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Sirisena urges world leaders to promote peace

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Former President and Polonnaruwa District MP Maithripala Sirisena has called upon all world leaders to promote global peace.

Speaking at the World Summit 2022 (Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula) in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, Sirisena said: “The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ.”

World Summit 2022 (Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula) gathered world leaders and a worldwide virtual audience around topics related to peaceful reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

“The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ,” he said.

Excerpts of Sirisena’s speech:

There is a long history of efforts to unify the divided two geographical units, created by internal and external involvements. This status has created economic downturns and suffering, especially in the North, though revival has happened voluminously in the South. This had been the case in some other non-reunified troubled countries too. Unified states have triumphed. The German experience is a good example of collapsing of the separating wall and building a strong economy. Vietnam exhibited another novel political institutional arrangement, and now a bubbling economy. These two countries achieved unification in two ways.

I quote Kohler, a commentator who stated four takeaways from the German experience of reunification: They were: First: Get ahead of developments, prepare to expect the improbable, and have the guts to lead, second: Keep your promises and make sure others are aware of it. Three: Foreign policy begins at home, and, finally, do not go it alone. I hope those who are following unification would note these learned lessons.

Due to the potential political and economic downturn, sometimes certain populations resist unification. It happens mostly in the sector or unit where economic status is affluent. Studies have proved this status even in the case of Koreas. It is due to migration that may be caused by a unification exercise that could negatively affect the lives of the affluent people. However, economic affluence is also predicted due to unification. In such a background, some argue that other factors such as shared history, culture, language, traditions, etc. should motivate unification.

The historical perimeters of the two Koreas are complex, though well known to this noble audience. I may approach the issues from our experiences in Sri Lanka, less known to many over here. It is because the Summit expects sharing collective experiences, wisdom, and insights.

Our ethnic communities were united for generations throughout the history of Sri Lanka. Though there were aberrations in relationships, total segregation was prevented, and they remained as friends, upon culture, religion, traditions, and beliefs-wise, etc. When foreign powers were ruling Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka, especially towards the mid-twentieth century, our leaders fought unitedly for independence from the British, irrespective of the languages they spoke, religions they professed, ethnic groups they belonged to.

However, due to several domestic reasons, sometimes fueled by foreign influences who wished to divide and rule, hatred, jealousy, animosity was developed, and unity was compromised and jeopardized. This led to political conflicts which were later converted to violence against the state and to open violence in the streets, cities, villages, and jungles. Though we are a small island of 65,000 square kilometers the demand by an ethnic terrorist group was for a separate state. Certain arrangements were made by our governments several times to settle this issue, and even had a ceasefire brokered by Norway in 2002, but ultimately everything failed. This is another lesson we can share on failures one could experience, on the way to peace or unification.

This type of failure is observed even in the Korean environment. I may quote a commonly known episode to prove my stand. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas. It led to successive face-to-face meetings. They culminated with a visit of South Korean President Moon Joe-in to Pyongyang. This visit followed several joint declarations, agreements, hotlines, and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, close to the demilitarized zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and was an ‘embassy’ between the two sides, still at war. In June 2020 it was blasted by North Korea, which resulted in blasting much of the progress made in two years. This is the complexity and unpredictability one experiences in unification or finally peacebuilding.

The terrorists in Sri Lanka did similar things to us and consequently the peace processes we carried out failed. Instead of peacemaking, we did battle it out. It is not a good lesson to learn., because war is the bitterest treatment of people. However, this is the way politics, war, egos, personalities sometimes react to certain peacebuilding, reunifying efforts.Excellency Ban Ki-Moon as the Secretary-General of the UN did his utmost to bring peace, reconciliation, democratic control of the situation after the conflict was over in May 2009. I believe in peace and avoidance of war, and conflict should not be the answer to any aberrations. What we require at such a point is confidence-building between parties and rebuilding the economies. Therefore, Sri Lanka stepped into reconciliation, basing our actions on the internationally acclaimed “four pillars of reconciliation.”

Of course, the internationals anticipated and demanded extremely revolutionary and immediate remedial actions. They are lofty expectations, but unfortunately, the expected speed does not reflect in the execution of reconciliatory mechanisms. Ours was a conflict of more than 25 years. Korea is about 70 years old. Reconciling competing interests and horrific pasts do not happen quickly, because scars are deep-rooted and thus adamancy rules. Egos prosper. Hence, patience is required, which reminds me of the statement made by the Japanese business tycoon Konosuke Matsushita “Storms may pass, patience is a virtue.” Therefore, step-by-step movement may be preferred here too. But what we need is not a step backward, but always a consistent step forward.

The economic impact on us was severe and we are still paying for such sectarian behavior. This too is not only a lesson to us in Sri Lanka. Many experiences are observed in proximity and far away too. United efforts always give better yields. Of course, the need may arise for people to sacrifice certain conveniences and comforts enjoyed before reunification or peacemaking, especially in socio-economic spheres. This was the German experience just after the unification and will happen elsewhere too.

However, governments, bilateral and multilateral internationals must find solutions to integrate, make peace, unify quarreling groups, militaries, and countries. It is because war, conflict does not have winners. There are no short or instant solutions. Ours is an excellent example. I have learned that there had been studies done even in Korea and opposition to reunification has been observed. Though short-term difficulties could be observed, one must look at the long-term effects.

Our conflict was over in May 2009. Still, twelve years later we have not found a firm power-sharing mechanism or fulfilled total reconciliation as expected by international standards. The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ. Though such conflicts may occur regarding Korea, one may reconsider the situation in the light of common language, culture, traditions, living patterns which are binding glues for sustainable integration. . Possession of resources and technology to manufacture long-range missiles and shoot them from deserts or sub-marines, etc. is insufficient for integration or unification. Threatening nuclear attacks is insufficient for the same. What good such missiles and nuclear armaments serve the people positively? Similarly, it is not drawing a line on the 38th latitude. Marking boundaries based on surveyor’s lines have not solved issues with our neighbors as seen even today from the Radcliffe Line between India and Pakistan, and Chief British negotiator, Sir Henry McMahon’s line dealing with the boundaries of Tibet, China, Bhutan, and even India. Conflicts continue for decades and even today on these boundary lines. Again, I say, it is not an easy task, especially when such threatening warmongering hawks control decision-making.

I may quote the greatest Indian next to Lord Buddha- Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Was not war itself a crime against God and humanity, and therefore, were not all those who sanctioned, engineered and conducted wars, war criminals?” We have the choice in front of us. Do we sanction, engineer, and conduct wars and become war criminals or go by Martin Luther King Junior who said “It is not enough to say we must not wage war. Is it necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it?”

Let us take a solemn pledge that we will not be warmongers and war criminals but peacemakers and sacrifice in whatever way required because the effects will be universal and benefit humanity forever with bestowed peace.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

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Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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