A commemorative event for the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka was held on Friday 03 May 2019 at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The event, to honor the victims, their families and all those affected by the Easter Sunday attacks on 21 April 2019 was co-organised by the Office of the President of the General Assembly (PGA) and the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. The meeting was chaired by the President of the General Assembly with Ms Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General in attendance.
A large number of member states, UN officials and special invitees attended the event with states taking the floor to express condolences and extend their support to the government of Sri Lanka. Among the states who delivered statements were Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada China, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Guyana (on behalf of CARICOM), Holy See, India, Ireland, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Maldives Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, USA, and Kazakhstan. Apart from national statements, the five main regional groups at the United Nations, namely, Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean States, and Western Europe and other states made statements on behalf of each group.
H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinoza Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly, in her opening statement expressed her solidarity with Sri Lanka during these trying times. She stated that she was moved by Sri Lankans coming together following the attacks, opening the doors of mosques and temples for Christian services, and providing assistance to victims and their families.
I hope that we can use today's commemorative event to express our solidarity with Sri Lanka, strengthen our resolve to combat violent extremism, increase multilateral cooperation on security and tackle the financing of terrorism. We must ensure that new and evolving technologies promote and do not harm human security”, she said.
Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in her remarks expressed sorrow that places of worship have become the playground of terrorists. The world is seeing a dangerous rise in intolerance, xenophobia and racism she said, highlighting the work of the UN in order to combat terrorism and extremism, including through addressing hate speech and ensuring safety of religious sites.
Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera, in his statement noted that “these inhuman and cruel acts on the holiest of days for Christians were debased in their cruelty and in their locations - carried out when devotees had closed their eyes in prayer and as tourists were enjoying a celebratory breakfast. Yet, against this carnage, as a nation, we became one, and the sorrow that the Christians underwent became the collective sorrow of an entire nation.”
Ambassador Perera also note that the world is encountering many challenges as a result of the changing face of terrorism and violent extremism, not least of all due to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, financing of terrorism, rapid advancement of technology, among others. The need for sharing information, technology, databases, and intelligence in combating terrorism is paramount, he said.
He pointed out that it is vital, if “we are to preserve democratic space, that valuable tools such as Facebook and Twitter among others, are utilized as spaces to nurture healthy debate rather than breed violence and extremism. It is time for us to explore the possibility of an international consensus on a regulatory framework,” Dr. Perera said.
“I would be failing in my duty as Chair of the Working Group on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism if I do not state now, that the time has come for the international community to go beyond words and to demonstrate political will and commitment in taking the last remaining step to conclude the Convention on Terrorism and complete the sectoral multilateral treaty regime to address the global phenomenon of terrorism. Too much blood has spilt for us to remain deadlocked on this issue,”, the Ambassador also noted.
The Permanent Representative of India thanked the President of the General Assembly for reaching out thoughtfully and arranging this commemorative event for the victims of the dastardly attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. “We appreciate your efforts to bring all of us together on a common platform. In times of pain, a balm helps. As a close friend and neighbour of Sri Lanka with civilizational ties that are millennial, all of India is deeply distressed by the attacks and the cruel violence. We share the deep pain and anguish of the Sri Lankan people in this hour of grief. Going forward, for our part, India is ready and willing to assist Sri Lanka in any manner the Government of Sri Lanka desires us to help,” he said.
Ireland in their speech said “we stand with Sri Lanka not only in words but also in action,” a sentiment echoed by many other nations.
The chairs of the regional groups also delivered statements in solidarity with Sri Lanka and re-emphasized their commitment to tackle terrorism.
An Elegy specially composed in memory of those who died in the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka by eminent Sri Lankan composer and conductor Dr. Lalanath de Silva, was played during the event. The United Nations Chamber Music Society performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ sung by David Yardley of Australia and Mahalya Gogerly-Moragoda from Sri Lanka/USA in honor of the victims.
