(Full text of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech at Medamulana on July 1st 2015)
It is with immense gratitude that I acknowledge your unwavering support for me and the national agenda I represent despite all the threats and intimidation in the period after the last presidential election. I warmly welcome all of you who have come here today to my home in my village. Today is Adhi Esala Poya day, the day on which the Buddha preached the Dhamma for the first time to his erstwhile companions the five ascetics. You have come here to invite me to contest the forthcoming parliamentary election. I left Temple Trees even before the Elections Commissioner had declared the final result.
Before I accept or reject your invitation, there is something that I have to say. After the last presidential election, I bowed my head to the verdict of the majority of the people. By taking that decision, what I proved was that I who entered the supreme legislature for the first time in 1970 as the youngest MP in that parliament and later served as a minister, leader of the opposition, prime minister and finally as president, have the highest regard for the principles of democracy. Many people who came to Tangalle have told me that many people in the country were surprised to see Mahinda Rajapaksa who had been labelled a dictator setting an exemplary democratic precedent in that manner.
The day after I came home, I summoned all our party leaders to Tangalle. I asked them about the fate of our party. They told me that with the release of the election results, our party members have had to face severe harassment at the hands of members of the United National Party. At that stage some were trying to set up an alternative Sri Lanka Freedom Party. On the 12th of January, I summoned our Central Committee and told them that in this crucial hour, we must safeguard our party. Thereafter at the request of the present executive president, I met him personally and handed over to him the leadership of the party. I handed over the party within seven days of the election. The party leadership has never changed hands earlier in that manner. After winning the presidential election of 2005, I had to wait for seven months to become leader of the party. I call upon the people to take note of the political significance of the decision I made to hand over the leadership of the party to the new president within seven days.
I have never been a traitor to my country or my party even in the worst of situations. That is my way.
It is however no secret to all of you that in the six months that the United National Party has ruled this country, national security and the national economy have been placed in jeopardy. I was amazed to see papers being presented to the cabinet to pay compensation to terrorists within six years of defeating the most murderous of terrorist organisation. This proposal was not approved by cabinet. Had it been approved, we would have earned a place in world history as the only country to pay compensation to terrorists. The prime minister now behaves the same way he did 12 years ago when he entered into the most traitorous agreement ever seen in Sri Lankan history with the leaders of the LTTE. It does not appear as if he pays any heed to the present president, the heads of the armed forces or even the warnings issued by the US State Department to which he is so close.
The younger generation today have no experience of the draconian rule of the UNP. The younger generation has not seen how the people were oppressed through various organisations set up outside the law. They have not seen the manner in which state owned institutions were rendered bankrupt and then sold to the private sector in what can only be described as daylight robbery. The younger generation has not seen the manner they sold the country to various foreign powers and cleared the way for separatists to divide up the country. But in the past six months our people were reminded of and our younger generation were able to experience the usual doings of the United National Party.
In 100 days, they have tried to pay compensation to terrorists, removed army camps from the North, allowed the US Dollar to appreciate to Rs. 140, left the farmers in the lurch, bankrupted the local entrepreneurs and industrialists, transferred and imprisoned government servants, caused thousands to lose their jobs, issued 28 licences for the import of ethanol spirits, committed the biggest financial fraud in this country through the Central Bank bond scam, imprisoned opposition politicians, withdrawn cases relating to illegal foreign exchange transactions and thereby shown what the rule of the UNP is like. In these 100 days, those of the older generation were reminded of what UNP rule was like and the younger generation was able to experience it at first hand.
During our rule, the news broadcasts were full of stories about the building of airports, harbours, sports stadiums, expressways, roads, reservoirs, schools, hospitals, and markets. Today we hear through the news broadcasts only stories about the replacement of the name boards of these facilities.
We had given the people a reason to be proud of our country. We had shown the world that we can solve our own problems and rise up. People who had left this country began to think of coming back. The transformation of the Colombo city gave everyone the confidence of being able to build a clean and pleasant country.
We rejected outright unacceptable aspects of the politics of this country. One of those things was the culture of political hate and victimisation. From 1994 to 2015, our governments did not harass or victimise our political opponents. But the wave of political victimisation that began by getting one of our local government representatives to kneel down on the street in the Matugama town and assaulting him, still continues. We cannot allow practises that we had put an end to, to come to the fore again.
You are not inviting me to wreak vengeance for what has happened, but to save the country.
I returned to my village empty-handed after handing over the leadership of the party. Despite all the accusations levelled against me, it will now be clear that I have not stolen anything except the hearts of the people who love this country. The political campaign that began from Nugegoda on the 18th February has now become a massive people’s force. The great wave that swept through Nugegoda, Kandy, Ratnapura, Kurunegala and Matara has now come to my very doorstep.
Venerable Sirs, and dear friends,
I now have no right whatsoever to reject the request that you, the patriotic people, make of me on behalf of the nation and the party. I respectfully accept the request that is being made of me to contest the forthcoming parliamentary election on behalf of the country. I will face the election together with this great people’s force. I will form a government that will take forward the development that has stalled. I have only one pact – that is the bond that I have with the people of this country. I have always fulfilled any responsibility given to me by the people.
Dear sons and daughters,
I know that you and your parents experienced immense sorrow on the 9th of January. I know that many did not even light the fires at home that day. That was like a day on which the national flag flew at half-mast. I wish to tell my sons and daughters that I am coming forward to once again raise the national flag on this soil.
I wish to salute all of you, the people from all parts of the country, local government representatives, provincial council members, and parliamentarians, who did not abandon me in these trying times and who gave me your love, protection and blessings.
We must resolve on this Esala Poya day, to move forward, having corrected the mistakes that we made, and being more receptive to the people. The Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher people should all come together to build the nation. I request not only the patriotic members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United People’s Freedom Alliance, but also the members of the UNP, JVP and all other political parties to join us on this journey.
May the blessings of the triple gem be upon you.