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Sunday, 30 October 2011

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True friends, the need of the hour

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will complete six years in office as the fifth Executive President on November 18. It will also mark 30 months since Sri Lanka eradicated terrorism successfully and vanquished the LTTE leadership on May 18, 2009 under the illustrious leadership of President Rajapaksa.

Had it not been for the indomitable courage and the right political leadership of President Rajapaksa, the Security Forces would never have succeeded in their battle against terrorism. During Sri Lanka's three-decade long battle against the ruthless LTTE terrorist organisation, the country's valiant Security Forces who were well-disciplined had the courage to eradicate terrorism.

Former top commanders of the calibre of the late General Denzil Kobbekaduwa made a concerted effort and were determined to crush the LTTE. However, their efforts and the supreme sacrifices of the soldiers at the time bore no fruit as the country lacked the right political leadership.

But lo and behold, from the day President Rajapaksa was first elected as the Head of State on November 18, 2005, there was a dramatic change and this led to the downfall of the LTTE. On the other hand, Sri Lanka made tremendous progress after terrorism was eradicated two and a half years ago.

Having rescued over half a million people from the jaws of LTTE terror during the 2006-2009 humanitarian operation in the North and the East, all of them were resettled in double quick time, setting new global standards in the resettlement of displaced persons. Most of those rescued had been held by the LTTE as a human shield and were subjected to untold misery.

Moreover, these civilians were treated humanely by the most disciplined Army in the world. They were treated with brotherly affection and provided the best facilities in camps until they were given permanent shelter. This was indeed a commendable post-conflict record for Sri Lanka.

Simultaneously, reconciliation and development programs were set in motion, thereby opening new horizons for people in the North and the East. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and only those who had been rescued and resettled would vouch for it - from the days they were forcibly held under LTTE terror rule and their current living conditions in a free environment sans fear and intimidation. Even ex-LTTE cadre have been rehabilitated and assimilated into civil society and provided skills development programs.

Meanwhile, the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is due to be released soon. It would be finalised, having given a patient hearing to all those who were involved - the civilians who were held under LTTE rule and the Security Forces who were engaged in the world's biggest human rescue mission and all other stakeholders.

The international community is certainly free to air their views when the report is out, but they should not get carried away by the insidious campaigns that have been schemed by a section of the Tamil diaspora and LTTE sympathisers who would tap a few leading International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) to speak in support of them. Hence, it is the responsibility of the international community and reputed world organisations such as the United Nations, to study the actual situation in Sri Lanka in a broader perspective.

The Government recently underscored the importance of the international community and commended Sri Lanka's achievements in the field of rehabilitation of former LTTE combatants, reconciliation and infrastructure development in affected areas in the North and the East.

External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris highlighted that the crucial role of the LLRC is a sensitive mechanism which addresses in a constructive spirit, the pain and anguish of the past and builds the foundation for a future filled with promise and expectation. Hence, any sort of presumption would be a reflection of prejudice which will affect the delicate reconciliation process.

Sri Lanka's reconciliation process has a significant economic dimension which is amply demonstrated by the fact that the economy of the Northern Province recorded a growth rate of 22 percent - the highest ever. This has been mainly due to the Government's rapid action plan under which a massive development drive was launched in the Northern Province with particular emphasis on the development of highways and rail roads.

Large volumes of capital were made available by banks to entrepreneurs in the area for resettled civilians in the North and the East to get actively involved in the national development drive to improve their living standards. This resulted in generating employment and reviving agricultural activity and fisheries in the two provinces.

Minister Peiris said that the Government was in the process of integrating former LTTE combatants into society after exposing them to vocational training which assured them of access to livelihoods and incomes.

If the international community is sincerely interested in the well-being of the resettled civilians in the North and the East, they should wholeheartedly commend Sri Lanka's efforts and the success it has achieved, without jumping to conclusions or adopting partisan attitudes.

As President Rajapaksa recently said, Sri Lanka speaks the language of peace after decades of terrorism that affected thousands of Sri Lankans of all communities. The Government's primary focus is to ensure that all citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity, learn the three main languages to forge closer ties among one another with English as the link language.

Barely two-and-a-half years after terrorism was eradicated, Sri Lanka is heading towards new economic horizons with the aim of becoming the Wonder of Asia. It has already carved a niche as a prominent destination for business, leisure and tranquillity after three decades of LTTE terror which almost brought the national economy to a near state of collapse.

Sri Lanka's hard work has no doubt paid rich dividends. LTTE terrorism was eradicated by Sri Lanka's Security Forces in an exemplary manner. In the same vein, the country could find its own home-grown solution in its reconciliation and nation-building drive.

Sri Lanka only needs sincere and steadfast friends who would lend a helping hand in a spirit of true solidarity and brotherhood and not mere arbitrators with vested interests.

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