|President Rajapaksa urges SAARC nations for collective action to combat terrorism - 2|
|Friday, 08 August 2008 00:00|
Page 2 of 3
The Delhi Summit launched SAARC as a Partnership for Prosperity, for the Prosperity of Our People, identifying the importance of connectivity as a powerful engine of growth. Continuity, consistency and coordination are all vital to have the desired practical effect towards our goal of regional economic integration.
However, we must ensure that SAARC becomes more meaningful to all our people. Therefore, throughout the ensuing year we have to give SAARC a truly people-centred focus through all its programmes and mechanisms. It is then that SAARC can become the robust Partnership for Growth for all our people.
South Asia’s continued progress in economic and social development is a matter of great satisfaction to me. Unemployment in our country, as well as in the region, has reached historic low levels leading to declines in overall poverty. South Asia is no more the poverty trough of the world, although we have yet to eradicate poverty from our midst.
Yet, for growth to be sustainable, its benefits must be evenly distributed, pro-poor strategies must be put into place, and the rural populations that make up the vast majorities in all our countries, must be empowered ensuring gender equality.
The SAARC Social Charter and our shared experiences and best practices, already provide a solid foundation to further strengthen empowerment of the rural people. In our own country, the Policy Vision of the Mahinda Chintana, my electoral pledge to the people of Sri Lanka, addresses this issue and seeks to transform current challenges into opportunities for the upliftment of the rural people.
It is a matter of satisfaction that we are progressively inaugurating, in each of our countries, SAARC villages as visible examples of our collective commitment to rural uplift. The most recent such village was opened on 27th July this year in Nawalapitiya, in the central hill region of Sri Lanka.
Excellencies and Friends,
As we meet today, most countries of our region are faced with the curse of terrorism that threatens the peace and stability that is needed so much for the forward march of our people. No country in the SAARC region has been spared of this plague. We need to redouble our efforts for collective action to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It is important to remember the element of interdependence which is crucial for a durable peace and the protection of democratic values in the region.
We must ensure strengthening regional legal mechanisms and intensifying intelligence sharing, in order to secure the region’s collective prosperity, peace and stability. Further, I would strongly suggest that in-depth studies are carried out to understand the social impact of this menace. Sri Lanka has seen the benefits of such cooperation in combating the terrorism in our midst and hopefully eradicating it sooner, than many once expected.
My gratitude must go to all our regional partners and our many friends from other quarters that have cooperated with us in this matter. In my view it is also necessary that we, as a region, endeavour to set right the many wrong impressions that exist, or are promoted elsewhere, about the actions that are imperative to protect our people and societies from the brutalities of terrorism. Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists.
Asia’s economic surge provides our region with manifold opportunities. We are on the threshold of a new age the Age of Asia with South Asia being an important part of it, not only in numbers but also in skills and the strength of growing economies. Today, Asia is the economic power house of the world.
In order to ensure that we in the SAARC provide the necessary thrust for Asia’s economic surge, I would once again promote the idea of SAARC intensifying to the maximum possible its regional economic and trade integration. We have to set in motion a process of adopting a single currency in the region. Undoubtedly, full implementation of the SAFTA and other follow up measures will greatly facilitate the realisation of this vision. Our region also should assume a leadership role in the reform of Multi-lateral Financial Institutions.
Today, as never before we are confronted with the global issues of food and energy insecurity and climate change. Food prices in international markets have increased by 54 percent in the past year alone. World oil prices have increased by 300 percent over the past four years. These are the statistics of near despair. Yet, I believe that we need not despair.