Published on - 8/4/2008
THE REMARKS made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Concluding Session of the 15th SAARC Summit at the BMICH, Colombo yesterday.
I believe that as the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo draws to a close, all of us who have participated in the deliberations can draw satisfaction from a most productive and fruitful outcome.
In the final analysis, all regional cooperation efforts including in South Asia, have as their objective, prosperity and equitable development. Our deliberations have therefore had a strong focus, on economic and commercial cooperation.
The Summit has had to grapple with two issues that have in recent times come to pose strong challenges throughout the globe, as well as in our region.
The first is the situation of reduced food availability; that is leading to a worldwide rise in food prices.
The other is the increasing cost of energy. Both of them, if unchecked, can have the potential of undoing the hard won developmental gains that the peoples of South Asia and their Governments have achieved.
Given the seriousness of the subject of food security, we, the Heads of State or Government have felt that it deserves to be addressed through a Special Statement, released along with the Declaration.
In this Statement, we affirm our resolve to make South Asia, once again a major granary of the world, through a series of specific regional collaborative projects. Towards this end, we will shortly be convening an Extraordinary Meeting of our Agriculture Ministers.
At the same time, to ensure continued nutritional security, we have directed that the SAARC Food Bank which will store stocks for distribution in case of a particular scarcity within the South Asian region, should be immediately operationalised.
In the field of energy, we have decided that our approach will be built on several pillars. Firstly, we shall try to develop and conserve conventional sources of energy. Secondly, there will be a strong focus on alternative and renewable energy sources, including hydro-power, solar, wind and bio.
The third pillar complementing the other two, would consist of progressing energy reforms, increasing energy efficiency, transferring technology and trading in energy. The Energy Ministers of the SAARC countries are due to meet in Colombo next year, and they will maintain the political momentum in this regard.
During the Summit, there was clear recognition that terrorism has become a great menace throughout the world, including in our region. South Asia cannot progress, unless there is stability and security throughout the region.
It is in recognition of this reality, that we have ensured the signature at this Summit of the Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
We have condemned all forms of terrorist violence and emphasized that our States should firmly cooperate, especially through the exchange of information, against terrorism and organized crime.
There is unanimity amongst us that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement or SAFTA, as it is more popularly known, must be implemented in both letter and in spirit.
We, the Heads of State or Government have also directed that the implementation of SAFTA must be accompanied by the expeditious resolution of the problem of non-tariff barriers within the region, that come in the way of realizing the full benefit of lowering customs duties.
In the social sector, we have directed that the South Asian University based in New Delhi should begin its first session in 2010.
The University is perhaps one of the most far-sighted SAARC projects, for, by bringing together the best of our youth in a centre of academic excellence, it will over the years cement even further the bonds of friendship among the peoples of South Asia.
The Summit has also moved to strengthen the links of SAARC with the world outside. There are now eight countries and one regional association that have Observer status.
This growth in the ranks of the Observers shows that there is an increasing enthusiasm for engagement with South Asia, perhaps because our part of the world is expanding both economically as well as in terms of human resources.
We have been able during the Summit to reciprocate this enthusiasm, by adopting guidelines that will facilitate SAARC to henceforth embark on practical and mutually beneficial projects of cooperation with those Observers, who are interested in doing so.
The positive outcomes that we have reached to further the cause of SAARC would not have been possible if not for your great wisdom and the valuable cooperation, extended to me as the Chair.
The success of the Summit affords an auspicious start to Sri Lanka's stewardship of the Association. My Government and I pledge our utmost to faithfully carry out the high responsibilities assigned to us. I have no doubt Excellencies, that in our effort to do so we will have your firm support and goodwill.
Let me bring this Session to a conclusion by thanking all of you for your gracious participation.
It has indeed been an honour for the Government and people of Sri Lanka to have received you in our country. I wish you a pleasant return back to your Capitals and continued success in the service of your peoples.â€ (Courtesy: Daily News)