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Sunday, November 15, 2009


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31 October 2009 - Cairo, Egypt

Aung San Suu Kyi, Vaclav Havel, Benazir Bhutto, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Martin Lee, who doesn’t know these inspiring figures who have made the world’s recent history? They were also recipients of the Liberal International Prize for Freedom.

Today we are launching a book to celebrate 25 years of LI Prize for Freedom.

Founded in 1985, the Prize had 26 laureates (there were two laureates in 1991).

I was honored to receive the Prize in 2006 in Marrakech (Morocco).

Now, I am humbled to also, in a way, represent the other laureates at this ceremony.

They are, or were, most distinguished people who deserved the Prize much more than me.

But I am here because nobody else could come to Cairo today…

Let me first recall the origins, backgrounds and main features of the 26 laureates.

In terms of gender, there were sixteen males and ten females.

In terms of geographic origin, the laureates represented 25 nationalities (two of them were from South Africa).

In terms of occupation and professional background, there were 19 politicians also known as human rights advocates, and seven persons from the civil society including three human rights activists and four other persons: a scientist, a scholar, a writer and a poet who all worked for peace and freedom.

Are all the laureates still alive? 23 are still alive. Three have passed away: Raul Alfonsin (Argentina), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan) and Corazon Aquino (Philippines).

Those who are still alive, what are they doing now? Most of them are old now – for sure older than 25 years ago – but they are still active in defending liberal values and ideals. One of them is the current president of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade. Two are in jail or under house arrest (Aung San Suu Kyi). Four are leaders of the opposition in their respective countries, including myself.

To fully understand the meaning and the importance of the LI Prize for Freedom, I invite you to read the book introduction by our president John Lord Alderdice.

“The Prize for Freedom was to be awarded to those who had struggled for Freedom in some of the most difficult and challenging political environments for Liberals around the world.”

“The Award would provide encouragement, recognition, in some cases, a degree of protection, since it would warn authoritarian regimes that moves against a Prize for Freedom Laureate would produce a storm of protest from liberals around the world.”

I fully subscribe to what John Alderdice wrote in his introduction.

I would add that, at least in my case, the Prize was not given to an individual. It was to honor a just cause in a particular context.

The cause is the defense of liberal values, above all Freedom that we all cherish.

The context for me was Cambodia.

The Prize was not given to me as an individual. I just received it, as the head of a team, on behalf of countless known and unknown colleagues and friends who had made sacrifices while serving the cause of freedom.

Founded in 1995, the political party that I lead in Cambodia, the SRP, is now the country’s second largest party and we will become, God willing, the number one party in a not too distant future.

But as of today, over eighty members of my party have been assassinated. Countless others have been injured, arrested, jailed, or forced to go into hiding or into exile.

I can never forget those who have been killed, sometimes in front of my eyes.

I have attended too many funerals. I would prefer not to receive any prize or award at all if I only could stop attending unnecessary funerals.

But things being as they are, the LI Prize for Freedom is a useful recognition of our legitimate fight and a powerful encouragement to us to go on fighting our uphill battle against a powerful dictatorship. The Prize gives us more courage and strength in the face of dictators who use the state media they control to denounce us as “traitors”, “anarchists” or “hooligans.”

Such a prestigious international award as the LI Prize for Freedom gives us legitimacy and honorability in the eyes of the whole world. It gives us irrefutable international credentials as democrats fighting for freedom, and that proves to be an invaluable protection against assaults from dictators who just want to eliminate us.

Thank you.


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