ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MR. MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES, AT THE SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE MEETING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE OCCASION OF THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
It is indeed a great privilege for me to address the General Assembly on the important occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. I am speaking here as a representative of a very small nation which though small in size and population, yet has a proud history, as an independent, sovereign people for over two thousand years. In that perspective alone, I we feel that we have something to say about the affairs of the world in which we all live.
But before I do so, allow me, Mr. President, to congratulate you on your election to preside over this historic session of the General Assembly. I wish you luck which you will need, Mr. President, in the successful performance of your important duties. I would like, also, to express my sincere good wishes to Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Perez de Cuellar, whose constructive and courageous efforts to enhance the role of the United Nations in the crucial issues facing the world today, are deeply appreciated by my people.
When one glances through the pages of recorded human history on this planet, one is struck, Mr. President, by an evident truth, which is very simple in itself but which, strangely enough, often escapes those who wield power in the world. From the times of Attila the Hun, to those of Genghis Khan, from the wars of Napoleon Bonaparte, to those of Adolph Hitler, the lesson of history is that war does not pay, that oppression does not last, that the forces of evil and destruction have no permanence; that it is only the forces of the good, the messengers of truth and the peace-makers who can make a lasting contribution to human progress. This is not only a lesson of history, Mr. President, but a divine message of which we have taken little heed. Does not our Holy Book, the Quran, say in unambiguous terms:
"In this way does Good set forth the parable of Truth and Falsehood: for as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away with the flood, as does all dross: but that which is of benefit to man abides on Earth"? (XIII:17).
The question that baffles us small people of the world is why do not those who possess power in any of its manifestations, ever seem to learn from history? Why do not they comprehend that bloodshed, exploitation and oppression, though it might give them temporary power of wealth or whatever, yet it will eventually lead to their own downfall and destruction? This is a question we wish to ask the protagonists of apartheid, the defenders of racial discrimination, the oppressive forces of Zionism, and the perpetrators of armed aggression wherever they may be.
We are celebrating now the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. On this occasion, and on many other occasions, we have listened to many voices, both here in this very hall and elsewhere, raised in criticism of the United Nations and its system. Mr. President, I beg to differ. I know that the UN system does have many shortcomings, but I do recognize that it has done mankind a world of good. I do not refer here to the United Nations as represented by the General Assembly or to the Security Council alone. I refer to the whole UN system with all its specialized agencies and affiliated bodies. .
May I, to cite just one example, speak of the success that UNICEF has achieved in alleviating to a large extent worldwide suffering and premature death among the most vulnerable in any society - the very young. Needless suffering of the world's children, humanity's greatest resources and reservoir of hope for all our tomorrow’s, and their needless death has been prevented by the coated operation of the member states of this organization, through an institution they have founded on the finest of human ideals. I should like to record here the Maldives' fullest support to the important resolution adopted recently by the UNICEF Executive Board underlining the possibility of achieving the goal of universal immunization of young children by 1990.
What better living fact than this as a cause for inspiration when the spirit of our Charter is let free of narrow-minded and self-centred political motives? Mr. President, what are we about if not about life itself, about its enhancement, its enrichment and its progression? From the eradication of small-pox from the face of the earth, to the remarkable rescue of operation of the temple of Abu Sinbel in Egypt, to the mechanization of our Island Republic's fishing fleet, to the hundreds of social and economic development programmes carried out in many parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the UN system with its specialized agencies and affiliated institutions has created a better tomorrow for the world's children, has preserved important aspects of human civilization and human culture for posterity, and has made major contributions towards improving the quality of life of millions of people all over the world.
On the political side, Mr. President, I acknowledge that many of the hopes of the Founding Members when they sat in San Francisco forty years ago to put their signatures to the United Nations Charter, remain unfulfilled. While it may be so, the United Nations has, on many occasions, risen to the level of its great responsibilities in stopping aggression, in safe-guarding security and in maintaining global peace. Consider, for example, the Korean conflict, the Middle Eastern wars, the Congo, Cyprus and Lebanon.
I do not wish to pass judgment on the UN action over those bitter conflicts. What matters is that the United Nations acted, and acted surely and swiftly, and in so doing saved mankind from the imminent danger of a third world war. Let us notion forget, therefore, that great endeavors have been mounted over the years and that the flag of the United Nations has been raised high in the cause of peace.
I think at this time, Mr. President, particularly of the late lamented Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, who wanted to leave his post in protest over the instance of armed aggression committed by some member states against another member state, and who later met his tragic end working resolutely for peace in Central Africa. It is appropriate that we think of that great man's sacrifice at this time of anniversary, as indeed it is for us to remember the sacrifices all those in the United Nations peace keeping forces have made in many hotbeds of armed conflict around the globe.
Another worthy contribution of lasting merit the United Nations has made to the noble ideal of human freedom and emancipation has been the process of decolonization which has resulted in the granting of independence to most of the lands that had been under colonial rule. This year we mark the 25th anniversary of that important event. Of course, that much remains to be done is without question and, with your permission, Mr. President, I would take this opportunity to enumerate some of those problems that the Maldives continues to entertain with considerable concern .
In our region of the world, we in the Maldives feel strongly about the failure to convene the Colombo Conference, designed to agree on ways to implement the UN resolution to declare the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace. A period of some fourteen years have elapsed, Mr. President, since the passing of this United Nations resolution aimed at protecting the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the states in the region. The Maldives, which is surrounded on all sides by the Indian Ocean, is convinced that the demilitarization of the Indian Ocean is absolutely essential for the progress and stability of the region. Furthermore, we cannot accept any suggestion that makes the convening of the Colombo Conference conditional on matters that are totally unrelated to the relevant UN resolution.
