President Rajapaksa, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for your kind welcome. My wife and I are very glad indeed to be joining you here in Colombo. At the personal request of The Queen, I am delighted to be addressing you this morning on behalf of the Head of the Commonwealth.
Her Majesty's deep affection for the Commonwealth, and the special importance she has attached to it throughout her reign, are well known to you all. And if I may say so, those very sentiments have been an ever-present cornerstone in my own life also. It is therefore my particular privilege and pleasure to be representing The Queen at this, the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Now, I am especially pleased to be back among the people of Sri Lanka who, in recent years, have confronted great adversity. My last visit here, in 2005, came just weeks after the devastating tsunami had struck these shores. I visited communities affected by the disaster and met many of the relief workers who were doing so much to help rebuild broken lives and livelihoods. I recall my admiration for the fortitude shown by them all at that time and commend the progress that has been made since in healing those dreadful scars.
Sri Lanka was one of the founding countries of the modern Commonwealth. Historians of this family of nations will recall that, in the circumstances of that time, the Commonwealth showed an exceptional spirit of accommodation over how the organisation should be constituted. This led one prominent Head of Government, in other words Prime Minister Nehru (with whom incidently I always felt proud to share a birthday) to declare that the Commonwealth seemed capable of bringing 'a touch of healing' to the management of contemporary world problems. More than sixty years later, we should not need to be reminded of the many troubles that beset our world, some of them previously little understood, nor should we underestimate the importance and responsibility of the Commonwealth's role in addressing them.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first CHOGM to take place since the adoption of the Commonwealth Charter, to which the Prime Minister of Australia has just alluded and which The Queen signed on Commonwealth Day earlier this year. Her Majesty welcomed the Charter as a milestone in the development of today’s Commonwealth, saying, 'It will light the path of all those involved in the work of the Commonwealth and of those who follow in our footsteps'. The Charter reaffirms the core values and principles of the Commonwealth. At this CHOGM, and guided by that spirit, the Commonwealth is being charged to confront the many issues affecting the security and well-being of its nations and peoples, working to the agenda which the Secretary-General has just outlined. The Queen wishes you well in these vitally important deliberations.
Mr. Abbott also kindly mentioned The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. If I may, I should like to take this opportunity of extending Her Majesty's sincere thanks for this remarkable initiative which has been founded as a tribute to her sixty years of service as Head of the Commonwealth. The Diamond Jubilee Trust, announced in Perth two years ago and designed to provide a lasting legacy for the benefit of the Commonwealth, has since been richly supported by people, organizations, businesses and governments of the nations represented here. And as you have heard, that generosity will be devoted to two major causes: first, the treatment and, in some cases, the elimination of avoidable blindness; and, secondly, a new programme of youth leadership, named for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Both these projects have the potential to transform millions of lives across the Commonwealth, and would simply not have been possible without your outstanding and continuing support.
Ladies and gentlemen, each one of us is here because of the hope and the trust we place in the Commonwealth to bring that 'touch of healing' to our troubles and deliver the very best future for our people. The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, sends warm greetings to you all and, on her behalf, it gives me very great pleasure to declare open this Meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government.