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Sunday, 10 November 2013

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All eyes on Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka will be the cynosure of all eyes when Colombo hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from Friday. It will be undoubtedly a memorable occasion for Sri Lanka as Heads of State, Foreign Ministers, Foreign Secretaries and other top-notch delegates from 53 countries of the Commonwealth will wing their way to Sri Lanka for the eagerly looked-forward to meeting held once in two years.

The Commonwealth Summit will be the biggest ever assembly of Heads of Government in Sri Lanka after the 1976 Non-Aligned Summit held under the patronage of the then Prime Minister, the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Coincidentally, the then Government in power was also a coalition led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Sri Lanka will eventually beat all overwhelming odds when it hosts CHOGM 2013. Ever since Sri Lanka was proposed as the host for CHOGM, many disgruntled elements did their utmost to discredit the country and prevent Colombo from hosting it. The LTTE rump did its damnedest to paint a gloomy picture and intertwined extraneous issues to mislead the international community.

Unscrupulous politicians in the Opposition also joined the bandwagon and trotted out various theories to mislead the masses, saying that the expenditure to host the event was a waste of money. They knew for certain that such allegations were baseless but continued to do so to gain petty political mileage.

Certain bankrupt politicians in the Opposition even attributed the costs to construct the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway or the International Convention Centre in Hambantota as expenses to host the CHOGM. But everybody knows that these are investments for the future and could not be categorised as monies spent on tamashas as was during the 1977-1994 UNP regimes.

The renovation of the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall or the road network in Colombo were not merely done for CHOGM, but are investments to bring the city on a par with other major cities in the world.

Hosting CHOGM 2013 would help Sri Lanka showcase the island nation to the world. Even lesser known countries in the Commonwealth are now talking about Sri Lanka as their leaders head towards Colombo.

Since the end of terrorism, Sri Lanka has been exploring opportunities to tell the world about its remarkable achievements. In this scenario, CHOGM 2013 will provide the ideal platform for Sri Lanka to showcase its achievements to the world.

At a time when certain elements in the international community and the LTTE rump are still making a big hue and cry over the human rights of the terrorists killed in action, CHOGM 2013 would provide Sri Lanka a priceless opportunity to tell its story to the world and show the milestone achievements after its humanitarian operation which liberated over half a million people from the jaws of LTTE terror.

Hosting a high-profile summit of this magnitude was not even dreamt of when LTTE terror was riding high, threatening the lives of over 21 million people. Barely anybody even in their wildest dreams reckoned that Sri Lanka could overcome the threat of terrorism to host an international summit of this nature. But lo and behold! Sri Lanka has overcome all insurmountable challenges and is now ready to host the biggest ever international summit in 37 years! That alone is a creditable victory in Sri Lanka's ambitious march towards becoming the Wonder of Asia.

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of the Security Forces and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's political sagacity, Sri Lanka could proudly claim to be one of the safest countries. It was due to their praiseworthy efforts that Sri Lanka could now match any country as far as national security is concerned.

None could for a moment forget the dynamic role played by Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa in not only giving unmatched leadership to the Security Forces in the country's relentless battle against terrorism, but also in transforming the Greater Colombo area into one of the most picturesque capitals in the world.

Hence, CHOGM comes at a decisive time when Sri Lanka is marching forward towards national reconciliation and development. Amidst mounting pressure from a few Western countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) due to the influence exerted by the LTTE rump on some Western politicians in their adopted countries, Sri Lanka has made a significant breakthrough in resettlement, reconstruction, development and reconciliation.

No other country, having recovered after such a horrendous experience on the battlefield, has gained so much during such a short period of time. Though some of the so-called super powers are still grappling to crush global terrorism, but are reluctant to acknowledge Sri Lanka's achievements, CHOGM will send a clear and resounding message to the world at large.

The first-hand experience of the visiting leaders of the Commonwealth member countries will definitely shoot down the bogus propaganda spread by the LTTE rump. Even British Foreign Secretary William Hague has conceded that he wants to see the change in Sri Lanka.

Certain countries have been either ill-informed about the actual situation in Sri Lanka or misled by the concocted stories disseminated by Tiger sympathisers. Hence, CHOGM will be the most appropriate time to send the strongest signal to the world, demolishing the false propaganda spread by LTTE cohorts.

Sri Lanka will present its case of political stability and tranquility as part of the process against all kinds of misinformation spread by some petty-minded politicians looking to tarnish the country's image in the eyes of the world. Sri Lanka is at an advantage in terms of political stability and tranquility in the subcontinent, without which there could be no investments.

The presence of Commonwealth leaders and top business personalities will make the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) in Colombo an eye-opener to the world business community. As the host nation, the local business community too could look forward to ample opportunities to tap international markets. The Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) strives to provide a bridge between the private sector and governments, between emerging and developed markets and between small businesses and the international private sector.The CBC targets to achieve economic empowerment for shared global prosperity through the enhancement of private sector contribution to social and economic development. The CBF is playing a key role in developing stronger partnerships among Governments in Commonwealth countries and businesses to ensure that the Commonwealth promotes sustainable growth to benefit the global society.

The first-hand experience by the Commonwealth Heads of Government will definitely prove to be a positive sign for global investors to invest in Sri Lanka. The prevailing peaceful atmosphere, coupled with the conducive business environment and the skills of the local workforce would inspire big-time global businessmen to invest heavily in Sri Lanka.

Simultaneously, the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) would enable youth to win new friends around the world and share their ideas and know-how to build a better world. The contacts established and the friendships developed through the CYF in Hambantota will open endless opportunities to the youth in Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth People's Forum, the third main event conducted on the sidelines of CHOGM 2013, would help social leaders to pool their experience for the betterment of the Commonwealth family. The Commonwealth, which is only second to the United Nations, has an opportunity to carve out a new path. If Sri Lanka taps the right opportunities and makes the best use of CHOGM 2013, the country could reap the fruits of the summit in the near future. This would not only silence the critics, but also end the day-dreaming of the LTTE rump.

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