Task of building a secure and confident society
Text of speech by Justice and Law
Reform Minister Milinda Moragoda at the graduation ceremony of the
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies of the Incorporated Council of Legal
Education held on November 17. The first part appeared yesterday
Today, we must seek to build a society which is free of envy, where
people can pursue their ideas and speak freely even when others
disagree, a secure and confident nation, which fully engages with the
world and seeks trading and investment partners while maintaining our
identity and protecting our nation’s interests. In short, we must
transform our angry society into a compassionate society, at peace with
itself and tolerant of others. Where all communities have respect for
each other, where violence and hatred are a thing of the past.
To quote from the Dhammapada, “Do not speak harshly to anybody; those
who are spoken to will answer thee in the same way. Angry speech is
painful, blows for blows will touch thee”.
If we follow the teachings of the Buddha, or those of any of our
other great religions - Hinduism, Islam and Christianity - we can
collectively help create a more compassionate, peaceful and prosperous
Changing times draw a smile to internally displaced children.
Picture by Chaminda Hiththetiya
Together, we must all advocate and advance the ethical and social
values. It would enable our great nation to reach its full potential as:
A nation where political parties refuse to tolerate aggressive rivalry
that finds expression in slander, violence and revenge, and have chosen
to follow instead a path of compassion, respect and goodwill toward all;
a path that leads inevitably to harmony and progress.
A nation of peoples of different cultural traditions, each free to
practise and develop those traditions, thereby enriching and
strengthening the nation as a whole, and where women, no less than men,
are enabled to make their full contribution and reach their full
A market-oriented economy through which our resourceful peoples may
once more ensure steady economic growth, while making provision for
assisting those who, for one reason or another, are not able to succeed
in their endeavours.
A confident nation open to the world, encouraging investment, and
seeking to broaden the range of its trading partners.
A nation that derives strength from its age-old traditions as well as
its inherent capacity to adapt and to innovate while taking what is of
value from the world at large.
To achieve this, every one of us has to play our part.
Today we live in an era of empowerment. Communications have opened us
up to the world whether we like it or not. The Sri Lankan diaspora is
spread out in many countries, the US, Canada, the UK, Scandinavia,
Germany, Italy, Australia, and of course the Middle East. We cannot
avoid interaction with the world.
Equally, telecommunications and the internet have linked us much more
closely to each other, to trade, to debate, to information. Young and
old are adept at using Skype and other internet technologies, while some
of our youth spend their time on the internet, reading or writing blogs,
or checking their pages on social networks such as Facebook.
Impact on media
These changes have had a dramatic impact on our media as well. The
internet now threatens written media and even television, and is
up-ending the established order of media and journalism. The
instantaneity of on-line news sites has caused a large number of
newspapers to close shop. News is now 24/7 and interactive. Citizen
journalism and blogs now compete with televised news and on-line
newspapers. The recent political crisis in Iran demonstrated how a
technology such as Twitter was able to get the story out faster than
traditional media and could even bypass political authorities. In Sri
Lanka, too, internet technologies are catching on, not only in English
but in Sinhala and Tamil as well. We should harness these technologies
to use them in constructive ways to achieve the earlier said objectives.
But even with such tools, we need an informed society. The soul of
any nation resides in its history and this collective memory forms the
basis of a national identity, and hence a secure society.
For example, every Indian is knowledgeable about their struggle for
Independence from colonial rule, the freedom fighters and the framers of
their constitution such as Gandhi, Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar. In the US,
any child of school age is familiar with the philosophical tenets of the
American Constitution and the debates that surrounded the founding of
their political system. In the UK, schoolchildren are taught about the
Magna Carta, King John, Cromwell and parliamentary democracy.
In Sri Lanka we seem to have forgotten the importance of
understanding our history and the fundamental experience that have led
us to where we are today. For three decades we have allowed our anger to
blind us from the things that should matter to a society at peace with
With technology and communications, you, as opinion leaders working
within our legal community, are well-positioned to facilitate this
change. Hence, I urge you to seize this opportunity to make a
difference. You can be the catalyst for change.
We need you to question every old concept and every new idea. Do not
be rigid. Take time to consider ideas of others as there is more than
one side to an issue. Have respect for others, however humble he or she
may be, because in a democracy, each has a right to their opinion. But
continue to challenge and constructively question everything until the
correct path is found.
Be true to the people, because ultimately they are whom you and I
both serve. Remember that each person deserves one hundred percent of
And lead, because it is through you that we can expect to transform
our society. You as lawyers enjoy a privileged and influential position
in our society and people look up to you. Hence, you as a one group hold
a big responsibility and can make a great contribution towards change.