Statement by H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
At the Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the
Humanitarian Situation resulting from the floods in Pakistan
19th August, 2010
My delegation wishes to express its appreciation to the President for initiating the Resolution on “Floods in Pakistan” which we have unanimously adopted and for convening this plenary meeting. We also thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Mr. Qureshi, for his presence at this meeting and for his detailed briefing. The updated information on the ground situation provided by the Secretary-General, including on the relief effort, is greatly appreciated.
Sri Lanka wishes to join other members of this Assembly in conveying once again our deepest sympathies to the Government and people of Pakistan on the tragic loss of life and the widespread devastation caused by the torrents of water that flooded this ancient land. This is indeed an unprecedented and mind numbing calamity, described by the UNICEF as the biggest emergency on the planet today and we, in Sri Lanka, share the pain of the people of Pakistan. My delegation also associates itself with the statement made by Yemen on behalf of the G-77 and China.
The President of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, contacted Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan no sooner the news of the rising waters ravaging Pakistan reached us and conveyed assurances of our strong solidarity with the efforts of the Government and people of Pakistan to cope with the inundation of enormous stretches of heavily populated areas. As a country that was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago and was readily assisted by the international community, we are able to fully empathize with the distress confronting the Government and people of Pakistan. We have no doubt, that with the support of the international community and with its own national efforts, the Government of Pakistan will be able to provide relief for those affected by the disaster and rebuild their country.
As a token of our support and solidarity, the Government of Sri Lanka dispatched a military aircraft, a C-130, with a consignment of essential food items on 8th August 2010. A 17-member Sri Lankan medical team is already tending to the victims. Sri Lanka remains fully prepared to extend any other form of assistance that the Government of Pakistan may require and will continue to support the work of the United Nations as a contributor to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
We also convey our appreciation to the Secretary-General for the leadership that he has demonstrated in ensuring that emergency relief reaches the victims without delay and for coordinating international support for the long term reconstruction and rehabilitation work in Pakistan. We note that the Secretary-General has travelled to Pakistan this week to see the devastation for himself and how international assistance can be further galvanized. We applaud the personal interest and commitment that he has shown in these trying circumstances.
This catastrophe brought about by unprecedented flooding appears to reflect a pattern of environmental disasters that have confronted the world in recent times. Worrying climatic phenomena, most likely caused by human activity, have become more frequent. Massive forest fires resulting from a prolonged heat-wave and the earlier destructive floods and mudslides elsewhere come to mind. The likelihood of such climate related disasters occurring regularly has become an ever present worry to many regions and countries. UN agencies may need to be revamped and reoriented to deal with these overwhelming climate change related challenges.
We also recognize the valuable role played by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sir John Holmes, OCHA staff and the UN agencies in coordinating and distributing emergency relief assistance. We wish to complement Sir John for the tireless manner in which he has led his office in dealing with major catastrophes of this nature.
My delegation would wish to convey its appreciation to the President, for having given us this opportunity to once again renew our commitment to support the people of Pakistan at this difficult time.
My delegation joins other delegations in calling on the international community, particularly the donor countries and international financial institutions, to extend further assistance to Pakistan, particularly assistance that compliments Pakistan’s own efforts, bearing in mind that this natural disaster is of unprecedented proportions affecting almost 20 million people. In this regard, we welcome the launch of the Pakistan Initial Flood Emergency Response Plan by the United Nations.
Thank you Mr. President.