Rising from the shackles of colonialism 62 years ago and annihilating an almost three decade long grip of terrorism from our shores eight months ago, we celebrate this anniversary of Independence in 2010, with a great sense of oneness and pride. Nearly half of our country’s contemporary independent history has witnessed a struggle against the brutal forces of terrorism which sought to tear asunder the very sovereignty of our great nation gained by our forefathers.
The successful humanitarian operation to extricate our motherland from the jackboot of the terrorists under the committed leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has brought a new Sri Lanka to its people and the world at large. The vote at the recent Presidential election, is an overwhelming endorsement by the people of this country of President Rajapaksa’s achievements for their betterment, and providing a firmer foundation for the further strengthening of national amity, progress and prosperity of our nation as envisioned in the “Mahinda Chinthana”.
The defeat of the separatist terrorists, one time thought to be invincible, has been achieved, thus eradicating the plague of terrorism. I pay tribute to our heroic forces who valiantly fought the elimination of terror to secure our blessed country, and the people of Sri Lanka, for the resilience demonstrated by their sacrifices through those dark days of uncertainty.
A new era of peace and hope has dawned for the country with a renewed mandate for the continued leadership of President Rajapaksa, that too with the beginning of another decade. Sri Lanka is now wholly poised as a free country to achieve prosperity, which the people so richly deserve. This freedom I believe, enriches the achievement of our Independence in 1948. While in the clutches of terrorist conflict, unprecedented development work has been undertaken by the Government, with the last four years recording an exceptional increase in per capita income, enabling sustained economic growth. Sri Lanka is a land of plenty, fertile in rich resources which provided the very basis for the country’s economic resistance to a turbulent world economy, exacerbated by having to defend the onslaught of terrorism domestically.
Mega development programmes are being actively pursued in the country with the initiation of the construction of harbours, airports, roads, electricity generation etc. Investments are flowing into the country with new employment avenues being generated, further empowering the people with the accruing benefits which the Government has sought to spread equitably with the distribution of equal resources throughout the country. The surge towards the country’s development and glory has now begun in earnest, which we must sustain to emerge as a “Wonder of Asia” in the near future.
Guided by the principles of non-alignment and being friends with all in the conduct of foreign relations, has earned Sri Lanka a pivotal position in the global community. The bedrock of our engagement with the international community has been one of moderation, engagement and peaceful co-existence which have facilitated Sri Lanka to continue to play an important role in the United Nations and other multilateral fora, culminating in currently being Chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and endorsed to take the top slots of the G-15 this year and Commonwealth in three years. The diverse interests of Sri Lanka have been served through its membership in multilateral fora which also include BIMSTEC, IORARC, G77, Shanghai Cooperation Dialogue and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Sri Lanka has never been bereft of friends in the international community, and this is an appropriate opportunity to extend our appreciation for the assistance rendered to us in countering terrorism to safeguard the sovereignty of this nation and enhancing economic development.
On this momentous anniversary of Independence, with the added significance of it being in immediate succession of the first post conflict national election, let us Sri Lankans, all come together in a spirit of trust and understanding leaving aside differences, to rededicate ourselves to be united as a single nation, community and citizenry, and embark on a journey to lead Sri Lanka into new vistas for a brighter future. Following in the footsteps of those Sri Lankans who freed our country from colonial domination, it is time that we banished any hatred and mistrust amongst us, and let no force queer the pitch of democratic institutions being reinvigorated which has begun, in order to create an equal political space for us all.
I reiterate the call of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for all Sri Lankans living overseas to return to Sri Lanka and join in being true stakeholders of Sri Lanka’s economic and social advancement.
As we celebrate our anniversary of Independence in this new decade of the 21st century, let us all march forward united, to secure and begin an era with a greater vibrant democracy and spiraling development for the country, while achieving our own aspirations – it is a New Sri Lanka that is before us today.
“You are aware that during the operation to defend the country, I protected the heroes who fought for the country. I represented them everywhere. And now in the nation building process, I will protect the honest and skilled people who work for the betterment of the country. The country cannot be developed with harassment, gross punishments or by the gun. Discipline is not revenge. The nation can only be built through commitment, discipline and elimination of corruption,” stated President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 62nd Independence Day celebration in Kandy today (04 Feb).
