by Mahinda Rajapaksa
(Text of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s address to the nation, at the Armed Services Humanitarian Victory Parade, Galle Face, Colombo on May 19th 2012)
I need not state afresh that this day – the 19th of May – is now a great historic day in our country.
Today marks third celebration of victory of the nation under a single flag. It is the great victory that restored the honorable peace that our country had preserved through many centuries. Similarly, it is also the great victory that freed many lakhs of people in the North who were held hostage by the forces of terror and removed the fear of death that existed among all people.
Our heroes and veterans of war gave their feet for us to walk in freedom. They gave their lives to save all people from the throes of death. They gave their last breath to the winds to let us breathe in freedom. The nation will no doubt remember all that sacrifice with great honor.
We will not stop there. We have now given a new meaning to all the blood, sweat and tears shed by them on behalf of the nation.
We are now protecting the country that was won through this sacrifice and building a great country that is free, independent and not subject to any others. I recall how when we were strengthening our armed forces, police and civil defense corps the questions being raised as to how they could be maintained after the war is over.
Is this not a great wasteful expenditure, was the question asked. These questions were raised even before we could complete the task ahead. Today, I ask you to consider whether this criticism was just or reasonable.
When terrorism prevailed, the armed forces had a great responsibility. Once peace has been established, the heroes who brought us freedom have a similar responsibility. It is the task of rebuilding the country and adding to its beauty.
I state with great humility and justified pride that we have given dignity of life to the heroes of war who brought to us the dignity of peace. I believe the Ranaviru Housing Project is the largest housing project established in Sri Lanka. We have not only given your children entry to national schools but also built a separate War Heroes school, which is today among the best schools in the country. I see some of these children present here today. Similarly, we have well thought out programs to care for the disabled veterans, especially in places such as the Mihindu Seth Medura.
We also ensure that the veterans who retire from our forces are given necessary vocational training before they return to civilian life. The Rathna Lanka Security Service has been especially established for these veterans. We extend our love to the unborn children of our veterans. This is why we proposed in the last budget that the third child of a war hero’s family would receive a grant of Rs. 100, 000.
I do not know whether this is effectively used and invite you to do so. We have also given the opportunity for those with artistic talent among our veterans to bring their talents to the fore, enhance it, and give them recognition in the country. I do not think any other country in the word respects its heroes and veterans in such manner.
You will recall how terrorism compelled us all to live in the midst of much restrictions and obstructions, through 30 years. It is just three years since the war ended. Today, the country that faced such restrictions has returned to normal. We have systematically removed from our vocabulary the references of refugee camps, land mines and villages under threat. There is no State of Emergency today.
There are no high security zones. The check points and road blocks that we had through every two or three kilometers, and even on this Galle Road, are not there anymore.
It is no secret that through 30 years there were armed groups and militias operating, especially in the North and East. All such groups have now been disarmed. There were limits imposed on fishermen under which they could not go beyond a certain distance. These restrictions are also no more. The era of the underworld and drug racketeers is ending. Today Sri Lanka is a country free of restrictions and obstacles.
Although this is the actual situation in the country, there are some who have restrictions in their minds and thinking. Although the people feel today’s relief in their hearts, some are not ready to expect the reality of such relief.
We are aware that the armed forces do not participate in the administration of the North or East. These regions are administered by the public service and the police. Despite this there are many who shout that the security forces camps in these areas should be removed.
They ask us why they are not removed. But no one asks whether those who make such demands are not seeking to achieve what Prabhakaran failed to obtain through the use of ship loads of arms, aerial attacks, sea tiger and human suicide bomb attacks through 30 years of war of terror. Are they now not asking this through different means?
It is necessary to ask those who call for the removal of the armed forces from the North whether the ‘Diaspora’ and Eelamists have stopped their work although the country has returned to normal. It is no secret that those who conscripted children to war, and other war criminals who are leaders of the LTTE, are acting with freedom in foreign countries.
Just as much as their work their demands also remain the same; they seek the same ends through different means. Therefore, we must ask if we in a position to remove the armed forces camps in the North and reduce our attention national security. That is not possible. Armed services camps are not found in the North alone. They are seen throughout the country. They are in Colombo and Giruvapattu in the South. These are found in our country. Not in any foreign country.
We are a country that is a member of the United Nations, working with friendship with all countries and sit with equality with all its members. We are a non-aligned country. We have the strength to resolve our own problems and issues. After 30 years we now see the dawn that will take us to a golden age of the future. We are a country with a free and independent policy aligned to peace.
I need not repeat that it is a difficult task to build a country with huge development in keeping with international levels of growth. Yet, we have now begun to raise our head as a nation. What we seek is to bring to the world a modern developed county. We have not forgotten the help and assistance given to us by our neighbors and other countries of the international community to defeat terrorism. Similarly, what we expect from them today is cooperation in our moves for rapid development of the country.
We appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) with great expectations of bringing about reconciliation among communities. We are already carrying out what we can agree to and can implement among the recommendations of the LLRC. This is not due to any pressure from anyone. We will not abandon our responsibilities.
I believe the countries of the world should understand this when they see the service we have done in three years to the Tamil people of the North, whose freedom we have restored. Therefore, we cannot allow this report of the commission appointed to bring about reconciliation among people to be used to create divisions among people.
It is evident to you all that the narrow thinking of the past does not exist among our communities today.
We can now observe the present experiences of marriages between those of the North and the South. Today the youth, both men and women, of the North and East who once took to arms have abandon weapons and are ready to join Police and the Armed Forces. National political parties are today able to work and function freely in the North in absence of fear. Having defeated terrorism we should now fully use this opportunity for freedom afforded by peace. This is not an opportunity gained by or for Ealamists. You, our heroic forces have prevented that.
We must have the patience to save the victory we have won. This cannot be done in haste or through fear. We cannot take rush into decisions on such matters, as they will not last long. We must act with foresight and a good understanding of the future of our country. Let us join hands and work together having abandoned narrow expectations.
Let us build a great, developed and peaceful country where everyone can live without fear and mistrust that we can proudly bequeath to our children and unborn generations. That is the challenge of victory. Achieving it is greatest victory.