2012 declares as the Year for Trilingual Sri Lanka

President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared 2012 as the Year for a Trilingual Sri Lanka today.

Former Indian President Dr. Abdul Kalam was the chief guest at the launch of 10-year National Action Plan and the declaration of 2012 as the Year of Trilingual Sri Lanka held at Temple Trees.

Delivering the welcome speech Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga said as bridges link islands, it is the vision of President Rajapaksa to make use of the language to bring together different communities.

Speaking at the occasion, the former Indian President said removal of poverty, hunger and pain from diseases are some of the practical aspects of life which provide ground for nobility to arise in society and people and this will need a development agenda based on the core competence of the nation and its entire different people.

When different societies come together to build a cohesive social system and a nation, it is necessary to ensure that benefits of development encompass all sections of the society which comprise the nation, he said adding world over, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and deprivation are participating into the forces of strife, anger and violence.

“These forces link themselves to some earlier real or perceived historical enmities, tyrannies, injustice inequities, ethnic issues and religious fundamentalism flowing into an outburst of extremism worldwide,” the former Indian President added.

Both India and Sri Lanka have witnesses and are witnessing such various acts. We have to address ourselves to the root causes of such phenomena for finding lasting solutions for promoting peace.

We also need to minimize damages from natural disaster and risks from manmade industry and activities. These give basic human security to enable people not to hate others and not be jealous of others. For this transformation to take place, we have to replace the urge of “What Can I Take” with the spirit of “What Can I Give,” Dr. Kalam further said.

Full text of the speech by Dr. Kalam:

Evolution of Noble Nations

I am delighted to participate in the historic event of the launch of National Action Plan and declaring 2012 as the “Year for a Trilingual Sri Lanka”. My greetings to all of you. Friends, at this juncture, I would like to recall an experience during the British India when I was a school student. At that time, upto the age of 15, I was taught all the subjects including mathematics, science, geography, history in my mother tongue. My experience is that when we learn subjects in our own mother tongue, we learn faster and could grasp the inherent meaning of the subject and we start thinking naturally. This is what the tri-lingual initiative can bring to the youth of Sri Lanka and enable them towards cultural and socio-economic unity. It would be a continuation of the efforts in quality education for all which was pioneered by the first education minister and the father of Sri Lanka’s free education system, C. W. W. Kannangara whose efforts are reflected in very high literacy rate in Sri Lanka. S, young children of Sri Lanka, may I greet you today on this historic occasion. Today I would like to talk on the topic Evolution of a Noble Nations which I think is crucial to development of humanity.

Origins of Life

Ancient human history has been revealed beautifully by Paleoanthropology. Life originated 600 million years ago and continental drift occurred 200 million years ago creating five continents. Mammals evolved 140 million years ago, Hominids that is the human type, evolved 26 million years ago but modern man only arrived on the scene some 200,000 years ago. He migrated and inhabited the world only in the last 50,000 years. The spoken language is some 10,000 years old while writing evolved only a few thousand years ago. In this situation we have to see how to evolve a language system in a diversified society for the common welfare of all citizens. I am sure that the Trilingual Sri Lanka initiative will enable across- the-language-learning, enrich the education and further civilizational heritage of the nation.

The evolution of human being has been greatly accelerated by the application of science and technology in several fields. With expansion of ideas, geo-political situation changed and many new independent nations were born in the Second World War era. Most of the nations had great civilizational heritage. They have had a glorious past but suffered under colonial rule for many centuries. After the colonization has gone the independent nations formed government of their own often propelled by democratic aspirations. The process continues and 21st century is going to see a fully evolved world. We are all destined to realize, happiness, dignity of life, freedom and creativity, but it can be realized only through nations becoming noble.

Nobility of a Nation

How do we define nobility of a nation?

