destination.
In this regard, I am pleased to announce that Sri Lanka looks forward
to contributing to regional familiarisation tour programmes, conducted
with the collaboration of fellow Member States. Furthermore, the Sri
Lanka Hotel School is ready to extend opportunities for nationals of
member states to follow its internationally acclaimed training
The establishment of the Cultural Industries Observatory in Bhutan is
a significant development. I am confident that such measures will
contribute immensely to the development of the tourism industry in the
region including in pilgrimage tourism.
Sri Lanka wholeheartedly supports the BIMSTEC Convention on
Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Organised Crime and
Illicit Drug Trafficking as an important and vital milestone in our
efforts on counter terrorism.
Terrorist groups are able to sustain themselves by illegal
fundraising, narcotics and people trafficking, money laundering using
international networks, and arms and ammunition smuggling including
through the sea routes in the Bay of Bengal. I urge you to consider
setting up a mechanism to effectively police the seas of the Bay of
Bengal, to deny these terrorists mobility and connectivity.
For over two decades, Sri Lanka has been facing a tremendous
challenge to our democratic way of life through the barbaric actions of
a terrorist group, the LTTE. There is no doubt that such groups have to
be dealt with militarily. At the same time Sri Lanka believes that any
underlying causes, exploited by the terrorists in an attempt to seek
legitimacy for their operations, should be dealt with politically. I
wish to assure this august gathering that we are firmly on the path to a
We welcome the consensus on establishing a Secretariat. This will
give the necessary institutional strength. Sri Lanka is ready, in a
spirit of commitment to the success of the BIMSTEC process, to host the
Secretariat in Colombo.
By founding this grouping, we have united in a community of littoral
and hinterland states of the Bay of Bengal. Through our efforts in
BIMSTEC, we must resolutely ensure that our peoples would be the
beneficiaries of a number of freedoms, including most importantly,
freedom from the fear of terrorism and freedom from hunger and poverty.
We owe them no less.
May the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem be with you.