Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka
President Reagan. President Jayewardene, Nancy and I are very pleased to have this opportunity to welcome you and Mrs. Jayewardene to the White House.
Although our two countries are on opposite sides of the globe, we share a common bond in the great institution of democracy. Sri Lanka, Mr. President, has a remarkable record among nations which won their independence in the aftermath of World War II. You've held elections at regular intervals, and with almost equal regularity, your own hard-fought reflection—or reelection in 1982, as a notable exception, your people, through their votes, have removed from power the governing party. And in what distinguishes Sri Lanka as a truly democratic country, losers as well as winners accept the verdict of the people. The true winners are, of course, the people of Sri Lanka.
I'm told, Mr. President, that in your embassy here in Washington, pictures of every Sri Lanka head of government since independence—those from your own party, as well as the opposition—are respectfully displayed. This is the kind of democratic spirit essential to the success of human liberty, the hallmark of democratic societies.
Understanding and appreciating your personal commitment to democratic ideals, Mr. President, it is a pleasure for us to have you as our guest. You underscored this heartfelt commitment during your first visit here in September of 1951, during a gathering of the representatives of nations who had fought in the Pacific war. Some at that San Francisco conference insisted that Japan should not be given its full freedom. They argued that Japan should remain shackled as a punishment for its role in World War II. As the representative of Sri Lanka, you spoke out for the principle of freedom for all people, including the Japanese. You quoted Buddha, the great teacher, and said that "hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love."
Mr. President, we share your dedication to freedom and good will. This is more than political theory; it's a way of life. This spirit makes it natural that our two nations should be friends.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares these values. Recently, we were reminded of the menace of those who seek to impose their will by force and terror. Two American citizens were kidnaped in Sri Lanka and threatened with death. I want to take this opportunity, Mr. President, to thank you personally for your diligence and for your resolute handling of this difficult situation. The skill and courage that you demonstrated helped free our countrymen and, at the same time, prevented the terrorists from achieving their goal.
During that time of tension, you wrote to me, and I want you to know how much I appreciated your sharing your thoughts. You wrote, "I hope that the international community will be able to eradicate terrorism, which has become a major challenge to those of us who believe in the democratic process." Well, I speak for all my countrymen-and after the economic summit I recently attended in London, I know this sentiment is shared by the people of all the democracies—when I say the free men and women of this planet will never cower before terrorists. Human liberty will prevail and civilization will triumph over this cowardly form of barbarism.
Mr. President, we applaud your determination not to yield to terrorism in your own country, as well as your efforts to find through the democratic process a peaceful resolution of communal strife. There is no legitimate excuse for any political group to resort to violence in Sri Lanka, a country with a strong democratic tradition and peaceful means to resolve conflict.
As a nation of many races, religions, and ethnic groups, we Americans know from experience that there is room for all in a democracy. Dividing your country into separate nations, as some would have you do, is not the solution. Instead of separating people, now is the time to bring them together. In the same spirit you spoke about in San Francisco three decades ago, of love, not hatred, a united, progressive Sri Lanka can flourish and live in peace with itself and the rest of the world.
Mr. President, we wish you every success in your search for reconciliation and a better life for all your people. And their lives are improving. Your leadership has increased productivity and brought down unemployment, has created exciting, new opportunities for your citizens. Sri Lanka is among those enlightened nations that understand incentives hold the key for greater economic growth and personal opportunity. I believe your people and their children will reap rewards for many years to come, thanks to the bold economic steps that you've taken.
We're pleased that Americans are playing a part in this effort. Your endeavors to improve your people's economic well-being continues to have our solid support. Your country has vast potential.
Mr. President, Sri Lanka is an example of independent people determining their own destiny and a country which the United States is proud to count among its friends.
Mr. President and Mrs. Jayewardene, welcome to America,
President Jayewardene. President Reagan, Madam Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, I'm glad that Mrs. Jayewardene and I were able to accept the invitation extended by Mrs. Reagan and you to visit your great country.
We have come a very long way from home. Yet already we feel we are among friends who believe and try to follow common ideas for the welfare of humanity.
This is not our first visit. We came in September 1951 to your west coast to attend the Japanese peace treaty conference held at San Francisco. I came as my country's representative. I received then a full measure of praise and gratitude from members of the United States Government of the day—Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and others who attended the conference-for helping to secure the acceptance by the conference of the peace treaty with Japan. The Japanese leaders, Prime Minister Yoshida and others, were equally grateful. Those alive are still so.
I mention that because the thinking of the people of my country, which was expressed by me on that occasion, was that we should not ask for reparations from a fallen foe who had harmed our land and people also; that we should forgive those who were our enemies, quoting the words of the Buddha that "hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love," which you, also, Mr. President, just quoted. I pleaded that we should restore to Japan the freedoms of democracy. Those were the ideals which inspired us then and inspire us now.
Our history and civilization have survived in an unbroken sequence from the fifth century B.C. for 2,500 years. There were glimpses of modern democracy even then, as in the appointment of mayors to our ancient cities. The ruins of state buildings still contain carvings in stone where the cabinet of the kings and their ministers sat. We were the first in Asia in 1865 to select members to the municipalities that governed our major cities and, in 1931, under universal franchise, to exercise our right to elect the government of our choice.
