UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressing media before his depature said that the reconciliation, which was a complex process that requires continuous nurturing would not be accomplished overnight.
“It asks all of you to do something almost unimaginable”, he added.
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Good evening, ladies and gentleman of the media.
It’s a great is an honor and a pleasure for me to visit Sri Lanka once again, especially in my last year as Secretary-General of the United Nations. This beautiful and bountiful island has so much to offer to the world.
I would like to take this opportunity to most sincerely express my warmest thanks to His Excellency President [Maithripala] Sirisena and His Excellency Prime Minister [Ranil] Wickremasinghe, and many Ministers, many people and citizens for their warm welcome and hospitality afforded to me and my delegation. I am very much touched by such warm welcome and friendship. I know that you have shown such friendship and support, not only to me, but to all of the United Nations.
Ladies and gentleman,
Since my last visit in 2009, Sri Lanka has made great progress and undergone profound changes.
Sri Lanka has deep democratic roots, but even deep roots need nourishing. I welcome the initiative that President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe and the unity Government have undertaken to promote good governance.
Sri Lankans across the country have suffered too much from decades of violence. And people now need ways to overcome distrust between communities and mend the fabric of their society.
This country is at a crossroads, and I commend your bold decision to face the past and deal with the legacies of conflict.
The United Nations has also had to address the legacy of its actions in Sri Lanka, which did not meet the expectations of the people and the world.
We reviewed our involvement in the terrible events of that time and continue to take steps to ensure that human rights are at the centre of all our decision-making.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have had a productive visit and met many inspiring Sri Lankans.
Here in Colombo, I delivered a speech on the Sustainable Development Agenda, in particular, Goal 16, which reinforces people’s demands for more just, transparent, and accountable institutions and a more responsive, participatory Government.
Sri Lanka has much to gain from achieving Goal 16 and all the Sustainable Development Goals.
I visited the North of the country Jaffna, today, and saw an enormous contrast with my experience there in 2009. Great progress has been made in alleviating the problems associated with mass displacement.
When I was there almost seven years ago, they were all staying in refugee tents. Now they have been building brick houses. While I was also sad to see that they are still suffering from all of these, I saw that they were very busy, they were making their own lives with the help of the international community, UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] and other United Nations agencies.
In Jaffna, I also met the Tamil political leadership, the Governor and civil society to exchange views regarding the Government’s efforts to advance transitional justice and peacebuilding and reconciliation.
In the South, I spoke to a large gathering of young people and listened to their views.
While I have been meeting many youth groups – they were quite innovative and creative and committed to work as the leaders of today and tomorrow, to contribute to their society and to the world.
Reconciliation will not be accomplished overnight. It is a complex process that requires continuous nurturing.
Reconciliation asks all of you to do something almost unimaginable.
It asks you to overcome all the harm done, the torture, the murders and extrajudicial executions, the suicide bombings, the disappearances and forced recruitments, the suffering and violence – to transcend your grief and your pain.
It asks you to overcome – but not to forget – the loss of your loved ones.
It calls on you to try to heal the wounds and begin to see each other as people, as part of the same country and same human family.
Profound transformations in democratic societies necessarily take time.
I commend the unity Government for taking steps to pursue truth-seeking and accountability mechanisms and to deal with the grievances of people in the North and the East. I welcome the establishment of an office of missing persons and the process to reform the constitution to achieve a political settlement.
These are positive steps, but more needs to be done.
Victims cannot wait forever. They deserve to have their voices heard. They deserve credible, transparent and solid transitional justice mechanisms. I welcome the Government’s efforts on widespread consultations.
In all my meetings with the senior government and high military leadership, I stressed that it is important to seize the opportunity to provide all of your people with truth, justice, security and prosperity.
The United Nations offers you its unwavering commitment and its full support as you build a peaceful and harmonious Sri Lanka. Thank you very much.