Mt. Lavinia Hotel -28th March 2009


Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona,
Secretary/Foreign Affairs

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you at this crucial point in the history of Sri Lanka. As you all know, the moment is near when we shall see the results of the supreme sacrifices made by our valiant security forces in liberating our brothers and sisters in the North of Sri Lanka from the terror’s grasp. All the communities of Sri Lanka have started to sense and feel the true spirit of freedom, absence of fear and the joy of living that was not theirs’ during the last three decades. You are here to herald a new era in our history.

However, we cannot be complacent. We are reminded more than ever before of the need for positive action to bring true liberation to the masses of our people who have suffered and those who still continue to suffer under the iron fist of the LTTE, the self proclaimed “sole representatives” or “liberators” of the Tamil community. The poverty and deprivation that has been their lot must be resolutely addressed.

The development drive that followed the liberation of the Eastern province from the LTTE will be reflected in the North. Already a billion dollars have been committed to Eastern development. The people of the North will soon start to enjoy the real taste of democracy with elections being held for local bodies once the remaining area under the LTTE is liberated and stability restored.

The Government is also focusing on the rebuilding and reconstruction process, with special attention to infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries resources. As part of the integration process of the Northern Province with the rest of the country, the A - 9 Highway was recently re-opened for the transport of goods by convoy. The time is not far away when people of all communities would travel back and forth through this historic road. The 23rd of March heralded another historic event with the announcement of the extension of the Colombo - Jaffna Railway Line and the resumption of the Yal Devi Express service.

The people of the Northern Province must have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of democracy and development that the people of the Eastern Province are enjoying today. It is the commitment of the Government, not only to the current generation but to unborn generations, that terrorism will not be able to raise its ugly head again in Sri Lanka. The Government is resolved to achieve this. It is in order to achieve this noble goal that the Government decided to embark on a dialogue with the Sri Lankan Diaspora.

As the LTTE's delusion, fades into history, the Government is rightly calling on our Tamil brothers and sisters living overseas to return to the warm embrace of mother Lanka and seek a common future with all her other children, whether they be Muslims, Sinhalese, Mukkuvars, Malays, Burghers, etc. Today we see the beginning of this. Each of you gathered here today represent diverse backgrounds and has enormous individual potential. Therefore it is the wish of the Government to seek your cooperation in the realization of its ambitious goals.

It was to Sri Lanka’s eternal detriment that we lost so many of our best sons and daughters to other countries and to war due to the curse of terrorism. While many of them lost their lives others were forced to leave the country of their birth. This was the sad reality that Sri Lanka was compelled to face during the last three decades. However, the time has arrived to put aside the past and join hands for the reconstruction and development of our nation.

Needless to say, we must exert every effort to make all our citizens feel comfortable and respected in this land. Everyone must have an equal opportunity to reach out to their individual dreams, whether in government, in the professions or in business. Those scattered around the world must be able to return in peace to enjoy our beautiful mountains, our incomparable beaches and our legendary hospitality in the company of their loved ones. The hospitality for which we were known in the past must become the magnet for all Sri Lankans scattered around the world. Ours is a caring society influenced over the centuries by the tenets of a gentle faith, Buddhism. Other influences made their impact felt later and further strengthened our caring nature. Our respect for our fellow human beings even extended to all living beings. Even the destruction and displacement rained on us by ruthless foreign invaders seeking material enrichment did not shake our faith and our values. Our values stayed the same and we were strengthened by them. These values must guide us as we seek to restore our nation.

Please rest assured that the Government and our security forces will uphold the rights of man as we seek to eliminate terrorism from our land so that all our people can live in peace. Defeating terrorism remains our critical goal - terrorism that has killed Tamils, Singhalese, Muslims and others in their thousands, orphaned and maimed many more and terrorism which has held our economy hostage for over twenty five years. Despite the ability to deploy devastating fire power, our security forces are under strict orders to avoid harming civilians now held hostage by the LTTE and being used as a bargaining chip as they develop their strategies to save their own skins. This is also a major reason for the slow progress of the forces in recent weeks. It is unfortunate that some in the international community have fallen straight into the well laid trap of the LTTE and are calling for a ceasefire, a ceasefire which would only help the terrorists to recover and drag this war for another twenty five years. It must also be mentioned at this moment that H.E. the President and the Government have on many occasions called on the LTTE leadership to let these people go and have been consistently ignored demonstrating again and again the utter and callous disregard paid by LTTE to the very people they claim to represent.

It must be noted that despite all the challenges that we have faced, the war on terrorism, the tsunami, the food crisis, the financial meltdown, etc, we have continued along our path to development. We are still able to boast enviable statistics. We compare well even with many developed countries. We will be able to do even better once terrorism is eradicated once and for all. But for this we must all come together.

In conclusion I wish to make a request from all of you gathered here, to consider funding the education of a child from the areas which were until very recently under the vicious domination of the LTTE. Give these children a new chance in life. Let a child's dreams be realized in a respected academic institution, whether in Sri Lanka or overseas. These children represent the future of Sri Lanka and have the potential to be our leaders in the future. They are Sri Lanka’s future.

Thank you.

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