In the context of the right of sovereignty and self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter, the Maldives calls for the immediate restoration of the people of Palestine to their homeland, as we believe that without due recognition of the Palestinians' right to national sovereignty and national statehood on their own soil, there will be no durable or meaningful peace in the Middle East. The Maldives strongly deplores the continued failure of Israel to abide by the United Nations resolutions and her obdurate refusal to withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in the 1967 war, and her continued acts of armed aggression in the region.
The Israeli acts of war against Arab countries have now reached such alarming proportions that even the recent, deplorable bombing of the Tunis Headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is lightly shrugged off by Israel as a routine act of self-defense. Mr. President, such acts of wanton and unwarranted acts of aggression must be stopped at all costs, if the search for peace in the Middle East is to continue.
With regard to the tragedy of the Iran and Iraq conflict, we urge an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of all forces to established boundaries which we regard as essential for a just and peaceful settlement of the dispute. The Maldives calls, with particular emphasis, for South Africa to end its illegal occupation of Namibia, and its equally illegal acts of aggression on the sovereign state of Angola. And in South Africa itself, we demand an immediate end to the state of emergency, the release of political detainees without trial, and the prompt, unconditional release of Nelson Mandela.
Again, in the interests of peace and an end to bloodshed and human suffering, we call for an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, a move that would respect that nation's territorial integrity and preserve its non-aligned status. I take this opportunity, also, to reconfirm my government's support for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Kampuchea, believing that only then can a comprehensive political solution emerge based on the will of the Kampuchean people themselves. Further, we support all efforts that are being made for the peaceful reunification of Korea in accordance with the wishes of the Korean people .
On the international economic front, the Maldives voices its deep disappointment and dismay over the unfulfilled hopes raised by the Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly eleven years ago. Present international economic and trade arrangements perpetuate severe inequalities and continue to promote an unfair and inequitable transfer of resources from the primary developing South to the industrialized North. We, therefore, look to an early restructuring off the existing economic and trade patterns at a time when the threat of protectionism looms even larger on the horizon, a scenario in which, ultimately, both the industrialized and the developing nations would lose and none would benefit .
In addition Mr. President, the Maldives calls on the international community to give greater consideration to the economic damage being done to the small states of this world and, particularly, the small island states, by prevailing financial and trading arrangements. We strongly feel that the vulnerability of small island states and their fragile economies should become a high priority area in which adequate measures must be taken urgently to redress the existing grave inequalities. Indeed, the direction link between economic instability fueled by unfair and lopsided practices and the overall security of the world's small island states is worthy of greater and more urgent examination than has prevailed in the past.
Of course, Mr. President, all these concerns, as vital as they undoubtedly are, pale into relative insignificance in the ever present threat that hangs over the human race. I refer, of course, to that or nuclear annihilation. It is time for all nuclear states to realize the simple and awesome truth that in the event of any nuclear devices being used, whether in attack or in self-defense, none would survive to be the victors. It is with this terrible eventuality in mind that the Maldives calls for sustained efforts towards the goal of disarmament and the dismantling of nuclear arsenals.
The people of the world, in whose names the United Nations was founded forty years ago, have watched with great hopes and expectation the steady growth of the Organization. Its membership has more than trebled from 51 in 1945 to 159 today, and the activities of its principal organs and specialized agencies have expanded enormously during the past four decades to cover the whole spectrum of human interrelationships.
To many people around the world, the United Nations is an unwieldy organization which talks a lot, but does precious little. To our way of thinking, as I have tried to submit, the United Nations system is doing its job in many crucial areas of human concern. There is no question that it has its problems and its difficulties, but with all of them there is ample proof that the world needs the United Nations. For over and over again in the past forty years, the United Nations has shown that it can do things no other organization can do, or has ever been able to do before.
We, who live in places far away from the centers of debate in these premises, wonder whether one of the major problems that inhibition United Nations action in many vital issues, as well as in emergencies, is not the repeat, unjustifiable exercise of the right of veto in the Security Council. It is, of course, well understood that at the birth of this Organization, the right of veto was devised to safeguard the security and the vital interests of the permanent members of the Council. But over the years and as the Organization grew and its range of concerns vastly expanded, serious doubts have arisen in the minds of many regarding this practice. I may be wrong, Mr. President, but isn't it true that the veto has, on so many occasions, constituted an impediment to world peace and security, which, after all, is the basic and overriding concern, to promote which the United Nations was established in the first place?
A small nation though we may be, we in the Maldives stand as ready as we always have been to make our contribution to the United Nations' nobles purpose, with neither our faith in its founding ideals diminished nor our belief in the ultimate triumph of human solidarity shaken. Indeed, we have recently, though in very tragic circumstances, witnessed how the nations of the world could rally together to alleviate suffering both in the face of famine in Ethiopia and natural disaster in Mexico. We applaud these humanitarian initiatives which emanate from the finest of human attributes.
In conclusion, may I, Mr. President, suggest, that there is no better way to celebrate this Organization's fortieth year than to rededicate ourselves to those goals so essential to human progress. Lest us go forward together in common cause and with unity of purposes. Let us, Mr. President, be worthy of the Charter for Humanity written forty years ago.