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President of Sri Lanka expresses support for ILO Decent Work Agenda: Focus on improving lives of workers, especially in rural areas

The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa today expressed support for the Decent Work Agenda of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as “central to peoples’ lives.”

Press release | 15 June 2007

GENEVA (ILO News) – The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa today expressed support for the Decent Work Agenda of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as “central to peoples’ lives.”

In an address on the closing day of the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference, President Rajapaksa appealed to tripartite delegates “to deliberate on policies that will make the worker a satisfied person and the environment in which he lives, mostly rural areas, to be more conducive to a pleasant and productive life”.

“Work is at the heart of politics”, he said. “Therefore, it is important that we have high quality in the work place.”

Noting that “a worker, whether in the agricultural, industrial, commercial or any other sector, is the core of development”, he added, “We will continue to look after and develop our democratic institutions and improve the life of the worker.”

“It is my firm belief that social dialogue based on the concept of tripartism can make a positive and substantial contribution to a country’s overall development”, he said.

“We will never shirk our responsibility to ensure a better future for the working masses of Sri Lanka”, he said, adding “This compels me to request the United Nations, other international organizations, the developed countries, and international lending institutions to think primarily of the worker.”

Regarding the situation in his country, the President enumerated a number of measures that had been taken to “ensure political reform and through that address the grievances of the minorities”, adding “political objectives must be realised through negotiation and dialogue and through compromises. There can be no room for extremism, and even less for violence”.

In introductory remarks, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia recalled that Mr. Rajapaksa had been Minister of Labour and Minister of Fisheries. He noted that under his Presidency, Sri Lanka had adopted a national Policy for Decent Work.

“The compelling challenge is for all this to flourish in terms of peace and stability across your country”, Mr. Somavia said. “At a time of deep conflict this is perhaps the supreme challenge.”

“Many of us know about the fear of living under the threat of insecurity”, he said, “and about violence taking innocent lives and livelihoods. Suffering crosses all boundaries”.

Expressing his full support for dialogue in Sri Lanka, Mr. Somavia added, “We are an institution that deeply believes in dialogue. Not only to resolve issues but also in its healing power when the time of reconciliation comes”.