We also have, in our country, an unbroken, historical record, extending over the same long period, of a line of heads of state, monarchies of different dynasties from Sri Lanka and abroad, including India and the United Kingdom, of two Presidents, one selected and one, myself, elected by the whole country. I happen to be the 193d in the line of heads of state from 483 B.C. to date.
In our modern history, we cannot forgot the contribution made by an American, Colonel Olcott, when he helped the Buddhist leaders of Sri Lanka a hundred years ago to establish a movement for the revival of education, through schools owned and managed by the Buddhists themselves, and thus laid the foundation for the revival of Buddhism and the movement for freedom.
The United States of America, since it was born out of a revolution which freed it from foreign rule, has not been known to be hankering after territory or supporting imperialism. Sri Lanka has been for 53 years a practicing democracy, where the freedoms of speech and writing, of electing governments by universal franchise at regular intervals, and the independence of the judiciary and of the opposition are safeguarded.
Fundamental rights which are justiciable are guaranteed under the constitution. Though there are occasions when emergency powers have had to be exercised, fundamental freedoms remain intact. Democracy, Mr. President, cannot, however, live and survive on a diet of words alone. The people require food for their stomachs, clothing for their bodies, and roofs over their heads.
In the nonaligned world of developing nations, which covers the whole of Central and South America, the whole of Africa, the whole of Asia from the Mediterranean Sea to the seas of China and Japan, there are very few countries which could be called a democracy, such as is your country. Ours is one. That is why the assistance that developing nations of the world receive from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is appreciated, though there are many matters on which we feel there should be change to help them to exist as free countries.
We the developing world have problems similar to those who live in the developed world. We have deficit budgets, high interest rates, old valued currencies, and unstable exchange rates. These are the classical examples of the symptoms that affect both the developed and developing nations.
Those who speak so eloquently on behalf of the developing nations have been pressing for the opening of commodity markets of the developed world for their manufacturers without protective laws, stable prices for all products, and rescheduling of debts borrowed for development. Consider these requests, Mr. President, with sympathy and generosity.
In our own case, with the aid received we have been able to commence and have almost completed the largest development program, which in our long history has ever been attempted by king or president, a program possibly unequalled in magnitude by any development program in any country in the contemporary world or early. This was possible due to the effects of my government, which was elected to office in 1977 in an election conducted by our opponents, the previous government. We obtained 51 percent of the votes and won five-sixths of the seats in the legislature. And subsequently since then, we have won five elections, including the Presidential election, by-elections, district council elections, local elections, and a referendum.
We have, however, our problems. Some of them are unique to our country—excessive rains, sometimes floods, landslides, cyclones—some common to all countries, but still difficult for us to bear.
Another and a modern problem, and one of universal occurrence today, is terrorism. This happened in the extreme north of our country, where a group of misguided people of Tamil birth, who were favored by the American people in the latter half of the 19th century by the erection of schools and hospitals, seek separation from a united Sri Lanka. There are more Tamils living in the east and among the Sinhalese, the major community, than in the regions that seek separation who do not support them. My party holds 10 out of 12 seats in the eastern province, which separatists seek to join to the north.
The terrorists are a small group who seek by force, including murder, robberies, and other misdeeds, to support the cause of separation, including the creation of a Marxist state in the whole of Sri Lanka and in India, beginning with Tamil Nadu in the south. Since we assumed office in 1977, members of the armed services and police, politicians who leave the ranks of the separatists and join us, and others, and innocent citizens numbering 147 have been murdered in cold blood.
I'm glad, Mr. President, that your country is taking a lead in creating an international movement to oppose terrorism. If I may suggest, it may be called a United Nations antiterrorism organization. It is vital—it is essential that the developed world helps us with finances, that we help each other in this sphere, and that all nations cooperate to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the civilized world.
I was very happy when I read your address to the Irish Parliament on June 4th. You made an appeal to nations to reform the principle not to use force in their dealings with each other. You said the democracies could inaugurate a program to promote the growth of democratic institutions throughout the world. You spoke on behalf of hundreds of millions who live on the borderline of starvation while nations will spend next year a trillion dollars on the manufacturing of armaments for destruction of human beings and their products.
At meetings of members of the Commonwealth in Sydney, in New Delhi, at meetings of nonaligned nations in Havana and in Goa, New India, I have never failed to express similar ideas. Nonviolence is "Maithri" compassion, and the great teacher whom I follow, Gautama Buddha, and the great teacher you follow, Jesus Christ, and India's great son, Mahatma Gandhi, preached and practiced the doctrine of nonviolence successfully.
Let your great and powerful nation take the lead in implementing these ideals, and the world will remember that the President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, preached the laying down of arms not through fear, but by the strength of the conviction that to follow right for right is right, without fear of consequence, is a way for civilized man to adopt. The voice of America will then become the voice of righteousness.
I thank you, Mr. President and Madam Reagan, for inviting us and giving me this opportunity of speaking to you, and for entertaining us so hospitably. Thank you.
Note: President Reagan spoke at 10:05 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House, where President Jayewardene was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors.
Following the ceremony, the two Presidents met privately in the Oval Office. They then joined U.S.. and Sri Lankan officials for a meeting in the Cabinet Room.
Prior to President Jayewardene's arrival at the White House, the President greeted Col. Robert G. Krause, Commander, 3d, United States Infantry (the Old Guard), on the South Lawn. Colonel Krause is Commander of Troops for the White House welcoming ceremonies.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/261802