|President Rajapaksa urges SAARC nations for collective action to combat terrorism - 3|
|Friday, 08 August 2008 00:00|
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I propose that we seize this challenge and transform it into opportunity, with focus on agriculture, on food security that is largely based on home grown food; that we look at realistic policies on nutrition, at strategies for development that are least dependent on the forces of speculation and markets that have no feel for the people.
We must productively use existing mechanisms such as the SAARC Food Bank and the SAARC Development Fund, for the development of strategic buffer stocks of our staple foods. Food security is vital because of its impact on all sectors of national life. It is today recognised as an essential condition for economic and political stability.
We also need to act fast on meeting the energy crunch. There is the necessity to accelerate our plans for South Asian energy sharing. Knowing that we have to depend on fossil fuels for many more decades to come, we must explore the use of other sources of energy that will take us out of the deadly grip of the oil well. However, pursuit on Bio-fuels must not be at the cost of food crops or arable land.
To take the next leap from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we have to move with speed on harnessing the Sun, the Sea, and the Wind resources that all of our countries have in plenty. South Asia must look at shared research in the areas with potential for local technologies in harnessing renewable energy.
As we grapple with the issues of food and fuel security, we will also need to address as a matter of priority, the looming water deficit in the region. King Parakramabahu, an ancient ruler of Sri Lanka, advised the people not to allow a single drop of water to flow into the sea without first being of use to the people. We must bring a new focus on conservation of water resources to ensure that South Asia would be the best watered region in the world.
Asia’s evolution has been founded on ancient traditions of environmental sustainability, integrating environmental responsibility with cultural and religious values. We should go back to the tradition of sharing that sustained our people in the past, shedding the tradition of exploitation of nature that came to us from our former conquerors.
Throughout our region there is increasing movement from the village to the city, resulting in degradation of the environment and human dignity. Let us therefore commit ourselves to upgrade village housing and facilities, through a sound mix of traditional construction methods and material with modern technology, to discourage people from moving out of the villages. In the cities, we need to further evolve models of urban design and housing construction that strengthen the inherited spirit of social community common to all our societies.
The Delhi Summit last year laid stress on connectivity. Today, we find that with the advances of communications technology, good connectivity is not very far from our people. Although the numbers of mobile phone users in South Asia are rapidly increasing yet, our people remain distanced through the barrier of tariffs. I, therefore, propose that we actively promote a reduced tariff for IDD calls within the South Asian region to bring our people much closer, much sooner.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
We, in South Asia share a rich and common heritage, a heritage of understanding and of tolerance, a heritage that respects learning and wisdom, and takes pride in sharing the bounties of nature. But for this great heritage that transcends differences and upholds the value of a shared purpose and existence, our diverse cultures, languages and religious traditions could have made us the most divided region in the world. Instead, by and large we see a great harmony among our peoples.
In my own country, the impact of this common heritage is best seen today in what we have achieved in the East, where we have defeated terrorism, restored democracy, elected a Chief Minister from a minority community who was a former child soldier, and, most of all, where the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities live together, work together, and together seek the common goals of progress and prosperity. This indeed is a unique transformation within a short span of one year. This is my deep desire for the people in the North as well.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, and friends,
In conclusion ay I say that there must be a spirit of large heartedness by all including the stronger and wealthier nations, when some of these crucial issues are addressed. It is my fervent hope that the Colombo Summit will enable our dialogue with the Observer States to broaden into a process for constructive consultations, and project related cooperation in agreed areas. I have no doubt that together we can make our common endeavours, this Partnership, succeed for the benefit of all our peoples.
May the Noble Triple Gem Bless you all.