By Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
It is an honour to be a part of the commemoration of the universal symbol of freedom, ethnic harmony, unity, and reconciliation, Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth anniversary. Mandela’s legacy has inspired not only South African society damaged by Apartheid but also every mass movement around the globe that fought for human freedom and dignity by celebrating ethnic diversity as a virtue that helps override the challenges.
He was committed to democratic values and advocated human dignity and equity. He personally experienced the pain of social repression. Consequently, he identified and addressed the root causes of human suffering.
Initially as a freedom fighter, then as a politician, eventually as a charismatic, world-renowned statesman who initiated an influential international movement, The Elders, dedicated to social justice and the dignity of humanity, Mandela showed us through personal example the qualities of true leadership. He has demonstrated the importance of unity among diverse communities. He has proved by actions that, “no power on this earth can destroy the thirst for human dignity.”
Mandela has edified us during the debate in South Africa’s Parliament while speaking on the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on February 1999, “Reconciliation … [is] inseparable from the achievement of a non-racial, democratic, and united nation affording common citizenship, rights and obligations to each and every person, and respecting the rich diversity of our people”.
Mandela was one of the greatest human being of our time. Not only he fought for what was right. He was amazingly forgiving his enemies.
As a nation emerging from an armed conflict, we need to to work tirelessly together to overcome the multiplicity of challenges facing us. We have many lessons to be learned from Mandela’s legacy. As he told us, “reconciliation requires that we work together to defend our democracy and humanity proclaimed by our constitution”.
Let us learn, understand and transmit to succeeding generations the timeless legacy Mandela left us and march undaunted toward our goal of a united, strong and prosperous nation.
*Message by Former President of Sri Lanka Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR).