Speech by Sri Lanka President at the opening ceremony

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His Excellency Li Yuanchao,

Vice President of the People's Republic of China,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this Conference on the theme, "Promote Green Development and Build a Beautiful Asia Together", in the enchanting surroundings of this historic city of Xian.

It is, indeed, heartening to note that the Government of the People's Republic of China is taking this very timely initiative. Here, our friends from a large number of countries will share their collective wisdom and insights on a topic which is of practical importance to us all. I wish to thank Vice-President Li Yuanchao, the Government of China, International Department of the Communist Party of China and the local government of Shaanxi Province for organising this special Conference.

Many centuries ago, Xian was the beginning of the famous 'Silk Route' to Constantinople, touching my own country on its way. It is a vivid expression of the importance of trade and commerce for the well-being of our nations through the ages. However, the cultures of Sri Lanka and China inter-sect at one crucial point. This is the realization that sustained economic development can be achieved only in harmony with nature and without inflicting damage on the environment which nurtures all forms of life. The concept of "green development" lies at the heart of our civilization.

At the time of the advent of Buddhism to my country, Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Dharmasoka, addressing the ruler of the Island, King Devanampiyatissa, who was aiming his arrow at a deer, declared, " O King, mighty as you are, it is well to remember that total ownership of the environment is not yours. You are, but the trustee of the mountains, the rivers, the forests and the oceans which enrich our lives, and it is your bounden duty to hand these down to posterity in the condition in which you inherited them from your fore-fathers". Deep respect for nature is one of the values ingrained in our spiritual and cultural traditions.

Since I assumed the Presidency in 2005, the principal task of my government has been to rid my country of the menace of terrorism and, by doing so, to pave the way for the rapid economic and social development which is taking place throughout Sri Lanka today. It is a matter of great concern to me to ensure that economic development is people-centric, and must at all times serve the purpose of improving the quality of life not just for the privileged few but for the community at large. My government has taken effective measures to take industry to the villages and to provide access to opportunity for advancement in life, especially for the vulnerable segments of society.

However, while achieving this objective, I have at all times placed at the fore-front of our economic programmes the aim of arriving at the right balance between industrial progress and preservation of the environment. To this end, it has been our constant endeavour to develop sources of renewable energy, exploiting in the fullest measure the bounty of nature, in the rays of the sun, the refreshing waters in our streams and the winds that give us relief in the midst of our daily toils. I have also striven hard to make available to the villages the resources and opportunities of the city, while bringing to the city the serenity and quiet contentment that is a feature of village life.

Environmental issues today clearly call for an urgent solution but it is necessary to insist that it should be an equitable solution. It is important to remember that the present situation is one which has been brought about by excessive consumption on the part of the industrialized nations, and that developing countries played no part in aggravating this situation. It is therefore, palpably unjust to try to impose a solution which involves significant controls and restrictions that prevent the developing world from producing and using energy for legitimate needs. Energy is required for industry, and in other areas such as transport and communications, so as to accelerate development and enable an improved quality of life for a larger part of the globe. This consideration, vital from a humanitarian stand-point, should not be lost sight of in dealing with compelling issues relating to the environment today.

The focus of our Conference involves the building of a beautiful Asia together. Our region contains many things of beauty, including a number of World Heritage Sites. But beauty, at its core, is a quality that resides in human spirituality and human accomplishment. In all walks of life, our continent has demonstrated the attainment of excellence. There is exceptional vitality and creativity in our human resources, particularly among our youth. But to realize our full potential, we need to shake ourselves free of the shackles of our colonial past, and to nurture the qualities of confidence and self-assurance to reach out for the stars. In this, the inspiring experience of China, the world's second largest economy today, has certainly shown us the way.

Political parties are effective instruments for the optimal mobilization of human capital, and I therefore warmly congratulate the Communist Party of China on their initiative in bringing us together. My delegation and I look forward to an insightful and rewarding Conference in your beautiful city.

May the Noble Triple Gem bless you all.

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