President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, recounting how he was elected by a majority of Sinhalese voters, stated that the protection of Sinhala Buddhists and their heritage is his foremost responsibility.
Speaking at the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya after being bestowed the honorary title of “Sri Lankadheeshwara Padma Vibhushana” by the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha last Sunday (2), he had stated: “On the day I was sworn in as this country’s President at the Ruwanweli Seya, I declared that I was a president elected by the majority of Sinhalese. I firmly believe that the protection of Sinhala Buddhists – who have made so many sacrifices to elect me as the first citizen of this country – and that heritage is my foremost responsibility.
“I must especially mention that I am constantly committed to this cause and that the Buddhist teachings and inspiration I have received have supported me to create an environment where other fellow citizens of this country can live freely without any fear or suspicion.
“I would like to mention at this moment that I pledge to protect and nurture the Buddhist philosophy in this country. We must always protect the Sinhala culture and heritage that has a history of thousands of years. Therefore, the Government will continue to provide patronage to protect our values, traditions, and customs. I will always uphold the right of all Sri Lankans to live in peace and harmony by preserving their religious identities, and to live with dignity in association with the main culture of this country that persisted throughout history.”
President Rajapaksa also noted how, despite the Government’s success in managing the pandemic, he had come under criticism on various fronts.
“We were able to successfully control the pandemic that has engulfed the world for two years. However, even if some people insulted me because of the economic and social hardships the pandemic has caused to the people of this country, I have the strength to endure such insults with equanimity. Also, those who insult me have not been able to do an iota of the service I have performed to the country in my lifetime. The ‘Kroda Wagga’ in the Dhammapada says that there is no person in this world who has received either only insults or only praise.”
The President went on to state that before his assumption of office, several key Buddhist sites and the monks that lived there were not being treated as they should, but that he had worked to rectify this. “We all can be happy about the current state of those temples. During my tenure, we have assured with action that our ancient Buddhist heritage sites are safeguarded,” he said.
Noting his own Buddhist heritage stemming from his family background and his education at Ananda College, the President added that this foundation, along with the advice he had received from the Maha Sangha and his training during his time serving in the Army, had become an integral part of his life.
He continued: “Today, the Maha Sangha bestowed upon me an honorary title in recognition of my service towards the country as a military officer and Secretary of Defence. During my 20 years of military service, I had been involved in military operations carried out in the initial stages of the Eelam war and second Eelam war, as well as operations carried out in the North and East areas.
“Before the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, I commanded one of the four brigades in the Vadamarachchi operation, the largest operation of the time. At the outbreak of the second Eelam war, I commanded one of the two main brigades to liberate Jaffna Fort. I carried out several operations in areas like Welioya, Vavuniya, and Trincomalee. In recognition of those services, I received the Ranashura and Ranawickrama medals and the President’s Award.”
Concluding his address, the President stated: “I am ready to embark on a new journey by overcoming the obstacles we have encountered so far, and to fulfil the aspirations of the people who elected me as President of this country. I responsibly declare before this Most Venerable Sangha community that I am ready to take any tough or bold decisions that need to be taken in this regard.”