Sri Lanka's Sirisena hopes for a Korean unificatio

Sri Lanka's Sirisena hopes for a Korean unification during World Summit 2022

by Zulfick Farzan 13-02-2022 | 3:34 PM

Seoul (News 1st); Former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has called on the world to pledge to not be warmongers and war criminals but peacemakers and sacrifice in whatever way required to benefit humanity forever with bestowed peace.

Sirisena was speaking at the World Summit 2022 (Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula) in Seoul, South Korea.

World Summit 2022 (Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula) gathered world leaders and a worldwide virtual audience around topics related to peaceful reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

It featured keynote speakers from around the world on a range of topics related to the peaceful reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula. Many speakers are from the 157 countries that have diplomatic ties with both North and South Korea.

"The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ," said the Former Sri Lankan President.

"The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ," he added.

Keynote Address by President Maithripala Sirisena

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, Ladies, and Gentlemen, 

I am happy to be here at this Summit and to deliver a Keynote address. Thank you.

When a South Korean invite is mentioned, beyond the invitation, Sri Lankans reminisce the long-standing friendship between our two countries. As a sibling, South Korea has treated us especially in the fields of economic assistance, investments, technology, employment for our labor, youth affairs, and international transactions. At the outset, I mention them with great happiness and gratitude.

To start with, let me with deep respect recognize the hosts - Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, the former UN Secretary-General, whom I have personally known well since 2015, Cambodian Prime Minister Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Dr. Thomas G Walsh, the Chairman, Universal Peace Foundation (UPF), and the Director-General of the UPF, Dr, Yun Young-ho.

Secondly, as a lover of peace, I recognize the pious objective of the Summit, which is of universal concern, which is “Peace on the Korean Peninsula."

Thirdly, I respectfully recognize the intended outcome of the Summit, which in simple terms is to bring together collective experiences, wisdom, and insights critically required to build mutual understanding, sustainable peace, and prosperity to the world.

In addition, I recognize the setting of the Summit in Seoul. In addition to the beauty of Seoul, it is because of the historical importance of reunification of Korea- the North and South. There is a long history of efforts to unify the divided two geographical units, created by internal and external involvements. This status has created economic downturns and suffering, especially in the North, though revival has happened voluminously in the South.

This had been the case in some other non-reunified troubled countries too. Unified states have triumphed. The German experience is a good example of collapsing of the separating wall and building a strong economy. Vietnam exhibited another novel political institutional arrangement, and now a bubbling economy. These two countries achieved unification in two ways.

I quote Kohler, a commentator who stated four takeaways from the German experience of reunification: They were: First: Get ahead of developments, prepare to expect the improbable, and have the guts to lead, second: Keep your promises and make sure others are aware of it. Three: Foreign policy begins at home, and, finally, do not go it alone. I hope those who are following unification would note these learned lessons.

Due to the potential political and economic downturn, sometimes certain populations resist unification. It happens mostly in the sector or unit where economic status is affluent. Studies have proved this status even in the case of Koreas. It is due to migration that may be caused by a unification exercise that could negatively affect the lives of the affluent people. However, economic affluence is also predicted due to unification. In such a background, some argue that other factors such as shared history, culture, language, traditions, etc. should motivate unification.

The historical perimeters of the two Koreas are complex, though well known to this noble audience. I may approach the issues from our experiences in Sri Lanka, less known to many over here. It is because the Summit expects sharing collective experiences, wisdom, and insights.

Our ethnic communities were united for generations throughout the history of Sri Lanka. Though there were aberrations in relationships, total segregation was prevented, and they remained as friends, upon culture, religion, traditions, and beliefs-wise, etc. When foreign powers were ruling Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka, especially towards the mid-twentieth century, our leaders fought unitedly for independence from the British, irrespective of the languages they spoke, religions they professed, ethnic groups they belonged to.

However, due to several domestic reasons, sometimes fueled by foreign influences who wished to divide and rule, hatred, jealousy, animosity was developed, and unity was compromised and jeopardized. This led to political conflicts which were later converted to violence against the state and to open violence in the streets, cities, villages, and jungles. Though we are a small island of 65,000 square kilometers the demand by an ethnic terrorist group was for a separate state. Certain arrangements were made by our governments several times to settle this issue, and even had a ceasefire brokered by Norway in 2002, but ultimately everything failed. This is another lesson we can share on failures one could experience, on the way to peace or unification.

