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L-R  Judge Dr Peter Tomka, Ambassador Sadiq, Judge Dr Ronny Abraham and Dr Christopher Pinto

The International Day of Vesak was observed at the Peace Palace, the seat of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, at an impressive ceremony, presided over by the President of the ICJ, Judge Dr Ronny Abraham on 11th May 2017, organised by the Embassy of Sri Lanka to The Netherlands.

This was a historic occasion of ‘firsts’- the very first time that the International Day of Vesak was observed in The Netherlands, since the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the ‘International recognition of the Day of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices” in December 1999, and that too in the Great Hall of Justice at the Peace Palace, where the ICJ holds its sittings. The event was of special significance, as it was held at the ICJ, the only principal organ of the UN, not located in New York and hitherto the only major UN institution that had not observed the International Day of Vesak. It was in the fitness of things that the International Day of Vesak in The Hague coincided with the Government of Sri Lanka also celebrating it for the first time under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena, with the distinguished participation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari of Nepal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

The programme commenced with the President of the ICJ, Judge Dr Ronny Abraham delivering the welcome address, in which he briefly traced the genesis of the International Day of Vesak to the UN General Assembly Resolution of December 1999, and highlighted the impact of Buddhism in the work of the ICJ, in the following words, “As the principal organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice plays a key role in maintaining international peace. The teachings of Buddhism find resonance in the Court’s mission which, according to Article 38 of its Statute, is to decide disputes submitted to it in accordance with international law. Through this mission, the Court contributes to international peace in different ways.” In concluding his welcome speech, Dr Abraham said, “Let me conclude by thanking the Embassy of Sri Lanka to The Netherlands for organising this event and extending this kind invitation. I wish you all a joyful Day of Vesak.”

The highlight of the programme was the inaugural International Day of Vesak guest lecture delivered by the eminent Sri Lankan jurist, Dr Christopher Pinto, a former Legal Adviser at the Ministry of External Affairs & Defence, one time Ambassador to Germany, former Secretary General of the Iran – United States Claims Tribunal and a Member of the highly prestigious Institut de Droit International, an exclusive Club of experts in International Law.  In his thought provoking three part lecture, Dr Pinto firstly recalled in outline, the life and times of Prince Gautama of the State of Sakka who was destined to be proclaimed the Enlightened One, the Buddha, secondly, elaborated on the message the Buddha proclaimed to the world, and finally, shared some thoughts and insights on the contemporary relevance of the Buddha’s message.

A special feature of the maiden International Day of Vesak celebration at the Peace Palace was a heart-warming and effusive tribute to former Vice President of the ICJ, hitherto, the only Sri Lankan to serve on the Court and a distinguished son of Sri Lanka, the late Judge Dr Christopher Weeramantry, eloquently delivered by Judge Dr Peter Tomka, former President and current Judge of the ICJ, acknowledging the yeoman service rendered by Dr Weeramantry to humanity and for international peace.  Judge Dr Tomka, in his speech recalled the final day of Judge Weeramantry at the ICJ, thus, “On the day of his departure from the Court, Judge Weeramantry unveiled a beautiful bronze plaque created by the Sri Lankan sculptor, Tissa Ranasinghe.  It depicts two fighting chieftains who, in front of The Buddha, are breaking their swords in order to resolve their conflict peacefully.  It is a sculpture that fittingly encapsulates the vision of Judge Weeramantry, a man of great heart, unwavering spirit and immense wisdom who fought throughout his life for disputes to be settled peacefully and with the interests of humanity as one united world firmly in mind.”

Thereafter, Dr. Arthur Eyffinger and Dr. Nilupul Gunawardena, the co-editors of the book ‘One World, One Home, One Law for All: a tribute in honour of Judge Weeramantry’, presented copies of this book to the President of the ICJ, Dr Ronny Abraham, the Vice-President of the ICJ, Dr Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, Dr Peter Tomka, Dr Christopher Pinto, the Registrar of the Court, Mr Philippe Couvreur and the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mr A.M.J. Sadiq. This volume had been presented to Judge Weeramantry on the occasion of his 90th birthday in November last year. Judge Weeramantry passed away in January this year in Colombo, following a brief illness, but his spirit lives on through his numerous scholarly works, which have made a significant contribution to the development of International Law and the promotion of world peace and justice.

Ambassador Sadiq, delivering the Vote of Thanks, noted that the presence of the respected members of the Maha Sangha, representatives of the Hindu, Christian and Islamic faiths symbolised the common desire of people professing different faiths to unite for peace. He thanked the Deputy Mayor of The Hague, Hon. Rabin Baldewsingh, for his presence at the event, representing the International City of Peace & Justice.

 Ambassador Sadiq recalled the sterling contribution to Buddhism, of the assassinated former Foreign Minister, Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar, who initiated and piloted the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the ‘International recognition of the Day of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices” in December 1999. Speaking further, the Ambassador highlighted the importance of the message of the Buddha on account of its timeless relevance as well as its universal appeal to the entire humanity. He shared an excerpt of the Message to Buddhist Friends, on the occasion of Vesak -2017, issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Holy See by quoting from it as follows,

“ Dear friends, your founder, the Buddha also heralded a message of non-violence and peace. He encouraged all to, “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness, overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.” (Dhammapada  chapter 27, verse 3). He taught further that “Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain. Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory and defeat (Dhammapada  chapter 15, verse 5)”.

 Ambassador Sadiq warmly thanked Mr Robert Barkel, CEO of Janson Bridging, a company that is constructing bridges in the rural heartland of Sri Lanka, for his generous sponsorship of the maiden International Day of Vesak in The Hague, by underwriting the entire cost of hosting this event. He praised Mr Barkel, by telling the audience, “Janson Bridging is not merely helping rebuild the physical infrastructure of Sri Lanka, but is building bridges of friendship and goodwill between the peoples of The Netherlands and Sri Lanka.”

Before concluding his speech, Ambassador Sadiq sought the indulgence of the audience to pay a personal tribute to a very special person – his mother, Noorjehan, whose name in Persian, meant “The Light of the World”, and had passed away suddenly a month earlier. He attributed his success in his professional career to his mother, a remarkable lady and a charismatic personality, who was the guiding light and inspiration of his life. He shared the following lines from a letter that his mother had written:

“When in far and distant land,  
You see the writings of my hand,      
And my face, you no more see,                          
Then dear, remember me”.

The Great Hall of Justice at the Peace Palace was filled to capacity with Ambassadors and chargés d'affaires of around 25 countries, heads of international organisations, members of the diplomatic corps, senior Foreign Ministry officials, academics and members of the Sri Lankan community attending the maiden International Day of Vesak, which concluded with a reception hosted by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka for the invited guests.


Embassy of Sri Lanka  
The Hague
Kingdom of The Netherlands
23rd May 2017

Welcome Address by the President of the ICJ, H.E. Dr. Ronny Abraham

Inaugural International Day of Vesak guest lecture by Dr. Christopher Pinto

ICJ Judge Dr Peter Tomka's Tribute to Judge Weeramentry

Vote of Thanks on the occasion of the International Day of Vesak at the Peace Palace, The Hague


L-R - Dr. Arthur Eyffinger, Dr. Nilupul Gunawardena, Judge Dr Peter Tomka,  Judge Dr Ronny Abraham, Ambassador Sadiq, Dr Ahmed Yusuf, Mr Philippe Couvreur and Dr Christopher Pinto


Dr Christopher Pinto delivering the inaugural International Day of Vesak  guest lecture


Judge Dr Peter Tomka  delivering a tribute to former Vice-President of the ICJ, the late Dr Christopher Weeramantry


Ambassador A.M.J. Sadiq with Mr Robert Barkel, CEO of Janson Bridging


The President of the ICJ, Judge Dr Ronny Abraham delivering the welcome address


The Great Hall of Justice at the Peace Palace in The Hague


The Peace Palace in The Hague


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