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Comment of Screening Committee Members

Screening Committee for the SAKAI Peace Contribution Award Yasushi Akashi

 First I would like to thank Mayor Kihara for explaining so clearly how it was that the Peace Contribution Award, which it would not be going too far to say symbolizes the City of Sakai itself, came to be established. I, too, feel nothing but admiration for the pride the citizens take in being the first to open up to other countries, adopting a stance which has taking action at its heart.

 Committee Chairman Mr. Ueda has already spoken eloquently on the selection process, and I would not presume to reiterate anything he has already told us.

 Dr. Hideto Yoshioka, winner of one of today’s Encouragement Prizes, continues his humanitarian work in Myanmar, Cambodia, and many other places besides. The Japan-Nepal Female Education Association, represented today by its Chief Director Ms. Yasuko Yamashita, continues to overcome extremely difficult conditions in order to carry out its important work in Nepal, said to be one of Asia’s poorest countries. My warmest congratulations to you both.

 The peace and human rights activities of Mr. Jehan Perera, winner of today’s Grand Prize, working in Sri Lanka, deserves to receive the utmost attention. We live in Japan, a land blessed with relative peace and prosperity, but in Asia, Africa and throughout the world, there are many countries where life is much harder. Sri Lanka may be a country blessed by nature, but as Mr. Ueda explained, it is also a country whose people continue to endure civil war, a country whose people continue to be divided over issues of ethnicity and religion. To work as a peace activist in such a land is not easy. It would be impossible for anyone concerned with peace in Sri Lanka to overlook the work of Mr. Perera, who lays his own life on the line every week championing peace in newspaper and magazine articles. As you all know, there have been many attempts to get other countries involved with the peace effort in Sri Lanka, in cooperation with Japan, America, the European Union, Norway etc. Alas, so far there has been little effect. However, through Mr. Perera’s brilliant example, through his indomitable spirit, perhaps we too can be inspired to persevere, and to do more to help, even indirectly, Sri Lanka’s struggle for peace and human rights.

 Finally, I would like to say what a great honor it has been to have been involved in the selection process, and carry out my duties as a Screening Committee member according to the tremendous passion and interest that the people of Sakai City feel towards these issues. Thank you.

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