Today we celebrate the anniversary of independence after the liberation of the entire country from terrorist threat for the first time in 30 years. I am proud to proclaim that we are in a position to raise the flag of Sri Lanka with dignity in the entire country,
President Rajapaksa, addressing the nation in Sinhala and Tamil, further stated that the people of the North and East suffered for thirty years without the democratic right. “I was able to grant them democracy. That is the greatest victory we have achieved,” he said.
We were able to gain many achievements because infrastructure was speedily built whilst the war was being waged. I will use this mandate given by you to re- establish all that was lost for the past 30 years due to the war, stated the President.
He continued, “an efficient, advanced nation needs to be built to replace a country which is lazy, lethargic and lacks energy. It is meaningless to blame our nation for its inefficiency whilst referring to the efficiency and progress of other countries. We proved at the recent overwhelming victory that our people could overtake them”.
I protected the heroes who fought for the country. I represented them everywhere. Even during the nation building process, I will protect the honest and skilled people who work for the betterment of the country, the President emphasized.
Following is the full text of the speech:
Today we celebrate the anniversary of Independence after the liberation of the entire country from terrorist threat for the first time in 30 years. I am proud to proclaim that we are in a position to raise the flag of Sri Lanka with dignity in the entire country.
In 1815, Variyapola Sumangala Thero hoisted our flag on this historic land after lowering the Union Jack. I wish to pay my respect to the venerable monks as well as the revered clergy of all religions for their dedication and commitment displayed to preserve this freedom.
When I unfurled the national flag today, I remembered those heroic soldiers who sacrificed their lives and limbs for the freedom of the country and all those who worked with dedication for the liberation struggle.
Freedom is a responsibility. The people of this country have entrusted me with that responsibility on January 26 by a larger majority than in the 2005 Presidential election. I would like to assure you that I will fulfill that trust placed upon me.
Accordingly, it was demonstrated to the world that for us the Motherland is first, second and third. Thus, we have become richer with the supreme human quality of gratitude. It is my fortune to fight along side people with such great qualities to preserve the freedom of our nation. It is indeed a privilege to live in a country with such intelligent people. I am fortunate to be the leader of a country of fathers, mothers and children who know the value of gratitude.
I have succeeded in uniting the territory. Now, I am entrusted with the task of uniting the hearts of all sections of our people. I willingly take over the noble task of creating peace among our communities.
The first Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake stated on the occasion of the first Independence Day that the meaning of freedom is to curtail sorrows and enhance happiness. That is the desire of the people when a country attains independence. I would like to point out that the past four years was the most meaningful era of freedom since we attained independence.
This is the time when the benefits of unifying the nation begin to show results. Now that the war has ended, the nation is saving more than the cost of the war. International research magazines recently reported that Sri Lanka is among the 31 countries in the list of best tourist destinations. Sri Lanka is second only to China among Asia's fastest growing economies. Sri Lanka is also listed among the best countries for investment. We cordially invite investors here.
We were able to gain such achievements because infrastructure was speedily built whilst the war was being waged. I will use this mandate given by you to re- establish all that was lost for the past 30 years due to the war.
Our country which fell back in progress because of the war needs to be advanced swiftly. Peace alone is not enough. An efficient, advanced nation needs to be built to replace a country which is lazy, lethargic and lacks energy. It is meaningless to blame our nation for its inefficiency whilst referring to the efficiency and progress of other countries. We proved at the recent overwhelming victory that our people could overtake them.
In the development of the country the private sector too has a responsibility similar to that of the public sector. There is a better environment for the private sector which was at a standstill during the war. I expect a public service which can take quick decisions and which is people friendly. I will make the government service a service for the public.
You are aware that during the operation to defend the country, I protected the heroes who fought for the country. I represented them everywhere. And now in the nation building process, I will protect the honest and skilled people who work for the betterment of the country. The country cannot be developed with harassment, gross punishments or by the gun. Discipline is not revenge. The nation can only be built through commitment, discipline and elimination of corruption.
In the Mahinda Chintana, we mentioned that Sri Lanka will be made a centre of marine, aviation, commercial, energy and knowledge. You may feel that this target is very far. But we will bring the benefits of these five great economic forces closer to your feet in the near future in order to end the era of sorrow and tears. We will give more opportunities to artistes, authors, musicians so that the yield of their creativity would enhance the contentment of the society.
We will make this a country where people return to, instead of leave for fear of life or poverty. We need to remove the bureaucratic hurdles on the path to economic development as we removed road barriers. My people were at a standstill for thirty years because of terrorists. Now this era is over. We will create a country where people can live at ease.
