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Peace Education

Sri Lanka Government Partners with UPF in Leadership Conference

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Sri Lankan Speaker of Parliament, Hon. W.J.M. Lokubandara
The Sri Lanka Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in collaboration with the Universal Peace Federation held a ground-breaking conference that set a new level of cooperation between governments and UPF educational initiatives. The Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ajit Nivard Cabraal noted that usually people sat and listened to Members of Parliament, but in this conference, the tables were turned—MPs sat and listened while other people spoke.

The theme of this two-day International Leadership Conference held August 5-6, 2007, was "Good Governance for Parliamentarians." The venue was the Sri Lankan Parliament building in the capital Colombo. All 225 Members of Parliament were invited, and they attended sessions as their schedules permitted.

Opening remarks were given by the Sri Lankan Speaker of Parliament, Hon. W.J.M. Lokubandara, who stressed that the life of an MP should be the same in public and private. "MPs need to understand," he told the audience of legislatures, "that they do not have supremacy, but have responsibility."

The next speaker was Hon. M.H. Mohammed, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, who personally invited the Universal Peace Federation to partner with his ministry to hold this conference. The idea for this conference grew out of a meeting between Mr. Mohammed and the Chairman of UPF International, Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, during a conference on good governance held in Korea earlier this year.


Sri Lanka Parliament members with the Universal Peace Federation representatives
Reflecting his simple, humble nature, Mr. Mohammed's comments were brief and pointed. He invited UPF to Sri Lanka because he felt this conference could benefit his country since this organization focused on "international and interreligious harmony and cooperation."

Mr. Mohammed's grandson, Fazal, was a central player in coordinating the planning between the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and UPF. He was so exhausted from the countless details that demanded endless hours of his time that he fell asleep while driving home one evening. The ensuing accident, less than two weeks before the conference, left him hospitalized with his leg broken in two places. Prayers and flowers were sent to his hospital bed.

Ms. Sujata Koirala, the special envoy (and daughter) of Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, reminded the mostly male audience of the need for gender balance even in parliament. She described Nepal as a model of transition from crisis to representative democracy and called upon those present to support the forthcoming historic Constitutional Assembly elections in November.


Ms. Sujata Koirala, the special envoy of Nepal's Prime Minister

Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, UPF Chairman

"In many ways," said Dr. Kwak, "good leadership begins in the family, the root of all human life and experience." He underscored the point that, "families form the foundation of the society and the nation, and family breakdown for whatever reason undermines the stability of the society and nation."


Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka closed the inaugural session of the conference by noting the numerous definitions of 'good governance,' including that of the World Bank. He emphasized that leaders have the capacity to understand the essence of good governance, despite its often changing definitions. More importantly, he said public officials should act not only by external criteria or mandates, but need to govern for greater good of the nation based on their own conscience.

"The Sri Lankan speakers provided state-of-the-art content from a political perspective," reported Dr. Walsh. "They shared their expertise in areas such as Sri Lankan peace process, good governance and fiscal responsibility." These speakers included:
  • Mr. P.A. Pemathilaka, Auditor General
  • Mr. Sumith Abeysinghe, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury
  • Prof. Rajive Wijesinghe, Secretary General for the Secretariat for Co-ordination of the Peace Process
  • Mr. Ajit Nivard Cabraal, Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka
  • Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Member of Parliament
Amb. K.V. Rajan, Executive Vice-Chairman, UPF-India, shared insights about the need for bringing faith-based organizations into the governing process of the United Nations. This is a central element of UPF's initiative for UN renewal in which the momentum for support, led by the Philippines, is building.

Other UPF speakers provided internal, moral content based on universal values, believing that both were needed as the foundation for leadership and good governance. These speakers included: Dr. Christopher Kim, Regional Chair UPF-Asia; Mrs. Ursula McLackland, Secretary General, UPF-Asia; Mr. Ek Nath Dhakal, Secretary General, UPF-Nepal; Mr. R. Thillairajan, Secretary General, UPF-Sri Lanka; and Dr. Robert Kittel, Director, UPF-India.


Parliamentarians

Prof. Rajive Wijesinghe, Secretary General for the Secretariat for Co-ordination of the Peace Process
At lunch with the Speaker of the Parliament in his private dining room on the second day of the conference, Rev. Kwak described the New Village Movement—a project initiated by UPF founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon to resurrect Korea after a devastating civil war—as something that Sri Lanka could consider adapting with the support of UPF. The Speaker was appreciative of these ideas and was willing to use his own district to launch this program.

In summary, the conference provided a unique forum for cooperation between government and civil society. Discussions focused on responsibilities each party must undertake in relation to the future development of the country. In the end, Minister M.H. Mohammed said he was very pleased with the outcome of this maiden venture and hoped that UPF would continue its cooperation with the Sri Lankan government.

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