Maximising peace dividends
Almost two years have elapsed
since Sri Lanka won its deadly battle against terror. On May 19, Sri
Lanka will be celebrating its second anniversary after LTTE terror was
eradicated and the nation united under the Lion flag.
Despite countries in the West having the most sophisticated military
establishments in the world none of their Armies has been able to match
the Herculean tasks of Sri Lanka's Security Forces which vanquished the
Tiger leadership and liberated over half a million people from the grip
Thanks to the valiant efforts of the Security Forces and the
inspiring political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who
backed them wholeheartedly, Sri Lanka is now enjoying the dividends of
peace. The country's humanitarian initiatives enabled the Government,
not only to eradicate terrorism, but also divert the resources spent
earlier on defence for social welfare and development.
Public expenditure on rural centric initiatives, farmers, children
and other related expenditure on the provision of water, sanitation and
clean environment are more productive and beneficial for the welfare of
As the President quite rightly pointed out at last week's Ministerial
Summit of the South Asian Conference on Sanitation, it is now opportune
for all countries to divert their defence expenditure on development.
These staggering sums of monies that most countries spend on conflicts
and wars must be diverted to development, research and technology to
reduce the level of poverty and suffering.
Sri Lanka has not only ended an excruciating and costly battle
against terrorism, but also reduced its defence expenditure by over five
percent of its GDP prior to 2005 to around three percent in 2010. This
is the requisite level to provide national security and sustain peace in
Sri Lanka has a steadfast commitment to provide universal access to
water and good sanitation by 2020 and is confident of achieving it, as
the country has already achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
in a key area - the lowest maternal mortality rate in South and South
East Asia. Sri Lanka is on track to achieve the MDGs in universal
primary education, gender parity in primary education and maternal and
child health. The country is also on course to achieve the MDG target
for declining poverty by 2015.
At a time the world is plagued by numerous disasters, both natural
and man-made, it is incumbent on us to be ready to face any eventuality.
Sri Lanka can take justifiable pride in having met the challenges in two
exceedingly difficult situations in recent times - the tsunami
devastation on Boxing Day in 2004 and the rehabilitation and
resettlement of over 500,000 people, following the liberation of the
North and the East.
These crisis situations which posed difficult and complex issues were
handled adroitly by a sense of commitment, innovation and, moreover, a
humanitarian approach to the problem. It was purely due to the country's
readiness to address such challenges that Sri Lanka was able to debunk
Simultaneously, Sri Lanka's friendly countries played a pivotal role
during the tsunami catastrophe and the deadly battle against terror. In
this context we remember with gratitude the assistance proffered to Sri
Lanka by its regional neighbours, and friends in other parts of the
Sri Lanka, under its policy framework envisioned in the Mahinda
Chinthana safeguards the country's unity and territorial integrity while
taking the nation forward to face future challenges.
Sri Lanka is fortified by its rich history and cultural and religious
traditions that have played a key role in nation building. Sri Lanka's
abundance of natural resources and its conducive environment for
agriculture would be a distinct advantage to meet any future world food
Thanks to the untiring efforts of the President and the Government's
focus on infrastructure development countrywide, migration to urban
areas from rural settings has been on the decline. What is significant
is that despite waging a relentless battle against the most ruthless
terror outfit in the world, Sri Lanka went ahead with its development
drive with some mega infrastructure upgrading projects.
The Government found the wherewithal that was urgently needed to fund
the battle against terrorism and launch mega development projects. That
was precisely how Sri Lanka rose from the ashes of terror and marched
forward as a nation with one of the fastest-growing economies in the
world. Sri Lanka is far ahead when compared to countries which had faced
similar situations. The development projects improved the quality of
life of people far and wide.
The President has also pointed out that economic growth alone would
not suffice. It must produce widespread benefits to the masses while
improving the basic needs of the society. Access to water, sanitation,
shelter, electricity, health and education is key, to open the doors for
a better life.
The aim of the Government is to maximise the dividends of peace. The
prime target of the Government is to usher in a better tomorrow for the
masses, encompassing those who had been rescued from the jaws of LTTE
The masses are acutely aware of the President's intention and
continue to repose faith in the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
Despite wily moves by the Opposition, the people across the length and
breadth of the country have extended their utmost support to the UPFA at
The Opposition by no means could thwart the Government's wave of
success. In the event the Opposition continues to indulge in base
politics and looks for short cuts to regain power they would only
alienate themselves further. The Opposition even at this late stage
should refrain from bringing the country into disrepute in the eyes of
the International Community.