International cooperation essential to fight global terrorism- President Rajapaksa
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday (22) said fighting terrorism, which is a global challenge, requires international cooperation such as intelligence sharing, if the world is to overcome it.
Addressing the 76th session of the UNGA in New York, the President stressed that violence robbed Sri Lanka of thousands of lives and decades of prosperity in the past half-century.
"My government is committed to ensuring that such violence never takes place in Sri Lanka again, and therefore, Sri Lanka is acting to address the core issues behind it."
He reiterated that Sri Lankan voters granted him an emphatic mandate to build a prosperous and stable country, and uphold national security and sovereignty.
President Rajapaksa also commended Sri Lanka’s efficient vaccination drive against COVID-19, despite being a developing nation.
“We have already fully vaccinated nearly all those above the age of 30. Everyone over the age of 20 will be fully vaccinated by the end of October. We will start vaccinating children over 15 years of age in the near future”, he said, thanking healthcare workers, Armed Forces, Police personnel, Government servants, and elected officials for their efforts in this regard.
Furthermore, it was proposed that a Regional Knowledge Hub in Colombo be established in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), to facilitate the exchange of lessons learnt from COVID-19 and support countries to build back better.
Speaking of the impact COVID-19 has had on Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa explained that in addition to the tragic loss of life, the country’s economy too, has been deeply affected.
“The lockdowns, together with general movement restrictions, reduced international travel, and slower global growth have affected nearly all sectors of our economy. Tourism, one of Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earners and a sector that supports nearly 14% of the population, has been devastated”, he said.
President Rajapaksa thanked those nations and institutes that aided Sri Lanka both financially, and materially, in its fight against COVID-19, noting that the increased global cooperation visible during this ongoing crisis was ‘greatly encouraging’.
He noted, however, that there was more to be done, adding that it is vital that more initiatives including development financing and debt relief be adopted through international mechanisms, in an attempt to support developing nations overcome this pandemic.
“The economic impact of the pandemic has been especially severe on developing countries. This has placed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals at considerable risk”, President Rajapaksa highlighted.
President’s concerns on climate change:
Despite the severe strain forced upon Sri Lanka’s economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rajapaksa also raised concerns about the rising threat of climate change during his oration to the UNGA.
He said that decisive and urgent multilateral action is required to address the grave threats posed by climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
“As a climate-vulnerable country, Sri Lanka is deeply aware of the dangers of climate change”, he said in this regard, adding that environment conservation was one of Sri Lanka’s key national priorities.
He added that while Sri Lanka has also contributed to global efforts to reduce environmental pollution, it also seeks to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, through the adoption of the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management.
Rajapaksa highlighted some of Sri Lanka’s efforts to achieve sustainability, including the banning of chemical fertilizer, the cleaning and restoration of over 100 rivers in the country and the banning of single-use plastics.
He added that the energy policy also sought to increase the contribution of renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower to 70% of the country's national energy needs by 2030.
President’s concerns on global terrorism:
President Rajapaksa further addressed the global threat terrorism posed, emphasising that it is a global challenge that required international cooperation.
Stating that violence has robbed Sri Lanka of thousands of lives and decades of prosperity in the past half-century, President Rajapaksa stated that international cooperation in the exchange of intelligence is necessary to win against global terrorism.
“My Government is committed to ensuring that such violence never takes place in Sri Lanka again. We are therefore acting to address the core issues behind it. Fostering greater accountability, restorative justice, and meaningful reconciliation through domestic institutions is essential to achieve lasting peace”, the President said, recalling the Easter Sunday Terror Attacks of 2019, and the 30-year long Civil War of 1983.
He noted however, that while Sri Lanka is ready to obtain support from both international partners and the UN, the country’s Parliament, Judiciary and its range of independent statutory bodies should have unrestricted scope to exercise their functions and responsibilities.
“However, history has shown that lasting results can only be achieved through home-grown institutions reflecting the aspirations of the people”, he said in this regard.
Requesting that the international community extend their support to work together with mutual respect to foster a better and more sustainable future for all humanity, President Rajapaksa assured that it is firm intention to build a stable and secure future for all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender.