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Build an inclusive society where peace will reign: Chandrika Kumaratunga’s fervent appeal

Chandrika Kumaratunga Common Ground Award 700 01

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has made a fervent appeal to build an inclusive society where all communities are guaranteed respect and free expression of their separate identities and have access to equal opportunities.

She stressed that then all citizens would become a productive and vibrant part of the country, celebrating the richness of its diversity while building a strong and stable country where Peace would reign.

She made this appeal addressing an event held to honor her with the 2019 Common Ground Award for her vision, courage and commitment to peace and reconciliation in London, last week. The ceremony was held at the House of Lords. Previous winners of the award include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and the former President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva.

In her speech at the event, Mrs. Kumaratunga said:

“I would like to dedicate the award to the hundreds and thousands who are the unsung heroes of the struggle for peace, understanding amongst all beings, and to all my colleagues and associates who have walked the difficult and challenging paths they have had to take in their journey towards peace in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

My father, husband and I, as well as numerous colleagues, have been victims of attacks carried out by terrorists of various types, but stately for the same reason: that we engaged in the task of building an inclusive nation with justice for all.

I realized through all the pain and tribulations, that violence only begets violence and it could be quelled only through understanding and love, in the words of the Buddha as well as other religious prophets.

As regards Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, investigations revealed the criminals had links to global terrorist networks, and although Sri Lanka is a less powerful State, its strategic location in the Indian Ocean made a victim of super-power rivalry on the one hand, and consequently of interest to others, who need to express globally their messages of hate, anger and vengeance.
With the end of the World Wars and the Cold War, the World is experiencing conflicts across the globe, especially in the developing world, with a large number of them taking on a terrorist nature. Terrorism has become the most terrifying and destructive phenomenon of our age.

I stand here today with you, at a moment of deep sadness for my country. We suffered a devastating terrorist attack two months ago, targeting innocent humans peacefully at prayer in their Churches on Christianity’s holiest day, as well tourists in their hotels, killing nearly 300 adults and children. Investigations are revealing that the criminals had links to global terrorist networks. We have yet to elucidate the hidden hand behind this crime perpetrated with ruthless precision.

However, one fact is clear, that Sri Lanka, a small and less powerful State, yet occupying a most crucially important strategic location in the Indian Ocean, has become a victim of super-power rivalry on the one hand, and consequently of interest to others, who need to express globally their messages of hate, anger and vengeance.

The madness has gone viral, the battles have spread globally. It does not suffice, however, to define these violent movements as terroristic and to believe that they could be erased solely by military means. I believe that we must seek out the deep rooted causes of each conflict and find solutions for each country.

However, we witness all around us, the use of mainly military methods to resolve violent conflict. To employ the weapons of the terrorist to fight terrorism and violence has proven to be futile.

It may be more productive to use weapons that do not exist in the armoury of the terrorist, i.e. the weapons of understanding, discourse and negotiation. This, coupled with an honest intent to resolve the root causes of each relevant conflict, may prove to be more effective.

We must recognize that perceived injustice, social and political inequality, as well as economic deprivation are the causes that compel young people to take up arms and fight the might of the State, going even beyond territorial boundaries, through the employ of modern electronic technology.

We have to find solutions to poverty and the resultant inequality. We must also strive to build inclusive and shared societies where all communities, living within a nation, must be included as equal partners, enjoying equal rights in the economic, political and socio-cultural spheres.

Economic growth must not only indicate wealth formation in a country. It must also ensure that wealth is fairly distributed among all and not concentrated in the hands of a few.

As a young woman, I had a dream. It was a dream for Peace and Prosperity for my little country – endowed with stunning natural beauty, yet riven with division and hatred, made worse by an equally stunningly inept political class.

The power of my dream helped me to climb many rocky mountains and lay the foundations for a good and humane Sri Lanka, working resolutely towards Peace and Harmony, together with the vast majority of Lankans who share my dream.

That dream has been shattered cruelly, many a time. Yet, I have faith that the seeds we sowed have firmly taken root and shall grow and flower once more, in conditions that are conducive.”



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