This type of failure is observed even in the Korean environment. I may quote a commonly known episode to prove my stand. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas. It led to successive face-to-face meetings. They culminated with a visit of South Korean President Moon Joe-in to Pyongyang. This visit followed several joint declarations, agreements, hotlines, and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, close to the demilitarized zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and was an ‘embassy’ between the two sides, still at war. In June 2020 it was blasted by North Korea, which resulted in blasting much of the progress made in two years. This is the complexity and unpredictability one experiences in unification or finally peacebuilding.

The terrorists in Sri Lanka did similar things to us and consequently the peace processes we carried out failed. Instead of peacemaking, we did battle it out. It is not a good lesson to learn., because war is the bitterest treatment of people. However, this is the way politics, war, egos, personalities sometimes react to certain peacebuilding, reunifying efforts.

Excellency Ban Ki-Moon as the Secretary-General of the UN did his utmost to bring peace, reconciliation, democratic control of the situation after the conflict was over in May 2009. I believe in peace and avoidance of war, and conflict should not be the answer to any aberrations. What we require at such a point is confidence-building between parties and rebuilding the economies. Therefore, Sri Lanka stepped into reconciliation, basing our actions on the internationally acclaimed “four pillars of reconciliation.”

Of course, the internationals anticipated and demanded extremely revolutionary and immediate remedial actions. They are lofty expectations, but unfortunately, the expected speed does not reflect in the execution of reconciliatory mechanisms. Ours was a conflict of more than 25 years. Korea is about 70 years. Reconciling competing interests and horrific pasts do not happen quickly, because scars are deep-rooted and thus adamancy rules. Egos prosper. Hence, patience is required, which reminds me of the statement made by the Japanese business tycoon Konosuke Matsushita “Storms may pass, patience is a virtue.” Therefore, step-by-step movement may be preferred here too. But what we need is not a step backward, but always a consistent step forward.

The economic impact on us was severe and we are still paying for such sectarian behavior. This too is not only a lesson to us in Sri Lanka. Many experiences are observed in proximity and far away too. United efforts always give better yields. Of course, the need may arise for people to sacrifice certain conveniences and comforts enjoyed before reunification or peacemaking, especially in socio-economic spheres. This was the German experience just after the unification and will happen elsewhere too.

However, governments, bilateral and multilateral internationals must find solutions to integrate, make peace, unify quarreling groups, militaries, and countries. It is because war, conflict does not have winners. There are no short or instant solutions. Ours is an excellent example. I have learned that there had been studies done even in Korea and opposition to reunification has been observed. Though short-term difficulties could be observed, one must look at the long-term effects.

Our conflict was over in May 2009. Still, twelve years later we have not found a firm power-sharing mechanism or fulfilled total reconciliation as expected by international standards. The experiences in the unification of Germany and Vietnam show how two contrasting political ideologies could positively merge. It could happen even in Korea similarly since the two political systems differ. Though such conflicts may occur regarding Korea, one may reconsider the situation in the light of common language, culture, traditions, living patterns which are binding glues for sustainable integration.

. Possession of resources and technology to manufacture long-range missiles and shoot them from deserts or sub-marines, etc. is insufficient for integration or unification. Threatening nuclear attacks is insufficient for the same. What good such missiles and nuclear armaments serve the people positively? Similarly, it is not drawing a line on the 38th latitude. Marking boundaries based on surveyor’s lines have not solved issues with our neighbors as seen even today from the Radcliffe Line between India and Pakistan, and Chief British negotiator, Sir Henry McMahon’s line dealing with the boundaries of Tibet, China, Bhutan, and even India. Conflicts continue for decades and even today on these boundary lines. Again, I say, it is not an easy task, especially when such threatening warmongering hawks control decision-making.

I may quote the greatest Indian next to Lord Buddha- Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Was not war itself a crime against God and humanity, and therefore, were not all those who sanctioned, engineered and conducted wars, war criminals?” We have the choice in front of us. Do we sanction, engineer, and conduct wars and become war criminals or go by Martin Luther King Junior who said “It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it?”

Let us swear that we will not be warmongers and war criminals but peacemakers and sacrifice in whatever way required because the effects will be universal and benefit humanity forever with bestowed peace. I remain wishing sincerely that such a strong willingly sacrificing group will emerge also from this Summit.

Thank you very much for listening to me patiently.