by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka
On September 28th, 2012, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Paris held “ Sri Lanka in Bloom”, an international photographic exhibition arranged by Mr. Sudath Silva, Media Director to H.E. the President of Sri Lanka.
The exhibition depicted Sri Lanka ’s experience in combating terrorism, as well as the ongoing development activities in the North and East and the beauty of the island.
Following the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka delivered a speech in the presence of diplomats, representatives of the corporate sector and members of the Sri Lankan expatriate community in Paris . “[…] we are relieved, pleased and grateful that we have overcome the terrible challenges of thirty years of separatist terrorism. This must be said. And we are grateful to our citizens, our armed forces and our leaders. However, as a society, as a country, as a State, as peoples, we have now moved on beyond the war to the challenges of reconciliation and building a sustainable peace.” said Dr. Jayatilleka.
Present on the occasion were: Ambassador of Singapore to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador of Seychelles to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador of Indonesia to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador of Bangladesh to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador/Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO, Ambassador/Permanent Delegate of Iran to UNESCO, Ambassador/Permanent Delegate of Turkey to UNESCO, Ambassador/Permanent Delegate of Senegal to UNESCO, Chargé d’Affaires of Madagascar, Defence Attaché of Pakistan, Defence Attaché of South Africa, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Gambia to UNESCO, Deputy Permanent Delegate of Singapore to UNESCO, Deputy Permanent Delegate of Philippines to UNESCO, Mrs. Kanthi Wijetunge (Secretary to the Ministry of National Heritage), Mr. Ranjith Ananda Jayasinghe (News editor of Lankadeepa) and Mr. Sudath Silva
The Full text of address on the occasion by Ambassador Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka is as follows -
Ladies and gentlemen,
My warmest, heartfelt thanks to all of you, especially my colleagues the ambassadors, for being here this early in the working day.
This exhibition of photographs must be understood as providing a perspective. It is only one perspective. We think that it is an accurate one; but it is a perspective, it must not be understood as anything different or anything more.
The photographs of violence are not presented either in the spirit of triumphant militarism or in order to revive bitter memories of the years of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Of course, we are relieved, pleased and grateful that we have overcome the terrible challenges of thirty years of separatist terrorism. This must be said. And we are grateful to our citizens, our armed forces and our leaders. However, as a society, as a country, as a State, as peoples, we have now moved on beyond the war to the challenges of reconciliation and building a sustainable peace.
It is in that spirit that these photographs are exhibited because the photographs which show the thirty years of violence are intended to demonstrate the horrors of war and not to indict anyone or one or other side because we have moved beyond that.
While we are pleased, relieved and happy that democracy has triumphed over terrorism, we regard the fact of war, the fact that we had to fight a war, as a great tragedy that must never be repeated in Sri Lanka . And to this we are committed.
We do not believe that any side in this war has a monopoly of virtue or a monopoly of sin. We believe that mistakes have been made on all sides. While we do not agree with morally equating democracy and terrorism, we are now engaged in soul searching, in reflection. This is why the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), after long deliberation, has issued a report which contains constructive criticism and recommendations for reform; and why the Government and people of Sri Lanka are committed to the full implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC Report.
In conclusion, I also want to draw your attention to some photographs which depict the reconstruction of the war torn areas of our country. Now you may wonder why there are proportionately fewer such photographs than there are of war. That is because we had thirty years of war and only three years of peace. But what these photographs show is that at least in one dimension of the multidimensional challenge of building peace, certain initials steps have been taken. We are not making a claim beyond that.
We are conscious that there can be no peace, certainly no permanent peace, without justice. There can be no peace without freedom for all. There can be no peace without the equality of rights. There can be no peace without dialogue. And there can be no permanent peace without the continuing support of our friends throughout the world, especially, but not only in Asia . Of this we are conscious.
We consider the values that France has contributed to universality, and those that UNESCO has stood for over a very long time, to be valuable contributory components to the new consciousness that will make for a permanent peace in Sri Lanka .
So once again, I thank your Excellencies who have graced this occasion, this early in the day. I thank Mr. Sudath Silva who took these photographs. I must add that I knew him first when he was the photographer of President Ranasinghe Premadasa with whom I worked when I was younger, and who was assassinated by the LTTE in 1993.
So he has been the photographer of successive presidents from the early ’90s. I thank him and his team and my own able team of diplomats led by Ms. Swarna Perera, who organized this event. I wish to thank all our friends who have come here today and will continue to come in throughout the day. My heartfelt thanks to you for being here today.
(Text of a Press Communique Issued by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Paris)