Monday, 9 December 2013 00:07
Opposition Leader hails life and work of South African President and global icon
Urges the Government to learn lessons from his decision to leave office after two terms
He built a South African identity: Opposition Leader
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe mourned the passing of former South African President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela in Parliament last Saturday, emphasising that the Sri Lankan Government had key lessons to learn from his exemplary life.
Wickremesinghe criticised the Government for failing to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report, its own mechanism for restorative justice modelled loosely on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the fall of the Apartheid Regime. Mandela, Wickremesinghe said, had not taken revenge on other communities once he became President of South Africa.
“He did not try to build an Africa for Africans only. You had the ‘whites’; you had the Indians; you had the mixed or the coloureds and you had the Africans. He did not allow the Africans to be divided into tribes. He evolved the concept of South African identity which is enshrined in the South African Constitution. It is one of the most progressive Constitutions that you can find today in the world,” Wickremesinghe told the House during the Condolence Vote on the passing of the South African leader.
“So, there is a lot to be learnt from it and a lot that we can learn,” the Opposition Leader said.
Wickremesinghe emphasised that President Mandela had “gone home” after the conclusion of his second term, even though he could have changed the constitution and gone on for a lifetime.
Sri Lanka had also had a two term limit on the Presidency but the 18th Amendment to the Constitution had been passed, removing those safeguards.
“Nelson Mandela showed that a prisoner on an island could think big and that is the ability. Can you in politics think big? Can you in politics give a vision? Can you in politics unite people? Can you in politics give hope to the poor, to the oppressed and those who think they are the disadvantageous groups of the country? If you can do that, then you certainly would be following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela and that is what we need Sri Lanka today,” the Opposition Leader said.
“I know that the Sri Lankan Government was consulting the Government of South Africa. It is time that the Sri Lankan Government takes definite steps having evolved a consensus in this Parliament where they could build and take it forward based on the document, which the Government has put forward as our national solution to reconciliation. The LLRC report recommendations, many of which, the political items have not been implemented during the last few years,” Wickremesinghe added.
Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management and the Leader of the House of Parliament Nimal Siripala de Silva also joined the forum delivering condolences reading out the moments in life of Mandela and his goals.