I implore the separatist forces and local and international conspirators not to underestimate our motherland and the people of this nation.
We have brought massive development to the North and East regions as never witnessed in history after removing their fear of death. Uthuru Vasanthaya (Northern Spring) and Nagenahira Navodaya (Eastern Awakening) are some of the major development projects in the country.
The people of the North and East suffered for thirty years without their democratic rights. I was able to grant them democracy. That is the greatest victory we have achieved.
We do not strengthen the parties based on divisive politics on the basis of colour or tribe, pro- LTTE or separatist.
I am certain that the people in the North and East could stand on their own feet through a solution wrought by devolving powers to the villages and empowering them in the entire country.
In accordance with Mahinda Chintana: Vision Ahead, I believe that discussions should be held with the people and their representatives of those areas to find solutions and take action as necessary.
My dear people
Today is our Independence Day. It is a very happy day for all of us. Thirty years of terrorism is now over. We are celebrating our independence in such an atmosphere for the first time. Now all of you can live in consolation without fear or doubt.
Anyone can go anywhere freely. That is very important. This is our motherland. All of us are children of one mother. All of us are kings today. We all should live together as brothers with equal rights and with dignity. Let us discuss our issues among ourselves and resolve them.
Everyone will receive all facilities in equal manner. That is called equality and equal rights.
One country, one people, one law. That is our way, the only way.
Thus, there is no racism, separatism or terrorism. Never forget the motherland; never betray it. We consider no one in our country as a minority person. All those who love the country are children of Mother Lanka.
Our motherland is emerging as a hub of development. Democracy should be protected forever.
Recently, the people of Northern and Eastern provinces too were able to vote democratically. I am very pleased about it. Politicians should not mislead the innocent people.
Hereafter, we will not entertain narrow divisions based on race, religion, language and political ideology in terms of regions. Never leave room for the politics of hate. Peace, brotherhood, co-existence and prosperity -- that is our prime objective.
Let us join together. Let us build this country for the sake of our future generations.
(end of Tamil text)
You all are aware that our foreign policy is independent and non-aligned. It is no secret that we have maintained close friendly relationships with our neighbours such as India, China, Japan and others. We also maintain close affinity with Africa, the West, the Middle East and the European countries.
In my foreign policy, whatever I have done was in the interest of the people of this country. Now the world should have a correct opinion about us. The Tiger terrorism that impacted on other countries too has ended. The state of war is now over. We are entering into a new era of co-existence after finishing the period of some controversy. I would like to say that we are now entering the golden era of international relations.
I never thought of gaining political mileage and take decisions that betrayed the nation. I will never betray the country. The decisions I took from the time when I decided to defeat terrorism, were taken while thinking of the country's welfare. I did not think of political power when I took decisions. I did not take decisions to implement major projects; the Norochcholai coal power station and Upper Kotmale hydroelectric project to obtain foreign assistance to stay in power. I have done this for the development of the country. I have done this because those are essential for the country. We will not surrender even an inch of territory from our Motherland. As I have always said, we will not take even a single step backwards to stay in power. On the other hand, we will go forward many steps under any difficult conditions in the interest of the nation.
My feet were worn out by walking in long marches with my people. I have sweated in the fight for the rights of the working class. My voice was trained and tuned to rise up against injustice.
I spent my free time listening to the grievances of the common people. The only time I could not listen to the problems of the common people was when I was imprisoned for fighting for the democratic rights of the people. Our house has become a home for the common people. Today, the luxurious carpets at the Temple Trees affectionately receive the feet of common people.
I did not ask you to crown me. However, please remember that I have placed the crown of freedom, prosperity and heroism on the heads of you and your children.
I have understood the fatherly love and affection of your sons and daughters for me. The affection of the sons and daughters of this country was an enormous blessing for me.
It was on this historic place that Veera Keppetipola sacrificed his life without any fear, for the freedom of the nation. I believe that the leaders who ruled this nation should have a heart which will not betray the country similar to that of Veera Keppetipola.
Now I am addressing you from the place where the child hero, Madduma Bandara, son of Keppetipola's sister, sacrificed his life without display of any fear. Please remember that the hearts of your sons and daughters too are filled with unlimited love for the motherland similar to that of Madduma Bandara. Your sons and daughters have unlimited love for me for the same reason.
I feel I am the world's luckiest leader of state to earn the love and affection of such a heroic and talented generation of children.
