The creation of the question of the Palestinian people was a direct consequence of colonialism and the fact that the people of this region had no control over their own destinies when the seeds were sown for the conflict that we experience today.
As a long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause and the Founder President of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, I have always held the position that the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to statehood must be upheld. The preservation of the rights of the people is important for the assertion of their identity as a distinct people. For a durable solution to the Palestine question, it is imperative to recognize the legitimate and sensitive security concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
Sri Lanka stands by its position that it is only by the peoples of Israel and Palestine living side- by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with all matters resolved permanently through negotiations, that the legitimate aspirations of both parties and sustainable peace can be achieved – a truism highlighted by the latest outbreak of hostilities.
It is my sincere belief that the Israeli-Palestinian region is Holy Land that is sacred to people of many faiths from around the world, in fact to all of humanity. As such, I earnestly urge both sides to show restraint and de-escalate hostilities and commence negotiations for a ceasefire.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, yesterday via a video message, addressed the opening segment of the 77th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
This year’s meeting was conducted virtually from April 26—29, 2021, under the theme “Building Back Better from Crises Through Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.” While the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the discussions this year, other issues such as climate change, debt relief, investments, equitable health access, sustainable development and regional cooperation were also discussed.
Full Text of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Speech
Madam Executive Secretary,
I am pleased to be able to address you at the 77th Session of UNESCAP. Despite the current challenges, it is very important for us to gather at this forum. This year’s theme is significant and timely as we work on strategies to overcome this pandemic, and start rebuilding our economies and societies.
Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress in controlling the spread of COVID-19, recording a very low death rate and a high recovery rate through case detection, contact tracing, quarantining and patient treatment. Sri Lanka’s robust public healthcare system provided free access to health and helped control the pandemic. The Government also repatriated nearly 100,000 Sri Lankans and started our vaccination program in February.
Even during the pandemic, economic activities continued in several sectors. The export sector continued to function, and tourism restarted in January. The Central Bank reduced policy rates and implemented several concessionary refinancing programs.
Our Government is deeply committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For this purpose, an Inter-ministerial Steering Committee on Sustainable Development has been formed under my leadership. Our youth are also an important component of our development agenda. That is why decade 2021 to 2030 has been declared the Decade of Skills Development in our country.
We are also keen on strengthening our regional ties and emphasize the need to accelerate the “South-South” cooperation. Towards that end, we believe UNESCAP should commit itself to being relevant and responsive with measures such as
• Assisting small countries with pandemic recovery and vaccination programs.
• Encouraging growth of foreign employment opportunities.
• Promoting Eco-tourism and Health-tourism
• Encouraging investments into and find markets for emerging nations.
In conclusion, let me state that we deeply appreciate the timely efforts taken by UNESCAP to bring the Member States together for a constructive and interactive regional discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wish your forthcoming sessions, every success.