June 17, La Paz: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the Bolivian government's award for his contributions to peace and democracy is an honor for Sri Lanka and for him personally.
The Bolivian government honored the visiting Sri Lankan President Monday with "Parliamentary Order Merit Democratic Rep. Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz", granted by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia.
Vice President of Bolivia and President of the Legislative Assembly Álvaro García Linera presented Bolivia's highest honor which recognizes contributions to peace and democracy, when the Sri Lankan President visited Bolivia's Legislative Assembly in La Paz on Monday.
Bolivia said President Rajapaksa was selected for this prestigious award for defeating terrorism and restoring peace and development in Sri Lanka. It also recognizes President Rajapaksa's commitment to human rights and his initiative to improve and expand relations with South America, including Bolivia.
Accepting the award, given first time to a foreign head of state, Sri Lankan President said it is an honor for his country as well as for him personally.
Speaking of post-war developments in Sri Lanka, the President said Sri Lanka has entered into an era of peace and stability after defeating terrorism of nearly thirty years and despite many challenges, the country has been successful in addressing several post-conflict humanitarian issues.
"My government is committed to strengthen the democratic process and address political issues in Sri Lanka, in consultation with all political parties through a Parliamentary Select Committee, which has been established," the President said.
Underscoring Sri Lanka's firm belief that the national reconciliation process should be homegrown for it to be sustainable, the President said a mechanism has been established to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of this domestic process the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, in a structured manner, through a National Plan of Action.
He said Sri Lanka is saddened by a growing practice at the international level to adopt double standards in respect of the application of human rights.
"My country is legitimately proud of its achievements, within a very short period, in restoring the democratic rights and freedoms of our people in areas that were ravaged by terrorism," he emphasized.
Pointing out that high level interaction could help to advance bilateral relations between the countries, the President expressed hope that his visit to Bolivia will be the starting point for more regular interactions.
Noting the differences between the parliamentary systems of the two countries, the President said he is keen to strengthen relations between the two parliaments and proposed the exchange of visits by parliamentary delegations and the formation of Parliamentary Friendship Associations in the two legislatures.
"This would help deepen the understanding of the Parliamentary traditions in the two countries and strengthen the bonds of friendship between the members of the legislatures," he noted.
Speaking of collaboration between Sri Lanka and Bolivia, President Rajapaksa said the two countries have enjoyed close collaboration at multilateral fora, particularly in the Non Aligned Movement and the G77.
"We share similar views and common positions on many issues of relevance to developing countries. This close collaboration at international fora, should also now be expanded to our bilateral relations," he said.
"We must find possible ways of expanding our trade and economic cooperation, in a manner that is mutually beneficial," President Rajapaksa stressed.
He said he is also keen to strengthen people to people contact between the two countries and believes that the two countries can have joint initiatives to promote tourism and cultural exchanges although they are located rather a long way from each other.
"We must promote people to people links which will deepen the understanding of our respective cultures," he insisted.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)