Please protect your child who grows up with love for the country. We have to build a society where your sons and daughters could live with knowledge and good values. It is for our children that we build this nation to be the Pride of Asia.
I wish you a prosperous future.
May the Triple Gem bless you and the blessings of the Sacred Tooth relic be with you.
By MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA
January 26 was an historic day for Sri Lanka . It was the first presidential election for more than 25 years that was unaffected by the terrorism and intimidation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, otherwise known as the Tamil Tigers. The overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans who exercised their democratic right last Tuesday voted for an end to division, an end to terrorism and for a new beginning of peace and prosperity. I am proud that the election was well fought, but peaceful on voting day. All who wished to participate, could.
But this victory is merely the start for Sri Lanka . After removing terrorism from our country, I sought a full mandate from my people. Now I shall seek to work to build our nation for all of them; to make the nation stronger and more able to succeed in today's globalized world.
I know as well as anyone that our future success relies on a lasting peace. The removal of terrorism was an important milestone in this process, but the nation needs to be bound by a common purpose. That purpose will be built around a full reconciliation program. My new government will address the genuine grievances of all communities and bolster the enforcement of equal rights for all. We will emphasize better police training to meet the new conditions of peace, and boost representation from all groups in Sri Lankan society.
More importantly, the lasting peace will unlock the true potential of Sri Lanka and provide a range of opportunities for all of our people. Already the International Monetary Fund has upgraded Sri Lanka to a "middle-income emerging market," and our economy is now the second fastest growing in Asia . With our educated workforce and our strategic trading position, I intend to make good on predictions that Sri Lanka can become South Asia's Singapore —or better.
We will work hard to ensure that this economic growth benefits all our people through improvements in job opportunities, skills training and education. No one will be left out. No one will be left behind.
For citizens residing in the north and east, we will continue to rebuild local infrastructure and essential facilities, so these areas can grow in tandem with the rest of the country. For people that were displaced by the conflict, we will realize their expectations of new livelihoods in peacetime. The people of these regions, whose lives were filled with fear and despair, will now have hope and opportunity.
The evidence of peace and prosperity will be there for all to see. My hope is that the world will come and see this change for themselves. We ask tourists to come. Our island is full of unparalleled beauty. The hospitality of my fellow countrymen has been described in the superlative throughout history.
We ask investors to see the huge opportunities and natural resources available to them, to experience the proud work ethic of Sri Lankans and make use of the enormous talent of our graduates and adaptability of our skilled workers.
We are sure that if the world's people come to see the real Sri Lanka , they will support our country. That, in turn, will benefit us all through more trade and employment, jobs and opportunities.
I know that there are some people and policy makers abroad who have criticized what we did to bring an end to violence and terrorism. They said our measures threatened the people and undermined democracy. This election has shown that the reality is very different. The people of Sri Lanka, democratically and very clearly, have shown that they are free of threats, fear and terrorism, and that they want to embrace the future that could only be achieved through the decisive measures taken last year.
I call on the international community to support us as we build a peaceful and successful Sri Lanka , united in our resolve to achieve the progress denied for decades. My government will work hard for all its people. Our economy will grow and the highest standards of rights will be upheld. I can say with confidence that Sri Lanka is ready for the new decade.
(Mr. Rajapaksa is president of Sri Lanka .)
Courtesy: Wall Street Journal 3. Feb. 2010
On Friday, 2010 January 15, an annular eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a 300-km-wide track that traverses half of Earth. The path of the Moon’s antumbral shadow begins in Africa and passes through into Asia.
When the antumbra reaches Asia the central line passes directly between the southern tip of India and northern Sri Lanka (07:51 UT). Both regions lie within the path where maximum annularity lasts 10 minutes 15 seconds.
The annular eclipse will be visible in Sri Lanka on the 15th of January 2010 from 11.10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This phenomenon would be witnessed in Sri Lanka after over half a century.
This rare event will blanket Sri Lanka’s northern areas for up to ten minutes in darkness in one of the most amazing displays of the sun and moon over our earth.
The best areas to witness this phenomenon are Anuradhapura and Jaffna.
All interested observes are welcome to visit Sri Lanka to witness this rare event. The solar eclipse coincidentally happens during the same weekend as Thai Pongal on January 14th which will be all the more reason for visitors to celebrate a long weekend that would be one to remember.
The links below provide further information on the solar eclipse:
Sri Lanka High Commission
31st December 2009