President at 66th Independence Day celebrations:
Sri Lankans move towards reconciliation, development
Steps taken to solve unemployment problem:
Development brought to village:
President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses the 66th Independence Day
celebrations in Kegalle
President Mahinda Rajapaksa called upon all countries to join hands
on the path to democracy, development, national freedom and the
strengthening of human rights.
Speaking at the Independence Day celebrations in Kegalle last
Tuesday, President Rajapaksa said: “People in our country who belong to
all religions and speak different languages are moving together in unity
and strength towards reconciliation and development. With utmost
goodwill, I call upon all countries to join hands with us in the path to
democracy, development, national freedom and the strengthening of human
He pointed out that if terrorism was not eradicated in 2009, children
in the North could not have attended school or entered universities
freely as they do today. “But today, people in the North enjoy
wide-ranging freedom. You can see this when you visit the North. We, Sri
Lankans who were born in this country, were brought up in this country
and live in this country have every desire to protect the peace and
unity of our country much more than any others from outside. We have to
recall the bitter memories of the past because baseless allegations are
levelled against us,” the President said.
President Rajapaksa said nobody expected, eight years ago, the
development seen today.
“Even the most vehement foreign critics have acknowledged the wonders
of this infrastructure development. We are rapidly progressing: from war
to peace, from inefficiency to efficiency, pollution to cleanliness,
un-development to development and slavery to freedom”.
|A section of
|Some of the
foreign dignitaries present at the event
personnel take part in the celebrations
The full text of the President's speech:
“We have unfurled the National Flag today to mark the 66th
anniversary of Independence, when the whole of Sri Lanka enjoys freedom.
History records that where we are gathered today has links to several
important places of our independence. Temples and monasteries dating
back to the era of King Devanampiyatissa, more than 2,000 years ago, are
also found in this region.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa hoists the National Flag to
inaugurate the Independence Day celebrations
King Vijayabahu, who liberated the Motherland from the Chola invaders
was protected here. Further, Prince Yatalatissa, son of Mahanaga, was
born at Yatahalena here. He was succeeded by Gotabhaya, father of
Kavantissa, the father of our great King Dutu Gemunu. That is not all.
The Kingdom of Sithavaka Rajasingha was also situated in the Kegalle
district. Hence, the holding of this Independence Day celebrations in
Kegalle is all the more meaningful.
When the Mahinda Chinthana was endorsed by the people of this country
in 2005, to usher in an honourable peace to our Motherland, the people
of Sri Lanka did not have the freedom to travel to one-third of the
The Tigers were in forceful occupation of two-thirds of the coastline
of the country. Not only the unity of the country, but also the economy
was almost in its deathbed. Freedom means responsibility.
Yet, previous governments were not prepared to shoulder the
responsibility of liberating the country from terrorists or building the
There were airlines, gas companies, estate houses and insurance
companies. We have given them to people's ownership. We took the
responsibility of building highways and a modern roadways network, new
ports, a new airport and became the only Asian country to provide
24-hour electricity to the entire country.
We also took efforts to bring the rural environment to the city and
the development of the city to village, as you can see here. We have
also carried out the important responsibility of solving the
unemployment problem by providing state employment to hundreds of
thousands of graduates. We have brought development to the village and
made us self-sufficient in rice by building tanks and reservoirs.
We took the important decision that hundreds of thousands of youth
who are unable to join universities should be provided bilingual
education and taught subjects such as science and technical subjects,
and given vocational training. Nobody expected, eight years ago, the
development seen today.
For the first time, we hosted a Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting and showed to the world how we developed the country, making use
of the peaceful environment and the reconciliatory attitudes of our
people. Even the most vehement foreign critics have acknowledged the
wonders of this infrastructural development.
We are rapidly progressing: From war to peace, from inefficiency to
efficiency, from pollution to cleanliness, from under-development to
development and from slavery to freedom.
When we defeated terrorism and won freedom for the people in the
South, we said that it was our responsibility to make it a greater
victory for the people in the North. Nobody came forward to give the
freedom to the people of the North that they enjoy today.
When their human rights were violated, there was nobody to restore
them. Only we were concerned about it. Nobody raised the issue of human
rights when the former Opposition Leader Amirthalingam, Sam Thambimuttu,
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Rajiv Gandhi of India were
Before 2009, every family in the North had to provide a member to the
LTTE. Thousands of children of school-going age were forcefully
recruited to the LTTE. The children returning home from school were
forcefully dragged away to LTTE training camps.
