NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF SEYCHELLES
Sunday 30th June, 2013
The Assembly met at 1.30 pm
National Anthem of Sri Lanka
National Anthem of Seychelles
Moment of Reflection
Mr. Speaker in the Chair
Your Excellency, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa of the Democratic Socialist Republic if Sri Lanka, the Leader of Government Business – Honourable Marie-Antoinette Rose, Leader of the Opposition – Honourable David Pierre, Honourable Members of the National Assembly, Invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure that I, today, welcome you, Mr. President, and your delegation to the National Assembly of Seychelles.
Mr. President, you join us in our moments of celebrations, at a time when we are rejoicing 37 years of Independence and 20 years of political pluralism. We are therefore extremely graced by your presence; a man widely renown as a champion of freedom, peace and stability.
Mr. President, before I invite you to address this august House, let me first of all, commend your political strength, courage and determination to protect the integrity and sovereignty of your country by decisively putting the kibosh on a civil war that has plagued Sri Lanka for slightly over a quarter of a century.
During my visit to Sri Lanka last year, on the occasion of the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, I saw, firsthand, the rapid development that Sri Lanka has gone through over the last four years. I was particularly amazed by the transformation of the northern part of Sri Lanka which bore the brunt of the civil war. It also bears testimony to your vision of long-lasting national reconciliation, a prerequisite for the economic growth of Sri Lanka.
Without further ado, I now call on you, Mr. President, to address the House.
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA
The Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Members of the National Assembly, first of all, let me avail myself of this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for bestowing me with this rare honour of addressing this distinguished House of National Assembly of the Republic of Seychelles.
Standing here, I do consider it a great pleasure and honour to be among friends from an island nation, that shares so many common aspirations with my own country and I greatly appreciate the very warm welcome accorded to me and my delegation, Speaker.
Standing here, I also go back in time, when I entered our Parliament in 1970, as its youngest MP at that time, and I feel at home to be addressing this august Assembly Mr. Speaker.
Honourable Speaker, the history of Sri Lanka’s links with Africa, our western maritime neighbour, connected by the vast Indian Ocean, dates back many centuries. We have an ancestral connection; a strong line that binds us to this vast continent.
The historical 1955 Afro-Asian Conference or the ‘Bandung Conference’ as it is popularly known marked a very significant turning point in Asian – African relations. The Conference, in which Sri Lanka played a leading role, brought Asia and Africa to work together for the betterment of 1.5 billion people living in the 29 countries that took part in the Conference.
The Bandung Conference also marks a water shed in Sri Lanka’s modern relations with the African continent as we started establishing diplomatic relations with the African nations following the Conference. In 1976, when Sri Lanka hosted the 5th NAM Summit, we also had the opportunity to closely interact with many prominent African leaders of the day.
With my assumption of Presidency in 2005, Mr. Speaker, the foreign policy of Sri Lanka took a new course and we were able to re-discover our old friendships and affinities with Africa. My addressing this distinguished Assembly today is a clear manifestation of that timely foreign policy re-orientation. Africa’s relentless struggle against colonialism and the charismatic great leaders who have given leadership to the struggle for independence, have left an indelible mark in the collective mind of the people of Sri Lanka. They have contributed in no small measure to mould the Sri Lankan political landscape and its thinking.
It has been decades since both Africa and Sri Lanka have freed themselves from the shackles of colonialism and oppression. The walk to freedom was long and full of obstacles. When looking back at the past, we can see that we were united in our struggle against colonialism. We rallied together genuinely, irrespective of our differences in size, political or military power and economic strength for a common cause. That is to gain independence and bring prosperity to our nations.
Thinking about the present, I see that modern day international relations are marred by self-interest of the states and their struggle for power. We feel that the very colonialism that we had fought and freed ourselves from a few decades ago is making a comeback in a different form, in today’s global scenario. New power blocks are emerging, states are intervening in the affairs of other states using their strength and the past seems to be re-surfacing.
The threats emanating from these developments will be harmful to small nations like ours. Our independence and sovereignty are at risk and we should get together, as we have done in the past, to face these challenges. I emphasize the need for cooperation between Asia and Africa, to prevent attempts by interested parties, to intervene in the internal affairs of developing nations.
Honourable Speaker, for the past fifty years or so, we have been talking of South-South Cooperation and of the need to work together for common prosperity. These deliberations, it seems, have remained most of the time an academic exercise. If our deliberations were transformed into real action, Mr. Speaker, the situation would have been different. For instance, if you take a look at trade patterns, most of the trade of the developing nations is still done with the developed world. It is, therefore, imperative for us to get together and do more trade among the developing nations with a view to achieving prosperity for us all.
