Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 82

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Ms. Roza Otunbayeva

Former President of Kyrgyzstan

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I also rise to pay tribute to Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva, the former President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Yesterday evening during an event of the Global Centre for Pluralism held at the Delegation of Ismaili Imamat, I had the privilege of hearing President Otunbayeva deliver an inaugural lecture on the prospects and challenges of pluralism in the Kyrgyz Republic and Central Asia. The launch of the annual lecture by the Global Centre for Pluralism was attended by a number of distinguished guests, most notably the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Global Centre for Pluralism, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, and board members Princess Zahra Aga Khan, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and Mr. Khalil Shariff. Also in attendance were the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada; Minister Baird; Minister Oda; Minister Kenney; our esteemed colleague, Senator Di Nino; Mr. John McNee, Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism; and Mrs. Nurjehan Mawani, the Aga Khan’s diplomatic representative to the Kyrgyz Republic.

Honourable senators, while listening to President Otunbayeva’s address, I was fortunate enough to witness how the hard work, vision and dedication of one person could help to change the course of an entire nation, leading them through hardship and diversity.

Throughout her life, both as a politician and as a passionate advocate of democracy, President Otunbayeva has rendered a great service to the people of Kyrgyzstan and has led them through a number of difficult and challenging times. In 2005, she was one of the key figures in the Tulip Revolution, paving the way for stability and democracy.

In 2010, she was the first female president in Central Asia. Under her leadership, the people of Kyrgyzstan voted on a new constitution, establishing Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy. Most significantly, she dedicated herself to the first peaceful and constitutional transfer of power between presidents in Central Asia — a remarkable achievement with tremendous implications for governance inside and outside the Kyrgyz Republic. I am also pleased to inform honourable senators that President Otunbayeva served as Kyrgyzstan’s first ambassador to Canada.

Yesterday evening, I listened with great admiration as she spoke of the challenges faced by the people of Kyrgyzstan and how she hoped to learn from Canada about how to create a society that embraces difference and thrives on diversity. I was truly humbled and pleased to hear her speak of Canada with such high regard, especially when discussing bilingualism and diversity.

Honourable senators, while introducing President Otunbayeva, His Highness the Aga Khan described her as a remarkable leader and woman of courage, conviction, integrity and foresight. The Aga Khan commended her for her remarkable achievements in cultivating shared citizenship for the diverse population of Kyrgyzstan.

I applaud President Otunbayeva for having successfully guided the people of Kyrgyzstan in their quest for democracy, while always safeguarding human rights. We admire her courage and foresight and look forward to working with her.