G.L. Peiris joins in Independence Day celebrations in London

Monday, 11 February 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Professor G.L. Pieris, the Minister of External Affairs, who graced the Sri Lankan High Commission in London’s Independence Day celebration, delivered a seminal address on the country’s progress in the post-conflict era, highlighting the tremendous challenges and constraints Sri Lanka had faced, and the remarkable progress it had achieved, in particular in rehabilitation, demining, livelihood development, infrastructure development, education and capacity building.

Professor Pieris also highlighted the recent Independence Day celebration in Trincomalee, and the significant program of investment and infrastructure development taking place in the North and East.

He was addressing over 180 members of the diplomatic community, parliamentarians from the House of Lords and House of Commons, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Commonwealth institutions, think tanks and opinion leaders at the celebration of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London.

Referring to the nature of the Commonwealth as a voluntary organisation of 54 member-states with diverse cultures, ethnicities and value systems, the Minister noted that it was not a monolith. If a few member-states attempt to turn such an organisation into a political tool in pursuit of their own agendas, it would not only damage the ethos that the Commonwealth represents but also threaten the very future of the organisation.

High Commissioner Dr. Chris Nonis stated that Sri Lanka had achieved universal suffrage 17 years prior to independence, and has always cherished the values of democracy and development, which are twin pillars of the Commonwealth. He recounted the success of the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s conference attended by over 700 parliamentarians, and the ongoing preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November 2013.

He commented on Sri Lanka’s progress on reconciliation, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction, and the growth rate in the previously conflict-affected areas of the North and East, which was a firm index of the economic dividends that are accruing.

He emphasised the importance of strengthening the bonds of friendship between Sri Lanka and the UK, and the imperative for the international community not to subscribe to the demagogues of division, who consistently paint a negative and anachronistic view of Sri Lanka, with well-funded collateral agendas.

He invited all those present to visit Sri Lanka and make an objective and impartial analysis of contemporary Sri Lanka. He also emphasised the importance of respecting each other’s diversity, which in turn provides dignity to one another, and in turn will ensure durable peace. The High Commissioner proposed a toast to the Queen and the people of Great Britain.

James Wharton MP, Conservative Member of Parliament, who had visited Sri Lanka several times and participated positively in parliamentary debates on Sri Lanka, spoke about the importance of the UK-Sri Lanka relationship which goes beyond being simply a Commonwealth partner, and was also built on trade, friendship, historical links, and shared values.

He also pointed out that the tenor and substance of the parliamentary debates on Sri Lanka was becoming more positive recently. Wharton proposed a toast to the President and people of Sri Lanka.

The celebration included a photographic exhibition which showcased Sri Lanka’s progress in the post-conflict era, traditional cultural performances from the Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim communities and a recital from the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra.