Speech of E. A. Vidyasekera at the International Conference in Khatmandu, Nepal

Dear Friends,

Permanent Secretariat is happy to be represented in this International Conference on Peoples' Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights

Khatmandu, Nepal, 10 – 12 December 2004, which will discuss the following sub-themes:

1.     Democracy and Development.
2.     Middle East.
3.     Nuclear Weapons.
4.     Korean Peninsula.

This international conference is taking place at a crucial time. In the US Presidential election, incumbent President George W. Bush was returned with a majority, surprising the international community who expected the democratic candidate to win. Despite enormous anti-American propaganda all over the world, neo-conservatives have been able to consolidate their position and power. The moderate secretary of state Collin Powell was forced to resign and in his place a more conservative right winger like Condoleezza Rice was appointed. The retention of Donald Rumsfeld, the great damager indicate the worst of Bush team. Neither President Bush nor the neo-conservatives were concerned with the human rights violations by US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the US base Guantanamo. Further the failure of the non-success of the campaign against terrorism by the US had a deep resentment among the people of the world at large. This necessitates other governments and the civil society organizations to reformulate more effective policies. President Yasser Arafat died at a French hospital creating greater uncertainty in the Palestinian question. His illness still remains a mystery, providing all kind of rumors. Election for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority has been fixed for 9th January 2005.

On the Iraqi front violence is accelerating in the Sunni triangle. Falluja city which had the strongest insurgent attack has been brought to near normalcy  with heavy bombardment by the US troops. In Fallujah the US had lost 58 marines and the insurgent toll was estimated to be over 1500. Many more have taken to custody including huge catch of arms. According to Iraqi interim government, attack in Fallujah has been masterminded by Al Qaeda and their associate fundamentalists and extreme groups most of whom are outsiders. There had been sporadic fighting in other places in Iraq as well. Meanwhile an international meeting was held at the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh where the UN, the Arab League, the neighboring countries of Iraq, the European Union and Russia were present to discuss the ways and means of assisting Iraq. The conference agreed that election in Iraq should be held as schedule at the end of January 2005. Withdrawal of foreign forces and the establishment of an elected Iraqi government will be decided after the election.

In many parts of the world situation continue to remain tense. African situation is still elusive. Human Rights violations are reported from all parts of the world. Even in the US, the Human Rights are far from satisfactory. In fact US is instrumental in violating Human Rights by dubious ways of interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

1. Democracy and Development
The pet theme of the US establishment has been "expanding democracy" around the world. Whether it is under Republican or Democratic rule, there are no dearth of recipes for democracy. Yet the US behave more undemocratically not only in relation to the rest of the world, but also now internally after 9/11 attack. This issue of terrorist attack has been used as a cover for most of controversial laws and actions that US is implementing. US has tighten the entry visa regulations and in many ways curtails the freedom of the people. It is alleged that "fear" among the US citizens was manipulated in the election campaign of George Bush.

It is well known that their attempt to make a US type “democracy” has completely failed as we have seen in Haiti, which is turned to chaos again. How far it will succeed in Iraq is yet to be seen. Development is supposed to go hand in hand with democracy. But the main international financial and trading organizations, which are dominated by the US and the European, are far from acting democratically. International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization have been by and large used by the US and the west to lay down conditionalities which go against the developing countries. In the name of democracy, there is a crude interference of the internal affairs of sovereign nations by the US and also by the European Union. For them democracy means to get elected those candidates favoured by them. World has seen the massive campaign against Venezuelan President Chavaz, heavily financed by the US. They considered Yasser Arafat was “irrelevant” and was not prepared to deal with him, whereas Arafat was the only elected leader of the Arab World.

As in other areas, in democracy too western approach is selective. Democracy goes hand in hand with development and development become vibrant in an environment of expanding democracy. Democracy involves people’s participation and it is through their participation that development would be enhanced. It is the responsibility of the developing countries, to eradicate corruption, shun dictatorship and strengthen democracy and transparency to prevent been targets of attack from the west. This is an important task of the Non-aligned Movement. So far majority of the developing countries and also the non-aligned movement have failed to live up to the aspiration of the people. Democracy to be successful involves people’s participation. This participation involves placing trust on the people by their respective governments and their leaders. Therefore they need to encourage the people’s movements and the civil society to take more active role in all aspects of life and not confines only to the election time. This is the way which enable more transparency and accountability of the government.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit held in Santiago, Chile recently concluded its two-day meeting adopting the following guidelines, which are linked to both democratic norms and development.

    To push ahead with the WTO negotiations on lowering global trade barriers, seen as  impediments to planets economic growth in 148 member countries.

    Endorsed new security measures aimed at fighting terrorism.

    Approved a wide variety of counter-terrorism measures improving commercial flight safety, making sure, shipping and food stocks safe from attack by terrorists.

    Support Russia and Vietnam to join WTO.

    Renewed efforts to fight private and public sector corruption.

How far this would be realized to assist the developing countries is to be yet seen.

 Middle East
Countries in the Middle East still continue to be in turmoil. So long the core issue in the Middle East; the self-determination of the Palestinian people for their legitimate right of achieving an independent state remain unresolved, turmoil and conflict will continue destablishing the whole region. Now after the death of Arafat, Israel has no excuse but to accept the new Palestinian leadership for a negotiated settlement. In this conflict the UN is pushed into the back seat and the United States continue to dominate its role with its agenda which is biased towards Israel and detrimental to the Palestinians. Naturally, the United States has earned the hatred of the people of the entire region. Israel government is given the free hand and green light by the US to brutalize the Palestinian people whose leaders are openly assassinated using helicopter gunships. Houses and property are bulldozed making Palestinians life miserable. Defenseless children, women and old people are gunned down by Israel in the name of fighting terrorism. With the occupation of Iraq by the US killing spree is the daily occurrence in the Middle East.

Iraq was occupied to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And when such weapons are not found, now the US is busy in “promoting democracy” in Iraq. Nevertheless for the Iraqi situation former dictatorship of Saddam Hussain is equally responsible as his rule brutalized the Iraqi people well over three decades. Saddam was a US favorite when he fought his war against Iran for eight years. He was provided with regular supply of sophisticated weapons until they came to confrontation. In the process Saddam did a great service to the US to implement its strategy including creating a situation for invasion. In toppling the Saddam regime, the US had no plan and failed to meet the aspiration of Iraqi people, thereby indulging in violation of human rights. The Iraqi army was abruptly disbanded without establishing security institutions. This security vacuum brought about a sad situation of disappointment and growing resistance utilized by Al-Qaeda and other extremists forces to destabilize Iraq. Hostage taking and killing of foreign workers such as killing of 12 Nepali workers further complicated and made Iraq a dangerous place. This helped to recruit more terrorists around the world including in Europe such as the train disaster in Spain. But this also pays indirectly into the hands of US imperialists to manipulate international media for its advantage. It was a “kingdom of fear”. Iraq is a very rich country but its wealth was plundered by the dictator and his family for his own interest. No one condones the US invasion, but now it is the duty of the international community to assist the Iraqi people to regain its sovereignty and elect its own government. It is by building a strong solidarity movement that the fratricidal war in Iraq could be ended and foreign forces be withdrawn and pave the way for Iraqis to resolve their destiny. This was the message that came out of the international meeting at Sharm El-Sheikh , the Egyptian city where both groups who were for invasion and were against met to decide the international assistance including implementation of the UN compromise resolution to secure human rights, consolidate security and developing institutions to bring normal life to Iraqi people.

In this connection we cannot overcook the situation in the western province of Sudan which is called Darfour. Owing to the sheer indifference, Darfour flared up to a humanitarian tragedy and genocide. It took many months to compel the Sudanese authorities to implement the UN resolution. Although African Union forces are stationed in Darfour to protect the innocent people living in refugee camps, still the situation does not permit to return to their homes. As NGOs, we have to make to mobilize strong campaign regarding the Darfour and other regions of Africa where human rights are violated frequently.

Nuclear Weapons
Ever since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago by the US, the issue of banning nuclear weapons dominated the world agenda. Yet despite the laborious work done by both the UN and the Non-Governmental Organizations, the proliferation of nuclear weapons has accelerated rather than diminished. The Unilateralism of Bush administration has further damaged the disarmament process with repudiating the ABM treaty and their attempts for a missile defense programme worldwide. The nuclear danger continues to be wide spread. After India and Pakistan became nuclear powers, now it has spread to Iran and North Korea apart from undeclared nuclear programme of Israel. North Korea has been continuing their nuclear programme for quite a long time. All this is a result of the shortsighted vision of the United States foreign policy. Countries like Iran and North Korea believe that the only deterrent to US pre-emptive military strike against their countries is to pursue the nuclear option. If nuclear weapons are to be eliminated, the nuclear powers have to agree for a time limit to completely destroy the nuclear arsenal that they process. This needs a strong people’s campaign throughout the world.

Iran has openly declared that they are not building nuclear weapons. IAEA has more or less accepted the Iranian version. But the US insists its tactics of bringing the issue before the Security Council for which other members are reluctant to accept. There is also a possibility of nuclear development in South Korea and Japan. As far for South Korea is concern IAEA is likely to examine the issue. All these have come up owing to non-adherence to the NPT and allowing countries like Israel to clandestinely develop their nuclear weaponry. This definitely lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons. In addition owing to the US policy, other deterrents like biological and chemical weapons are likely to proliferate in many other areas.

Korean Peninsula
Korean Peninsula remains the last frontier of the remnant of cold war. The country remains divided for last 50 years without a peace treaty. After the discovery of the secret nuclear programme of South Korea, the situation has been made more critical and complicated. While people of both North and South are aspiring for peace and re-unification; if left to themselves without outside interference, there could be a more chance of resolving the ongoing standoff between the two parts including the nuclear issue. There is no military solution to the issue including re-unification. As such the international community need to encourage the six party discussion for a peaceful solution to all aspects of the Korean Peninsula.

As mentioned above NAM has stepped backward with regard to the position of NGOs. But NGOs in the NAM countries should play a bigger role so that this could be changed. The last NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur had decided to reinvigorate the NAM when it commemorates Bandung +50. AAPSO has a wide programme on Bandung +50. To begin with Permanent secretariat is organizing an international conference in March 2005 in Cairo. There will be another conference in Colombo by our Sri Lanken National Committee and also a conference in India organized by AIPSO.

We are delighted to note the active role played by the Brazilian President Lula da Silva in consolidating South-South cooperation, specially in socio-economic development. Already President Lula has visited South Africa, India and China and embark on a wide programme of activities in closer development of trade and investment, President Lula’s declaration with UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and French President Jacques Chiraque is salutary. AAPSO is interested that we shall do whatever possible to consolidate this movement and expect other NGOs to cooperate closely.

Today the UN is in crisis specially owing to the unilateralism of US. Veterans like French President has taken a correct position to protect and strengthen the UN. It is for the interest of humankind to bring back the central role of UN which we believe can protect the world.

As for AAPSO we have another important task to mention here. Although Cairo is the center, AAPSO’s strength will depend on the strength of national committees. We have sent a circular regarding our own problems specially with regard to finances. This should be taken into consideration when we proceed with our activities. We hope our friends will understand this situation in organizing more self-financing activities.

We hope this conference will provide us many new ideas and believe can be effectively used in our future work.

Thank you.