Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at banquet in Sri Lanka

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: President’s House, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text (THCR 1/10/85 f113)
Editorial comments: The banquet began at 2000.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 689
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Asia)

Junius JayewardenePresident, Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your warm and generous welcome.

We were delighted, Mr. President, when you were able to pay us a visit in Britain last year.

And I am very pleased to be able to return that visit so soon.

The ancient Arab name of your Island, Serendib, has been taken up in our language to mean a happy discovery.

And so it has been for me. [end p1]

This morning I travelled to Kandy and the Victoria Dam, symbols of your past and your future.

Tomorrow I shall have the great privilege of addressing your Parliament.

No-one could hope for a more memorable stay.

Mr. President, a Florentine friar writing in the distant 14th century, said: “From Ceylon to Paradise, according to what the people say after the tradition of their fathers, is a distance of forty miles”.

I think he exaggerated the distance—it is but one short step.

Our two countries and peoples have had a close [end p2] relationship for over a hundred and fifty years.

We have a natural similarity of outlook. We are both proud of our long histories. We both take pride in Parliamentary democracy.

We both have a pragmatic, common sense approach to world affairs, and a deep scepticism about those who preach virtues which they do not practise.

Is it any wonder, then, that our relations remain so exceptionally close?

When Arthur Creech Jones introduced the Ceylon Independence Bill in the House of Commons in [end p3] December 1947, he said of your people, “We are confident that they will prove themselves a free democracy in the vissicitudes through which their region of the world is passing”. Democracy has been the key-note of your development throughout the years since then. That is a tremendous source of strength. You have a tradition of magnaminity and of compromise.

Those qualities are called for in greater measure than ever before in the face of your present troubles.

In confronting these you have our sympathy and understanding.

There must be no compromise with terror and [end p4] violence.

But I am very pleased that you, Mr. President, will continue to work for a peaceful solution and for reconciliation.

I very much hope that this can also become the basis for joint efforts with your great neighbour to reduce tension and restore full cooperation.

Mr. President, remote as we are from each other geographically, we are both members of one world in which the significance of distance is shrinking.

The communications revolution, the growth of world trade, the steadily increasing [end p5] interdependence of economies, overlapping memberships of international organisations: all these help to bring us closer together and to understand each other better.

Great tragedies such as the present famine in Africa, which would once have remained hidden from the rest of the world are now brought with shattering effect into the lives of people many thousands of miles away. No country is any longer an island unto itself—even real islands such as Britain and Sri Lanka!

Our problems become the world's property, our policies are discussed and analysed beyond our borders, our hopes and dreams are often [end p6] crucially affected by the decisions of others over which we have only limited if any control.

But there is a bright side to this as well. Cooperation between governments and peoples in different corners of the world becomes easier, particularly when as with Britain and Sri Lanka they share a deep belief in freedom and democracy.

We have helped each other in the past and we can help each other now, through our trade, through the assistance we can and want to give to your economic development, through plain speaking between friends.

That, Mr President, is the joy of a visit [end p7] such as this: not only to see the beauties of your land, which so far have been only a dream for me, but experience first-hand the friendship and openness of your people.

Tomorrow I shall have the honour of addressing your Parliament, so I shall keep my remarks this evening brief.

I thank you warmly for your generous and considerate hospitality to me and all my colleagues.

I ask you to drink a toast to the friendship between Britain and Sri Lanka and to the health of your President.