Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, in her opening address to the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, yesterday said the 54-nation body faces new challenges ranging from terrorism to food security and climate change.
“It came when the world was still reeling from a new chapter in global terrorism. They were uncertain times at that summit,” she said.
“Almost a decade later, we find ourselves confronting new and fresh challenges such as insecurity and uncertainty in finance, food supply, climate change, and trade and development,” Queen Elizabeth II said.
The Queen added that the 2011 CHOGM provides the perfect opportunity to address these issues and find responses to today’s crises and challenges. The Queen said that she is delighted to join the Heads of State in Perth “for a meeting that promises to bring new vibrancy to the Commonwealth”.
“This city is known for its optimism; this state is known for its opportunity and potential; and, this country is known for its warmth, openness and generosity. We therefore come together in a place that embraces so much of the Commonwealth’s spirit, and we are grateful to the people of Australia for their welcome,” she said in her opening address to the CHOGM 2011.
She concluded her address with an Aboriginal proverb which is itself enduring: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then we return home”.
Heads of States and Foreign Ministers from 54 countries, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, are attending the CHOGM 2011. President Rajapaksa, as the leader of the only country that eradicated terrorism, was the cynosure of all eyes. He is expected to take over as Chair of the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013.
President Rajapaksa met Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of CHOGM 2011 at the Conference and Exhibition Center in Perth, Australia. He was associated with External Affairs Minister Prof . G.L. Peiris and Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe. Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr.Dipumoni was also present at the bilateral meeting between Sri Lanka and the Bangladesh leaders.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the Chair-in of the Commonwealth, said she is delighted to be the host of the third CHOGM to be held in Australia. “The strength and success of our fellowship is no accident. It comes from a commitment to make Commonwealth values real and present in the life of each member nation. To ensure those member nations that fall short understand that their peers want to see change. Unlike other global bodies united by practical concerns such as commerce or trade, we are also joined by a very different motivation. We are a Commonwealth of values,” she said.
The Australian PM added that the Commonwealth shared values of peace, democracy, racial equality, the Rule of Law and a commitment to social and economic progress.
“The Cold War has come and gone. But new challenges such as AIDS and climate change have emerged. Marvellous new technologies like the internet have transformed the way we live. The world has changed, and a wise institution changes too. So as the Commonwealth journeys towards its centenary, it is time for renewal,” Gillard said.
The CHOGM ends tomorrow.
Meanwhile, a President’s Media Division report said, the 22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting began at conference and exhibition centre in Perth, Australia last morning under the theme ‘Building National and Global Resilience’. Queen Elizabeth II was the chief guest of the inaugural ceremony. President Mahinda Rajapaksa participated in the inaugural session representing Sri Lanka.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was appointed as the chairperson of the Commonwealth organisation at the meeting.
She will hold the position till the next Commonwealth Summit to be held in Sri Lanka in 2013. The opening event was also addressed by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and outgoing chair and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the world had changed and the Commonwealth needed to change too. “So as the Commonwealth journeys towards its centenary, it is time for renewal,” she told her fellow leaders and the gathered crowd.
Daily News - Dinesh WEERAWANSA in Perth, Australia