Karu tells RCSSL how he did his part to protect democracy cherished by Lankans

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, making the keynote address at the ‘19/20’ AGM of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Sri Lanka, recently, stressed how the country viewed democracy and referred to his own role in Parliament, where it became apparent during the constitutional crisis last November, he said.

The Annual General Meeting of the held on 5th July under the auspices of the Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya and attended by its members, office bearers and guests, marked a couple of milestones.

The Speaker said: "This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the London Declaration by Commonwealth Prime Ministers. They agreed that all member countries would be ‘’freely and equally’’ associated in the organization, thus giving birth to the modern Commonwealth.

"Sri Lanka, shares the honour as one of the eight founding members of this important group.

"Given that Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia, people of this country have an abiding faith in democracy and respect for human dignity at all times. And this became apparent during the constitutional crisis last November. Meanwhile, we remain committed to promote human rights of all our citizens in all regions of this country.

"In this context, I would like to appreciate Commonwealth sponsorship for the working session and the seminar held for the Sectoral oversight Committees of the Parliament and for all Parliamentarians on the topic of "Parliamentarians and the Protection of Human Rights.

"Given the immense diversity of the people of the Commonwealth, we are well placed to promote and sustain the importance of multiculturalism, worldwide.

"This has become even more important at a time when religious and racial divisions have led to violence in several parts of the world. We must mobilize the capacity and the commitment of each country, community, and individual for promoting our values of equality, freedom and human dignity at all levels and ensure that each person’s rights are protected and traditions of each community are respected throughout our Commonwealth and beyond. We need to re-emphasize need for unity in diversity."

"In this regard, in this technological era, we must promote our Commonwealth connection to mobilize youth in the right direction, providing them opportunities for their upward mobility as well as freedom to innovate and to thrive socially based on their rights and social obligations. For this purpose providing a quality education to suit these 21st century requirements is an urgent task."

"For promoting 21st century as peaceful century, we need to promote reconciliation among communities in the countries affected by or face conflict. In this regard, Sri Lanka can take pride in its own programmes initiated successfully since 2015, for promoting these objectives. We together with like- minded friends in the world must prevent all forms and manifestations of extremism wherever it occurs, globally. We must remain connected and indeed well-connected to achieve these and all the agreed Commonwealth objectives.

"We celebrate today the success and the potential of the Commonwealth nations, for individually and collectively work towards a better world. And for this purpose we support connecting with each other to achieve the ideals and objectives of the Commonwealth. And in our globalizing world, networking is a most important aspect for promoting well-being of our people in all its manifestations. Therefore, it’s most appropriate that theme of the celebration of a Commonwealth day 2019 is entitled A connected Commonwealth.

"As you would reckon, Commonwealth is one of the oldest political associations in the modern world. It began its journey with Canada obtaining Self-government in 1840 from the British Empire and subsequent formation of the British Commonwealth. Thereafter nations of British Commonwealth, one by one became independent dominions and Sri Lankan achieved Independence in 1948.

"As an organization, we have grown gradually both in number of members as well as in the breadth and depth of issues that we discuss and promote, based on values and objectives we have freely agreed on the basis of the Commonwealth Charter. Today 30% of the world citizens belongs to Commonwealth and 53 independent sovereign States are members of our organization.

"In fact the last two countries to join the Commonwealth, Ruwanda and Mosambique, have no direct historical connection with the British empire. Their choice to join us, no doubt, may have been inspired by promise of the Commonwealth and its values, ideals, objectives and work programme.

"The Commonwealth has been evolving with times. Recognizing that most of the Commonwealth nations are still developing and all are differently endowed nations, the Commonwealth launched in 1971, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) with a view to assisting each other in development.

"And since 1971, we have held our regular summit meeting outside our traditional home base, the United Kingdom. This indeed is yet another manifestation of the free and equal nature of our association for both running the organization and taking equal responsibility for its progress and programmes. And biennial summit meetings of Commonwealth Heads of Government are now a prominent international calendar event of the world.

"We have, over the years, taking into account long and short term needs of the Organizations, have institutionalized several measures to assist people and countries of the Commonwealth for implementing agreed programmes of action and for making the organization inclusive in all aspects. In this regard, the Commonwealth Business Forum, Commonwealth Peoples’ Forum, Commonwealth Youth Forum, Commonwealth Ministerial Action Groups have now become prominent grassroots’ mechanisms.

"By adopting new development paradigms as required in the 21st century technological era, we have created new programmes and come up new ideas. For instance Commonwealth Cyber declaration is yet another manifestation that we are moving along with the times. And recognizing an ever increasing global concern for human freedoms and dignity, our organization has kept its focus on human rights, especially on individual rights. In fact the demand for such rights and freedoms have been leveraged by the technological revolution itself, with internet, social and electronic media providing every person easy access to information.

"Like the rest of the world, people of Commonwealth countries have become increasingly concerned about climate change and environment, as well as the health of the oceans and water bodies. As an Island nation, we are very concerned as well about the oceans. Arising out of our concern, am happy that Sri Lanka has become a Champion country under Commonwealth Blue Charter for restoration of mangroves."

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