It is not merely in terms of economic indicators, human development indicators, or any other form of numerical indicators. It is more of a quality than a quantitative measure. I was reflecting on the feature of a noble nation, the essence of a noble society. Naturally, a noble nation have to be populated by people who are noble – not just at individual level, but in a collective sense as well. And nobility has to begin from the top – from the leader and percolate to various levels of society to the artisans and peasants.

Do we have a good example? Is there an ideal description of such a nobility?

Mahatma Gandhi – A Noble Leader

A scene comes to my mind from the life of Mahatma Gandhi ji. You may be aware of the events towards the final years of struggle for Indian Independence. A great nation with a civilizational history and heritage of many millennia had been partitioned politically. You know also the terrible blood letting, disturbance, migration issues, almost akin to a civil war which tore the nation. Then came the independence.

When our first Prime Minister addressed the nation on 15th August 1947 early morning, he chose hope of a future in a multi cultural democratic context and articulation on the issues of a developing country. The uncharted path ahead had vast opportunities but also grave challenges. Everybody in the political system, and many other citizens has assembled there. In those days, there was no real time TV broadcast. Maximum outreach was through the radio. I heard the historic speech of Freedom at midnight, on All India at Rameswaram where many of us had crowded around a community radio. Next day, newspaper carried various photographs. One person uniquely was missing from the photos and the addresses. That was Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Nation. He was away in strife torn Bengal amongst trodden aggrieved people and was giving love and care those brutalized by human frenzy or hatred and intolerance. He was trying to find the solution for curing of the menace which was poisoning the society and people.

Mahatma Gandhi created benchmark of noble nation, a noble society and a noble leader by this simple example of practical action. That scene is playing again – again in my mind. All the leaders of nations; be it in government, political opposition, business, media, education, and people from civil society should scene of a serving leader capture this in their minds and actions, again and again. Then ask these questions to themselves.

• Am I a noble individual?
• Is my society noble?
• Is my nation noble?
• If not what should I do?
• How do I change the current situation and go towards nobility?

If we all ask these questions, sincerely and answer them truthfully, we will find solutions leading to concrete action.

Many noble nations will then emerge

Humanity will prosper. Civilization will advance.

Everyday Issues of a Noble Nation

Having addressed this subtle principle and ideal, let us focus some practical aspects of life which provide ground for nobility to arise in society and people. These are the removal of poverty, hunger and pain from diseases. This will need a development agenda based on the core competence of the nation and its entire different people.

When different societies come together to build a cohesive social system and a nation, it is necessary to ensure that benefits of development encompass all sections of the society which comprise the nation. World over, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and deprivation are precipitating into the forces of strife, anger and violence. These forces link themselves to some earlier real or perceived historical enmities, tyrannies injustice, inequities, ethnic issue and religious fundamentalism flowing into an outburst of extremism worldwide. Both India and Sri Lanka have witnessed and are witnessing such various acts. We have to address ourselves to the root causes of such phenomena for finding lasting solutions for promoting peace.

We also need to minimize damages from natural disaster and risks from manmade industry and activities. These give basic human security to enable people not to hate others and not be jealous of others. For this transformation to take place, we have to replace the urge of “What Can I Take” with the spirit of “What Can I Give?”

PURA and Sri Lankan PURA plan

Friends, Buddha had said the “Nibbana (nirvana) cannot be had on empty stomach”. How can we translate this message into action.

Hence, another need of a noble nation in the creation of an environment of inclusive development where every citizen gets an opportunity to build capacity and generate income based on their competencies. For this to be realized, the need of the hour is the evolution of sustainable systems which act as “enablers” and bring inclusive growth and integrated development to the nation.

Let me present one such sustainable development system is the mission of Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) through creation of three connectivities namely physical, electronic, knowledge leading to economic connectivity for 15,000 villages of Sri Lanka.

PURA means:

1. The villages must be connected within themselves and with main towns and metros by good roads, waterways and wherever needed by the railway lines. They must have other infrastructure like schools, colleges, hospitals and amenities for the local population and the visitors. This is physical connectivity.

2. In the emerging knowledge era, the native knowledge has to be preserved and enhanced with latest tools of technology, training and research. The villages have to have access to good education from best teachers wherever they are, must have the benefit of good medical treatment, and must have latest information on their pursuits like agriculture, fishery, horticulture and food processing. That means they have electronic connectivity.

3. Once the Physical and Electronic connectivity are enabled, the knowledge connectivity is enabled. That can facilitate the ability increase the productivity, the utilization of spare time, awareness of health welfare, ensuring a market for products, increasing quality conscience, interacting with partners, getting the best equipment, increasing transparency and so in general knowledge connectivity

4. Once the three connectivities viz Physical, Electronic and Knowledge connectivity are ensured, they facilitate earning capacity leading to economic connectivity. When we Provide Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA), we can lead to upliftment of rural areas, we can attract investors, we can introduce effectively useful systems like Rural BPOs, Micro Finance and small scale industries.

There are operational PURAs already in India initiated by many educational, healthcare institutions, industry and other institutions. Government of India is moving ahead with the implementation of PURA on the national scale across several districts of India.

PURA structure for Sri Lanka

With 16 million rural citizens, represent about 79% of the population, Sri Lanka has a potential of deploying about 160 PURA complexes based on the core competencies of the cluster of villages. These may focus on the following aspects:

a) Coastal PURA: Focusing on marine industry including on sea fishing, processing, packaging and sales. Sri Lanka’s vast coastlands can be organized into about 50 Coastal PURA Complexes, primarily focusing on fishing and also service industry of sea tourism. Another industry which can be promoted in these PURAs can be based on gems and precious stones

b) Plain PURA: Based on the inlands of Sri Lanka, we can realize about 60 Plain PURA complexes, focusing on agro products and processing like rice and coconut, forest products, natural and medicinal tourism and IT/ITES Industry to generate employment for the rural youth.

c) Hill PURA: With large areas of the central Sri Lanka being located on highlands, there is also a potential for creating about 50 Hill PURA complexes. Suitable rainfall and weather conditions make them ideally suited for creating industry based on tea. To consolidate the industry in these regions, the Hill PURAs of Sri Lanka can exclusively promote Tea Cooperatives of Farmers who can manage end-to-end production of tea to better realize the value of their farm products. The Sri Lankan tea has high value on the export market, and thereby is potential for high income growth to the local community.

Of course, there are many more detailed aspects which would go within each of the specific PURAs. The execution of such a PURA mission can be done in an entrepreneurial way, with Public – Private – Community Partnership model with active involvement from all the diverse societies of the nation. I, along with my team of experts, would happy to participate in the planning of pilot PURA complexes in Sri Lanka to empower the 16 million rural citizens of the nation.

Unity in diversity

Friends, another important area is the removal of greed and undue competition by spreading love for all, even to those whom you think are different from you, or those who don’t agree with your view or even those with whom you share an unfavorable disposition. Human love and mutual trusts can overcome all such barriers of the past. We have an example of how European nations, who were constantly warring against each other for centuries could come together in a European Union and help each in times of economic crisis and create a win-win situation for society which is otherwise diverse on counts of religion, language and ethnic backgrounds.

Birth of Ahimsa Dharma

I recall the connectivity with the Kalinga war scene around 2300 years back where Emperor Ashoka, while celebrating the victory in the Kalinga war, at the cost of the death of more than one hundred thousand people and equal number injured. In his victory, the emperor saw the blood bath in the moon lit night. Here we see the birth of Ahimsa Dharma, out of this tragic scene created by the Emperor himself and grow into a laudable philosophy that spread across the world. This philosophy of Ahimsa Dharma, is the founding principle of Mahatma Gandhi who won India’s freedom and became example of many nations seeking for independence. The greatest ideal expressed by Buddha, propagated by Ashoka and followed by Mahatma Gandhi; what is that?