The LTTE grabbed the subsidies sent from the South to the North. The
LTTE even levied a tax on celebrations held for a girl's attainment of
age. A family was not allowed to leave Kilinochchi together for any
On pay day, the LTTE waited near the Kachcheriya to grab money, a
portion of the government employees’ monthly salary. They also forcibly
used Northern civilians to build bunkers.
Where did these people come in search of their freedom? They came to
the midst of the Sinhala community. Places such as Kollupitiya,
Bambalapitiya, Wellawatta, Modera and Mattakkuliya in and along the
suburbs were full of the people who came in search of peace.
If we did not eradicate terrorism in 2009, children in the North
could not have attended school or entered the universities as freely as
they do today. But today people in the North enjoy wide-ranging freedom.
You can see this when you visit the North. Three decades of suffering
ended on May 19, 2009. Since then, there has been no bomb explosion or
shooting by terrorists: And no white flags of mourning in our villages.
It is necessary for the people in the North to be aware that certain
foreign forces are attempting to use them as human shields.
The invaders always came to our country, shedding oceans of crocodile
They interfered in these countries, putting forward claims to protect
human rights, establish democracy and the rule of law.
Every powerful country should realise the difficulty in defeating
What we faced was a more serious and brutal challenge than they ever
faced. The difference between them and us was that we instructed the
Security Forces to give the highest priority to protect the lives of
Those powerful countries took 50 to 100 years for reconciliation
after civil wars. We have to ask the world whether there is any country
that has progressed so much on the path of reconciliation in just four
We see the use of information provided by those who are committed to
separatism and those who were defeated by the people to level charges of
war crimes and other alleged offences against Sri Lanka as a grave
I see the attempts to level charges of war crimes against us in
Geneva today as the triumph of those who are not in favour of peace.
This seeks to drive fear into people and nations committed to peace and
working to safeguard a country's independence and freedom.
These are not founded on peace, fair play or justice. We
categorically state here that we are not ready, under any circumstances,
to deprive our country of the freedom we have won.
We Sri Lankans who were born in this country, were brought up in this
country, and live in this country, have every desire to protect the
peace and unity of our country much more than any others from outside.
We have to recall the bitter memories of the past when baseless
allegations are levelled against us.
Bitter memories should be written on sand as they get wiped away.
Good experiences should be etched on stone to be remembered forever.
We know what should be written on sand and forgotten and what should
be etched in stone and remembered.
Forgetting these bitter memories, we have pardoned the terrorists who
came to kill us and rehabilitated them, providing employment for some of
them in the Police and the Civil Defence Corps and provided them with
suitable livelihoods.Revenge has never been a part of our culture.
We have acted to provide justice through the law by defeating
terrorism and curbing underworld gangs of the South. Our fundamental
thinking is not to introduce laws that are not considered necessary
while protecting the laws. Instead of bringing new laws, we ended the
State of Emergency that lasted for 30 years.
Whatever obstructions caused by the media when we were battling
terrorism, we did not censor the media.
We even opened the door for some anti-peace and anti-national media
institutions who were not allowed in other countries. We continue to
follow the policy of ‘Eva, balava’ (Come and see).
The public opinion from all parts of the country including the North,
East, South and West are reflected in elections to the lowest democratic
bodies to the presidency, as seen in elections we held to Pradeshiya
Sabhas and Provincial Councils, general elections and Presidential
We should keep in mind that our contest is not among blue, green, red
or yellow parties; or Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher communities.
Our contest is between those who love this country and those who have
hatred towards it. People in our country who belong to all religions and
speak different languages are moving together in unity and strength
towards reconciliation and development. With utmost goodwill, I call
upon all countries to join hands with us on the path to democracy,
development, national freedom and the strengthening of human rights.
In speaking to you on Independence Day last year, I quoted some words
of the Buddha. I will recall this today.
The Buddha gave a valuable lesson to the Brahman, Ambetta, based on a
female bird named ‘keta kirilli’ commonly known in villages as
Gomariththa (common wagtail).
It is a bird that builds its nest in the soil that is overturned when
ploughing. The Buddha said; “Latuki - kapiko Ambatta sake Kulawake
This means the keta kirilli too should have the freedom to live as it
wishes in its nest.
It should be the same for the Sri Lankan people. People in my country
too should have the right to live freely in this country. May you have a