On behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), let me convey greetings and warm felicitations to participants at the conference on “Asian Liberal Parties in Power: Getting There, Remaining There”.

It is eminently suitable that we meet here in Manila for this event, given the success of our friends from the Liberal Party of the Philippines in the recent elections. The landslide victory of Noynoy Aquino in the presidential race signals the return of the party to government after half a century, and also, more importantly, heralds a new beginning for the Filipino nation.

In congratulating him, we must also congratulate the Filipino people for their commitment to the democratic process and for choosing the path of progress and change. Under the leadership of the Liberal Party, the prospect is bright for the Philippines to achieve economic growth and social justice so that all citizens can enjoy democracy and its fruits.

As we celebrate with our Filipino liberal friends, let us not forget the liberal gains in other parts of the globe. In Europe, in the Americas and in the rest of Asia, liberal parties and individuals are also entering governments on their own or in coalition with other parties. This development is significant for it provides liberal individuals and parties an opportunity to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and the rule of law all over the world.

These values, in turn, lay the foundations for sustainable economic development and genuine social justice to which all societies aspire.

In Sri Lanka we in the Liberal Party too have at last achieved representation in Parliament as part of the governing coalition partners. As with all governments representing diverse interests, we recognize that there would be challenges, as well as opportunities. In the transition from being outside of government to being part of it, we need to be always conscious of the core values of liberalism, and strive to ensure that these are upheld and encouraged.

In welcoming the discussions that will take place in Manila, I can do no better than recall the words of Graf Otto von Lambsdorff, an eminently practical politician, able to take the rough and the smooth of politics in his long career. In affirming the Liberal commitment to small government, he also noted its support for strong government. Liberals must be strong in support of their values, they must also recognize that in the end individuals are best equipped to uphold those values for themselves. Having ensured a level playing field, having strengthened individuals to stand up for themselves, Liberals must strive, after achieving political power, to ensure that the people always stay empowered.

Rajiva Wijesinha

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