Sri Lanka underscores the importance of health of citizens in a successful democracy at the 13th Bali Democracy Forum in Jakarta
Addressing the 13th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) State Minister for Regional Co-operation, Tharaka Balasuriya, underscored Sri Lanka’s commitment to ensure the health of citizens of Sri Lanka and the region. He said this at the Ministerial Panel that was held on 10 December 2020 on the subject of “Upholding Democracy: COVID-19 Pandemic”. The Ministerial Panel focused on sharing state policies of countries to prevent and maintain the COVID-19 pandemic.
While commending the initiative taken by Indonesia to organize the Forum, the State Minister thanked the Government of Indonesia for their commitment to contribute both individually and collectively to the common purpose of collaborating in upholding democracy for the Asia Pacific region.
The State Minister further noted that Sri Lanka adopted a balanced, multi-sectoral approach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully in August 2020. Sri Lanka believes that health of the citizens of a state is a strong pillar in inclusive democracies. Hence, the State Minister reiterated that BDF has a genuine objective to build a dialogue and cooperation among the international community. Sri Lanka further assured its support to share its experience and good practices with fellow nations and work in solidarity with them towards this end.
The discussions at the BDF focused on the challenges ahead of democracy, recession and growing skepticism and the need to focus on multifarious aspects within a crisis and ways to maintain resilience during crises and in turn contributing towards a stable democracy and justice within society.
The BDF was established in 2008, to create a progressive diplomatic architecture in the Asia Pacific region which has now developed as an annual Asia-Pacific Forum. In the past decade, the Forum facilitated democracy through sharing experience, while managing diversity, encouraging equality, mutual understanding and respect. This year BDF was inaugurated by President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia Retno L.P. Marsudi with the participation of 33 countries around the world and 10 Ministerial level participants at the Forum.
10 December 2020
Statement by Hon. Tharaka Balasuriya, State Minister for Regional Cooperation on ‘Democracy and COVID-19 Pandemic’ at the Ministerial Panel at the 13th Bali Democracy Forum 10 December 2020
Honourable Chair, Distinguished Delegates
At the outset, permit me to congratulate the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and its Foreign Ministry for convening this virtual 13th Bali Democracy Forum which will deliberate this very pressing global issue. Efforts by Indonesia to organize this event, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, amply demonstrates its commitment to upholding democracy in collaboration with its partners in the Asia Pacific region. I am convinced that the outcome of these deliberations will continue to promote dialogue on this important topic.
The impacts of the pandemic have been multi-faceted, creating an economic, social and healthcare crisis of global proportions.
Sri Lanka has not been spared from the impacts of this pandemic. While adopting recommendations of the WHO and local health authorities to contain this virus, the primary focus of the Government of Sri Lanka has been to ensure the preservation of life and the well-being of its citizens; particularly those who may be most vulnerable to the impacts of this pandemic.
To follow through on this policy, Sri Lanka’s healthcare authorities have not only had to engage in meticulous planning, but also take decisive action. With a contact trace system and a rigorous testing regime, Sri Lanka’s health authorities have successfully managed outbreaks through isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients. The free healthcare system that has been in place in the country since 1951, complemented by a public healthcare system, has been vital to the success of this programme.
Sri Lanka has also made this crisis an opportunity to invest in the healthcare system so as to manage this pandemic, and prepare ourselves to face any such health crises in the future.
Beyond the health implications of this pandemic, it is clear that the economic fallout of this crisis needs urgent attention both in the short and long term. This is particularly the case for developing countries in the Asia Pacific.
To ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected and their futures secured, the Government of Sri Lanka has enacted multiple policies aimed at advancing their economic and social rights. This includes support for low-income families, the elderly, differently-abled persons, daily wage earners, farmers and those that are stakeholders in Small and Medium Enterprise to build their resilience to the oncoming challenges.
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman,
Democracy remains a tried and tested system that provides the ideal formula for nations to progress. It is well known that it is within a strong democracy that peace, prosperity, and human welfare thrives. It is important to remember that the successful application of democratic principles during these trying times will depend on them flourishing during normal times.
In the current context of what can only be termed as an unprecedented period, the pressures on healthcare, personal freedoms, education, employment and trade among countless others, is severe.
As countries grapple with the health and economic implications of this crisis, the fundamentals principles of democracy including the freedom of movement, association may be inadvertently compromised for the greater good of the society. It is in times like these, that we as democratic nations must remember that these restrictions are temporary, and stand for the democratic principles that have held us in good stead so far.
As we consider the implications of the current situation on our democracies, it is vital to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ system of democracy that is applicable to all our nations. Taking into consideration the diverse nature of our societies; the social, cultural and even geographic attributes, the application of democratic principles have been unique to each country. This I believe, like all our other differences, is something that needs to be understood and respected by all.
With positive news surrounding breakthroughs in vaccine development the world looks on in hope that a return to normalcy may be on the horizon.
Being nations that value cooperation and partnership, particularly at the regional level, as exemplified by this forum, it is vital that we prevent any potential inequalities as nations seek access to vaccines. These vaccines must be available and affordable. Therefore, we must ensure that a coordinated approach is adopted so that all countries receive this vital vaccine and that no-one is left behind.
By doing so, we will be protecting lives and the true essence of democracy, a system that should work for all of, not some of us.
I thank you.
The full video can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/5nd9t5svSzk