Honourable Speaker, friends, Seychelles and Sri Lanka share many commonalities, such as their identity as developing nations, their colonial past and their views on international issues. However, most important of all of these is our common heritage in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is our legacy. Being island nations, both our countries face challenges such as sensitive environments, exposure to natural disasters, limited markets and high dependence on marine and coastal resources. However, we have a vast pool of resources in the Indian Ocean. It is the world’s third largest ocean through which 40 percent of global trade goes through, creating major sea routes connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The nations that have inherited the rights of this ocean of resources must get together to embark upon a common approach to harness its potential for the benefit of our peoples.
I see the Indian Ocean Commission, of which Seychelles is a member, as one such organization that provides the Island nations of the Indian Ocean a platform, to discuss their issues and to forge a common approach to tap the resources of the vast Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is keen to join the Indian Ocean Commission and we are grateful to the Seychelles for the support extended to our application for membership of this Commission, Mr. Speaker. Island nations can play a pivotal role in the international and regional politics as well. To quote my good friend, President Alix Michel, I quote “Islands have a critical role to play in relation to the reform and development of the world’s multi-lateral architecture. Islands are often at the epicenter of global politics.” Unquote.
Honourable Speaker, being an Island nation, Sri Lanka is very much concerned about protecting the maritime environment and the natural habitat of the country. Islands do have their own endemic fauna and flora and Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of such natural resources. We are also sensitive to the repercussions of global warming, which pose a threat to small island nations, like yours and ours. For these reasons, Sri Lanka takes this phenomenon very seriously and is committed to policies to reduce the production of green-house gases, thus contributing to the mitigation effects of global warming and the resultant rise of sea levels.
Honourable Speaker, as I speak before this august gathering of lawmakers of Seychelles, let me provide you with a brief account of the present state of my country. After a long drawn conflict against separatist terrorism, which unleashed its brutal forces upon the citizens of my country for nearly thirty years, we are now enjoying durable peace and political stability, having eliminated the menace of terrorism from our midst. With a view to expediting the national reconciliation process, we have taken concrete steps to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that was appointed by me and members from Sri Lanka. Necessary budgetary allocations have been provided by the Government for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations through a National Action Plan. Since the end of the conflict we have embarked upon massive infrastructure development projects that would give the people of Sri Lanka the dividends of peace. Our aim is to develop Sri Lanka as a regional hub in five strategic areas; namely, knowledge, commercial, naval and maritime, aviation and energy. My Government’s Policy paradigm, “Mahinda Chintana, Vision for the Future”, outlines our strategies to become the regional hub in these five areas. However, while we are trying to bring about national reconciliation and economic development, we are not without post-conflict challenges. Interested parties endeavour to under-mine our victory over terrorism and humiliate us in the international scene. We count on the valuable and continued support, and understanding of friendly nations like the Seychelles. The best assistance that the international community could afford Sri Lanka at this point of time in its reconciliation process, is to provide the required time, space and encouragement to the Government.
Honourable Speaker, during the recent past, there have been visits by a number of leaders to my country and I too have been to a number of countries. Out of these visits, I would say that President Michel’s visit was one of the most productive visits as far as the implementation of the decisions taken during a visit, is concerned, Honourable Speaker.
My visit to your country is to further strengthen the bold initiatives taken by President Michel and to encourage and accelerate action – to implement the decisions taken by us for the benefit of our peoples. I am certain that the Seychelles and Sri Lanka could work together to promote regional economic integration and connectivity and to evolve an open, balanced and rule-based architecture. I have no doubt that the Sri Lanka – Seychelles Parliamentary Friendship Association, which was established during President Michel’s visit to Colombo, would play a pioneering role towards this end.
We would like to increase the co-operation between our two Parliaments and welcome greater exchange of visits by Honourable Members of Parliament of our two countries. So I invite you all.
In conclusion, may I reiterate my Government’s strong commitment to greater co-operation between our two countries. I wish continued success, prosperity and happiness for the people of the Republic of Seychelles. Thank you. Thank you Speaker.
I now call upon the Leader of the Opposition to deliver his speech.
HON DAVID PIERRE
Thank You Mr. Speaker, your Excellency, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka, Leader of Government Business, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to reply to you on behalf of the opposition in the National Assembly. Your Excellency, I am also very grateful that I had the opportunity, as part of a delegation from our National Assembly on the occasion of the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, to visit your beautiful and peaceful country last year and I must say, that I was not only impressed by the beauty of your country but also with the will of your Government and your very high personal level of commitment to improve democracy in your country as well as to improve the standard of living of your people.
Today Sri Lanka must be a proud nation as it is the only country in South Asia that is currently rated high on the Human Development Index and Sri Lanka is enjoying economic success.
Your Excellency, my visit to your country did something else, it also really got me to understand why Sri Lanka is called the “Nation of Smiling People”, as the warm welcome our delegation received from your people during our stay, left a very long lasting and positive impression on me.