Tolerance is the foundation of sustainable development and peaceful society

It will be appropriate to have an introspection by all of us about the social awakening needed for the national development. Every civilized society exists not only for day-to-day sustenance, but lives with a clear perception for the future and the generations to come. Such a situation would presuppose that each individual in such a society would cherish and translate into practice noble ideals of constructive tolerance, positive fellow-feeling and total commitment to live and let live. None can have expressed this better, the Albert Einstein who said: “Laws alone can’t secure freedom of expression; in order that every man presents his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population” .
We have to evolve a society that will respect differences and celebrate differences. What are the various issues on tolerance?

1. Tolerance for people’s opinion

2. Tolerance for people’s culture

3. Tolerance for people’s belief system, and

4. Tolerance for people’s styles

In fact, such an attitude, be it that of an individual or a collection of them i.e society, is the hallmark of a civilized nation. That is what characterizes and differentiates life from sheer existence. Honesty and integrity – both in thought and action, independence and inter-dependence – in their wholesome and positive manifestations, would distinguish a civilized nation in its true sense. It is for each citizen, regardless of his or her background, to strive to inculcate these eternal values in him or her, and that alone would be the surest path and unfailing guarantee for a civilized society and its future.

The Great Reconciliation in human history

Indomitable Spirit and Forgiveness: I met a great personality who was responsible for the freedom of South Africa. He is none other than Dr. Nelson Mandela. Particularly the young people can learn two big lessons from this personality. These are indomitable spirit and value of forgiveness.

During my visit to South Africa in 2004, I went to the Robben Island. This is the place where the freedom of individuals was chained. We were received at the Island by Mr. Ahmed Kathrada, a South African, who was a co-prisoner with Dr. Nelson Mandela on the island. What surprised me was, in a tiny room where sleeping and all human needs have to be fulfilled. It has to be remembered that Dr. Nelson Mandela who was 6 feet tall was imprisoned in that room for 26 years – fighting against the apartheid. The major part of his life was spent in this silent Island. He used to be taken for quarrying in the nearby mountain for a few hours in the hot sun. This is the time his sight got damaged. In spite of his body being tortured, he revealed to the world his indomitable spirit. That was the time he evolved a manuscript of freedom in tiny letters every day, when the jail wardens went to sleep. This small tiny lettered manuscript finally became the famous book of Mandela “A long walk to freedom”.

It was a great event for me to meet him in his house in Johannesburg. Dear friends, I would like to share with you, when I entered Dr. Nelson Mandela’s house, I saw his three dimensional form with cheerfulness: the mighty man who got the freedom for South Africa from the tyranny apartheid. And also a person when he became the President of South Africa he gave the freedom to move, freedom to live in South Africa to those people who perpetuated the apartheid and tormented him in the jail for 26 years. Dr. Nelson Mandela accepted them as equal citizens. While I shook hands with Dr. Mandela, I felt that I am touching the hand of a mighty soul filled with tolerance and respect and love for all humankind. When he started walking, he discarded his walking stick and put his hand on my shoulder as his support. Dear friends, a big lesson that we learnt from this personality Dr. Nelson Mandela, which is explained in one of the Thirukkurals written 2200 years before which means, for those who do ill to you, the best punishment is to return good to them.


21st century humankind will cherish the hallmark system of empowered democracy with civilizational heritage based on tolerance, mutual love and trust. We will need a system where diversities are basis for celebration and not conflict and where eternal goodness and wholesomeness in human conduct is brought about by the “Righteousness”.

As our sages says:

Righteousness in the heart

Where there is righteousness in the heart

There is beauty in the character.

When there is beauty in the character,

There is harmony in the home.

When there is harmony in the home

There is an order in the nation.

When there is order in the nation

There is peace in the world.

For meeting the challenges of these missions, we can draw the inspiration from the saying of Maharishi Patanjali, about 2,500 years ago “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents come alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever learnt yourself to be”.

My best wishes to all the participants of this event for success in their mission of evolving a noble nation.

May God Bless you

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