See below for full statements by Ambassador Rohan Perera and Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations (ENDS)
The UN General Assembly gathered at a Commemoration for the Victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka on 3rd May 2019
Representatives from Sri Lankan associations and multi-faith organizations attended the Commemorative Event
H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, delivers her remarks
H.E. Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy-Secretary General of the United Nations, delivers a statement
H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, addresses the gathering
Member states gathered at the UN General Assembly Hall and delivered statements to express condolences and solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka
An elegy specially composed in memory of the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks by eminent Sri Lankan composer and conductor Dr. Lalanath de Silva, was played at the Commemorative Event
The UN Chamber Music Society performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ sung by David Yardley of Australia and Mahalya Gogerly-Moragoda from Sri Lanka/USA in honor of the victims
Amb. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the
Commemorative Event for the Victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka
co-organized by the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka
Friday, May 3rd, 2019, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, General Assembly Hall
Madam Under-Secretary General,
Firstly, on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you, Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa (Garcés) for the compassion and empathy you have personally shown to the victims, and those affected by the dastardly acts on Easter Sunday. Your extraordinary efforts have not gone unnoticed by the people of Sri Lanka. I thank you for taking the initiative together with the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to convene this solemn event today. We would like to especially thank your staff, who have been exceedingly cooperative and kind as we co-organized this event within a short period of time.
On behalf of my government I extend our sincere gratitude to the Secretary General for his condolences and expressions of support. It has been to us a source of strength. We lean today on the international community, and we are overwhelmed by the support extended to us by all member and observer states and their peoples, as well as by UN agencies and entities, at this difficult time for Sri Lanka, when we grapple with unprecedented challenges to our safety and security.
I take this opportunity to once again express my condolences and those of my government to the victims, families and loves-ones, not only from Sri Lanka but also from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, India, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States of America, among others not yet identified who lost their lives or were affected.
Madam President, colleagues, dear friends,
These inhuman and cruel acts on the holiest of days for Christians were debased in their cruelty and in their locations - carried out when devotees had closed their eyes in prayer and as tourists were enjoying a celebratory breakfast. It gave these attacks an added dimension of inhumanity. Yet, against this carnage, as a nation we became one, and the sorrow that the Christians underwent became the collective sorrow of an entire nation.
Even as the government took steps to bring the perpetrators to book and to address matters of security, the majority of people embraced and supported each other irrespective of race or religion, with Buddhist temples and mosques opening their doors for Christian services last Sunday. The underlying human spirit, overcame barbarity and cruelty as people reached out to each other.
Given the impact of these tragic events on the very fabric of our collective civilizations, this meeting is an opportunity for the international community to join forces in renewing our efforts to combat violent extremism and terrorism that threatens to tear apart our societies, and to create schisms in the rich mosaic of our civilizations, to cause chaos in order to open up a space for terror to operate. It is apparent that these terrorists having lost territory elsewhere now look for new pressure points to ignite.
When terrorism strikes, it is an attack on all of us, and therefore it is incumbent for all of us to show solidarity and unity of purpose in combating this scourge. It is in this context that this meeting has been convened as rallying call to action.
We have encountered many challenges as a result of the changing face of terrorism and violent extremism, not least of all due to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, financing of terrorism, rapid advancement of technology, among others. The need for sharing information, technology, databases, and intelligence in combating terrorism is paramount.
It is no less important that media - especially with the rise in social media tools - helps disseminate the values that will foster a culture of peace and a forum for dialogue and understanding rather than a platform for hate and bigotry and rumour mongering. It is vital, if we are to preserve democratic space, that valuable tools such as Facebook and Twitter among others, are utilized as spaces to nurture healthy debate rather than breed violence and extremism. It is time for us to explore the possibility of an international consensus on a regulatory framework.
Sri Lanka’s temporary ban on social media to prevent possible spread of violence was lifted on April 30th.
We must always remember that while terrorists have dehumanized us, the international community should not embrace the lawlessness of the terrorist and must never abandon its common humanity, which is what binds us together and gives us strength in our fight against terror.
Sri Lanka reiterates that terrorism and violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism, cannot, must not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.
I would be failing in my duty as Chair of the Working Group on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism if I do not state now, that the time has come for the international community to go beyond words and to demonstrate political will and commitment in taking the last remaining step to conclude the CCIT and complete the sectoral multilateral treaty regime to address the global phenomenon of terrorism. Too much blood has spilt for us to remain deadlocked on this issue.
The international community must send out a strong signal of its collective will to combat terrorism and contribute to the effective implementation of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.
In conclusion, throughout its history Sri Lanka has faced many crisis and challenges with courage and resilience. We will no doubt face many new manifestations of extremism and terrorism – but we will do so with courage and determination. The presence of this large gathering of our friends is our source of strength.
In this regard, may I also mention that you will shortly hear a brief version of an elegy composed by one of Sri Lanka’s well-known composers and conductors, Dr. Lalanath de Silva, which seeks to capture the emotions felt by all Sri Lankans. It is dedicated to those who died in the Easter Sunday attack.