President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday called upon SAARC not to hesitate to build new structures and mechanisms to enable it to reach its full potential.
Addressing the 16th South Asian Regional Summit in Thimpu, Bhutan the President said Let us within our own grouping be bold enough to introspect. We must take measures to improve the existing mechanisms, through review, rationalisation and reinvigoration .
He called for a common South Asian voice in issues of Climate Change, with those who historically contributed to Climate Change now sharing the burden of mitigating it. President Rajapaksa appealed to his SAARC counterparts for continued cooperation in the battle against terrorism taking economic progress beyond statistics to reach the village level where most South Asians live and carrying out policies that strengthen the rural sector and prevent unwelcome movement from village to city.
He urged for a search for South Asia s own home grown solutions to current and future problems.
He said, We must uphold our sovereign right to decide on what is best for us. We must strive to avoid externally induced rigid solutions. We must rather rally behind home grown and intra-regionally evolved measures.
Towards this end they should now endeavour to strengthen the mechanisms to speak with one voice on issues of common concern for their region in international fora, in particular at the United Nations, he said.
The President proposed a regular Conclave of SAARC Parliamentarians. Such a Conclave will further engage the support and involvement of the People s Representatives. It will thereby make SAARC popular within the region. The goal must be for SAARC to become truly people centric. He informed the Summit that the defeat of separatism and terrorism has given us now the opportunity to engage in open discussions and reach consensus, without the fear of guns. With the strong mandate expressed at both the recent Presidential and Parliamentary elections, I am now ready to lead our nation and her children to a brighter future, he said.
The President further said:
Commitment to democratic governance now encompasses our entire region. Our economies led by the dynamic growth of India, have weathered the global recession successfully. In my country Sri Lanka, we have been able despite an adverse economic global environment to achieve economic growth at about 6% per annum, while the per capita income has increased from US Dollars one thousand sixty in the year 2005 to US Dollars two thousand fifty today.
What is of even greater importance to me is the success we have achieved in ensuring that the benefits of this progress filter down to the village level. It is crucial that economic development should not be restricted to mere statistics. It should touch the community at all levels and make their lives easier, richer and more satisfying.
We must also resolve in this Decade of Intra-regional Connectivity in SAARC , to work diligently to strengthen both the physical and soft connectivity between our countries and peoples. We must find, as well, the best and the most practical means to implement the provisions of existing SAARC Conventions, especially against Terrorism.
Last, but not least, SAARC, as a regional organization cannot progress in isolation. We must, therefore, strengthen the means for practical engagement with the SAARC Observer States and with selected International Organizations in particular, for our development efforts.