Important to note, Mr. Speaker, that today the world wants peace and prosperity for all nations and Sri Lanka is doing its fair share. As the oldest democracy in South Asia and with a very long history of international engagement, I am very happy that Sri Lanka has pledged to cooperate with its region and with the people of the world in furthering peace and justice. This is evident as the Sri Lankan armed forces have been engaging in the United Nations peace keeping operations all over the world since the early 1960s. But Mr. Speaker, when it comes to Seychelles and Sri Lanka, we have a lot in common. Apart from sharing the same ocean we are both beautiful island developing countries and both countries at some point were colonized by the British. Hence our membership of the Commonwealth of nations, but with 1931 being the year of the introduction of Universal Suffrage in Sri Lanka and by being the oldest democracy in South Asia I am convinced that the sharing of your experience in democracy with us, will greatly help Seychelles in its attempt to improve its democratic standard and become one complete democracy. Having taught in many schools around Mahe, I must also say that I value the contributions of the Sri Lankan expatriate workers in our country.
Mr. Speaker, your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the history of Sri Lanka tells us that the road to peace has been a hard one to travel, so I wish to conclude my remarks by congratulating all those who have helped in bringing peace to your nation. You command the respect of the Opposition in the House.
Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank you for this opportunity on this important occasion and on behalf of the opposition, I wish His Excellency, Mr. Rajapaksa as well as his delegation a pleasant stay in our country. Thank you very much.
HON MARIE-ANTOINETTE ROSE
Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Dr. Patrick Herminie, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, His Excellency Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Members of the House, Distinguished Guests.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the majority Party in Parliament, may I first of all extend a warm welcome to His Excellency President Rajapaksa and his delegation to the Seychelles and to our Parliament. Your Excellency, your visit to one of the smallest Parliaments in the world, attests to the importance you place on the role of our institution, and for that I thank you, and I note in appreciation in your speech like you said, you feel truly at home amongst us.
May I also thank you for your inspirational speech before our Parliament, words which have surely propelled our parliamentarians to continue to strive for what is good and for what is great for our country and countrymen and to continue to protect our freedom and sovereignty.
Your Excellency, the south east monsoon which is sweeping over the Indian Ocean at the moment, begins its journey in the south eastern part of this vast and beautiful Ocean sweeping over our skies and ending it on the south eastern tip of the Indian sub-continent but not before passing through Sri Lanka more affectionately known as the wonder of Asia.
In six months, the north westerly winds will in turn take life from your part of the world and end in ours. This reciprocity of the winds between our two island nations, is a beautiful metaphor rather of the mutual and reciprocal warmth and friendship that we share. As such, something in the winds tells me that our two countries, our two nations, share a bond well beyond 25 years of diplomatic relations. We were after all part of the once supercontinent. Both countries, have had its fair share of challenges in the past.
For instance the 2004 tsunamis which swept across the Indian Ocean had devastating effects on our two countries, but as we battle with these continual challenges, we know that our success is not in our daily achievements, but in our resilience and strength to surmount even the most daunting and trying reality.
This narrative tells the story of two nations which is well connected with its history and well aware of the challenges of the future, in the words of President Michel at the occasion of his first state visit to Sri Lanka in August last year, “Together, the islands of the Indian Ocean are leading a narrative of growth and opportunity within the region. Sri Lanka and Seychelles are at the forefront of this narrative. This is a narrative based on shared appreciation for the potential of our ocean, and the need to protect it, based on our shared desire to increase trading opportunities for and between island nations. Based on our shared investment in our peoples. Based on our prosperity”.
Your Excellency, as the country that elected the first woman Prime Minister in the world, I thank you for being an ardent proponent of the role of women in the political discourse. Our Parliament rates second in Africa in terms of women representation and I note your words of support, in your address to mark the 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Colombo last year when you said “Sri Lanka is particularly interested in the moves to assist in encouraging the professional contribution of women in democratic bodies, from local authorities to parliaments”.
I also take this auspicious occasion to extend our gratitude to the hundreds of Sri Lankan professionals who have dedicated years of service to the Seychelles, particularly in the fields of education, law, medicine, engineering and construction. Many of us in this Parliament, myself included, very much owe part of our academic credentials to the hard work and dedication of the Sri Lankan teachers who continue to serve the Seychelles Government.
As Seychelles and Sri Lanka forge ahead with new avenues for development and corporation there is little doubt that our bonds and friendship will not only contribute to greater prosperity for the two island states, but for the creation of a stronger, safer and more prosperous Indian Ocean, and like you just said your Excellency, our common heritage.
On this note your Excellency, may I wish you and your delegation a pleasant stay in the Seychelles. Mr. Speaker, I thank you.
We have now come to the end of our extraordinary meeting. Your Excellency thank you very much for your very kind words. The two Leaders for your very encouraging words. With this, the House stands adjourned.