UN International Day 2015 Chairman Speech

Chairman's speech at the 2015 United Nations International Day of Non-Violence celebration and Gandhi Memorial Debate 2015

Good afternoon

It is my great pleasure to welcome all our honourable distinguished guests, who have taken time to be with us to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Non Violence, which is observed on October 2nd, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I am specially delighted to thank in particular: His Excellency, Mr. TS Tirumurthi, the High Commissioner of India to Malaysia and Her Excellency, Miss Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, the United Nation Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and United Nation Development Programme Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam

Your presence today reaffirms ‘the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence’ and the desire ‘to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence’. This means a great deal to us and a fitting inspiration, not only to all Malaysian, but to everyone around the world.

Human dignity cannot be compromised. Every person is created equal, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or who you love, or where you come from. We believe in this principle of equality, which will live through unborn generations. 

A pivotal and defining element of Gandhism, is Ahimsa. Himsa in Sankrit means violence and Ahimsa is just the opposite, ‘non-violence’.

The two (2) aspects of Ahimsa are: First, it is not a passive act of non-resistance, but it is actively resisting evil by none violent methods. Second, it is not limited to physical violence but it includes any harm by even words and thoughts. In other words, mental state like evil thoughts, hatred, dishonesty, manipulation and lying are manifestation of violence incompatible with Ahimsa. Therefore, violence would exist when people are subjugated, repressed, exploited, marginalized and denied their basis fundamental rights.

Satyagraha is the other defining element of Gandhism. Satyagraha is the combination of 2 Sankrit words, Satya (truth) and Agraha (holding firmly to).

These philosophies and ideologies were nothing more than Gandhi’s own examination of his personal experiences. Whenever, he made mistakes, he took it upon himself and learnt from it. One good example would be when Gandhi stopped all nationwide civil resistance in 1922 after the non-cooperative movement protest against high meat prices at Chauri Chaura turned chaotic with the burning of the police shelter killing about 23 Indian policemen. This caused Gandhi to give up political independence for truth, as he believed that Indians should not become murderers and commit the very evil, which they accuse the British of perpetrating on India.

Ahimsa and Satyagraha were the foundation of the body of ideas and principles advocated by Gandhi. But these beliefs are nothing new and were in existence even before Gandhi. Gandhi merely applied these eternal truths to our daily life and reminded us of its existence.

In the past, we, the Gandhi Memorial Trust, celebrated the United Nations International Day of Non-Violence with the Gandhi Memorial Lectures delivered by distinguished invited speakers on the bodies of ideas and principles that describes the inspiration, vision and the life work of Gandhi. 

But this year, with the increasing levels of tensions in the community locally and even more dangerous religious and political conflicts in the global arena, we felt that it is crucially important to get the younger generation involved in the struggle for world peace through non-violence. 

Gandhi’s conviction in the younger generation is evident from his quote:

‘If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children’

The best way to overcome these challenges is to build a new world model through our younger generation. This is so because the younger generation would be the one to decide how the currents of our history will flow. The younger generation is the hope of our future. 

Hence, to pursue this idea, we, the Gandhi Memorial Trust, are pleased to present to you the 1st of the Gandhi Memorial debates – the ‘Gandhi Memorial Debate 2015’.

Before, I end my speech. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your presence here today in celebrating the United Nations International Day of Non Violence with us and for your continued support.

I would also like to thank all the participants, team leaders of the debate and the entire panel of judges of the Gandhi Memorial Debate 2015.

And finally, I must thank the man behind this entire idea of getting the younger generation to be involved in the struggle for world peace through non violence, our former Chairman and present trustee, Dato Mahadev Shankar. His selfless commitment is evident in the success of today’s event. I also would like record our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Kishore Ramdass, who volunteered his services and long hours in overseeing the successful completion of this debate. To every one else who has helped us in any way, I record our heartfelt gratitude and sincere thanks.

Thank you.

Sree Harry Nadarajah
Gandhi Memorial Trust