Fiji Speaks at Tribute for Nelson Mandela Held at the United Nations

New York
Thursday, December 19, 2013

The General Assembly of the United Nations met this morning in a special event to honour the life and memory of the late President Nelson Mandela.  Speakers included the President of the General Assembly, Mr John Ashe, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, the former Mayor of New York, Mr David Dinkins, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu by video from South Africa.  Fiji's Ambassador Peter Thomson led the speakers from the floor of the General Assembly, speaking in Fiji's capacity as Chairman of the 133-member Group of 77 and China.

Ambassador Thomson said that President Mandela's life of service and leadership has transcended to a place of universality in human history reserved only for those leaders who have moved our communal attention away from strife and divisiveness to which we are so prone, towards a higher moral ground where justice and benevolence rule.

Fiji's Ambassador said the United Nations, charged as it is with massive responsibilities on behalf of humankind, was fortified by the lessons that President Mandela has left us with.  He said the United Nations, whatever its handicaps, must always aspire to reach the higher ground to which the late President pointed.

Referring to the ongoing curses of racism and religious intolerance around the world, Ambassador Thomson turned to President Mandela's words, "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.   People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite."

For those emerging from situations of conflict, injustice and deprivation, Ambassador Thomson quoted what the late President had said after he walked to freedom after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment, "I knew if I didnt leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison".  And when he said, "Leaders cannot afford to hate, for hatred clouds the judgement .... If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

Fiji's Ambassador closed his address with a President Mandela homily that he said should  be ingrained in the mind of every diplomat hoping to give meaningful multilateral service at the United Nations, "Appearances matter",  the late President once said, "And remember to smile."

Ambassador Peter Thomson addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations

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