INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI
PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN
At the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka
June 9, 2003
Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Co-chairs of the Tokyo Conference,
Representatives of the countries and international organisations,
It gives me great pleasure indeed to inaugurate the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka with the participation of representatives from about fifty countries and twenty international organisations. At the outset, however, I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the floods that hit Sri Lanka last month. I sincerely look toward the earliest recovery of the flooded areas.
In Sri Lanka, a civil war has continued for the past two decades. I am informed that about sixty-five thousand lives have been lost and eight-hundred thousand people have been forced to live as internally displaced persons due to continual fighting and acts of terrorism. The people of Sri Lanka are thus being denied opportunities to build a prosperous society given their rich potentiality. The Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire agreement in February 2002. Since last September, both parties have met in six sessions of peace talks. This development is widely welcomed by not only the people of Sri Lanka but also the entire international community.
Due to ethnic conflicts throughout the world today, well over twenty million people have been forced to live as refugees or internally displaced persons and now suffer in extreme hardship. Terrorism still poses a serious threat to world peace despite international efforts since the attacks of September 11. Therefore, progress in the Sri Lankan peace process is of vital importance. I hope that a peaceful resolution of this ethnic conflict and accompanying acts of terrorism will become a successful model for others if a durable peace is achieved. Such a victory would give courage to and inspire hope in all those many others all around the world now victimised by ethnic conflicts and acts of terrorism.
I sincerely hope that the Tokyo Conference will be an opportunity to demonstrate a strong and unified commitment on the part of the international community to the peace process in Sri Lanka. The international community must show its resolve to support, in concrete terms, reconstruction and development in all of Sri Lanka, including the war-torn North and East. If such support were to help the Sri Lankan people to enjoy the tangible benefits of peace, their own determination to continue efforts toward a durable peace would be even that much more firm and steadfast.
It is disappointing that the LTTE is not with us today. Japan urged the LTTE to participate in this conference up to the last minute, in cooperation with the Sri Lankan government and other concerned countries. Nonetheless, the Tokyo Conference represents a precious opportunity for the members of the international community to join together so as to support the Sri Lankan people's strong desire for peace. It would have meant an irreparable loss to the long-suffering Sri Lankans if this conference had not been held as scheduled. So, I am highly pleased that the conference opens in Tokyo today, as scheduled, with the active participation of so many countries and international organisations.
The assistance afforded by the international community must help to move forward the peace process. Such assistance should be implemented in tandem with progress in the peace process itself. The international community should thus carefully review and monitor that process. On the other hand, the two negotiating parties should not assume that any assistance committed to at this conference will be provided to them automatically. Implementation of this assistance by the international community will be closely linked to steady progress in the peace process made by both parties through their own efforts. In this regard, I am deeply concerned over the current suspension of the peace talks. I call for the LTTE to immediately return to the negotiating table.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many people have been involved in the preparations for the Tokyo Conference. In particular, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the UN system have made tireless efforts in conducting needs assessment in the North and East. The US government hosted a seminar on Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. this April. In Sri Lanka, many individuals have also kept in close consultation. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the preparations for this Conference.
In order to carry out effective assistance, it is important for us to maintain close cooperation with members of the civil society and the private sector. In this regard, I am pleased that we have their representatives with us at this conference.
Before I end my statement, I would like to touch upon the "consolidation of peace" initiative that my government advocates. This policy aims at giving crucial momentum to the peace process by providing Official Development Assistance (ODA) and other forms of assistance to resolve ethnic conflicts and other problems. As part of this initiative, Japan has been actively engaged in current efforts to build peace in Sri Lanka even before a formal peace agreement has been concluded. The purpose of the Tokyo Conference is also in line with this initiative of Japan. We will continue to make such endeavours throughout the world.
Several challenges have yet to be addressed before a peace can be achieved in Sri Lanka. There remains a difficult path before both negotiating parties as they seek to reach their final goal. But many people in Sri Lanka are now strongly hopeful of achieving a durable peace and are giving their ardent support to the peace process initiated by President Kumaratunga and now led by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. I am sure that as long as such enthusiastic support exists among the Sri Lankan people, peace is surely achievable someday. I sincerely hope that the day will come in the near future when Sri Lanka, once devastated by ethnic conflicts and acts of terrorism, will be highly admired by the international community as a state that has achieved a durable peace through patient negotiations.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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