2ND LEAD (CORRECTION, UPDATES FULL SPEECH)
Rajapaksa slams International Community at 'Thoppigala' ceremony
[TamilNet, Thursday, 19 July 2007, 12:22 GMT]
The SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa warned the International Community "not to obstruct this New Dawn of the East by raising false slogans, and not engage in globe-trotting to betray the Sri Lankan State." The Sri Lankan Capital City of Colombo was dull Thursday despite Sri Lankan government's ceremonial celebration at Sri Lanka's Independence Square in the morning. Few vehicles plied the streets of Colombo, where celebration flags were rarely seen. The day, tagged to celebrate the 'Dawn of the East,' was obscured by the marked shift in public opinion, showing displeasure against the increasing cost of living caused by the war.
"There is no country other than Sri Lanka, where the criminal act of conceding a legal area of control to terrorists has been implemented through an agreement," Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
The local elections in the Eastern province will be held according to schedule and everyone should endeavour to put forward a solution to the problems of the people of the North and East, Mr. Rajapaksa further declared.
"The vast majority of the media in our country discharged their responsibility as a vanguard in this battle. Friends, the Government is with you at heart," he said.
The celebration 'Dawn of the East', was held ceremoniously Thursday morning at the Independent Square in Colombo, in praise of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) capture of Kudumpimalai (named Thoppigala in Sinhala), in the Eastern province, presided by Rajapaksa.
SLA Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka presented a plaque inscribed with the message of conquest of the Eastern province to Rajapaksa.
Meanwhile, the Opposition members of Sri Lanka parliament boycotted the event in full strength.
The UNP and the SLFP breakaway faction led by former SL Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera signed an agreement at the parliamentary complex.
21 volleys were fired as the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force presented the President with "Sannasa" shields ceremonially "confirming" that the Eastern Province has been cleared from Tigers.
SL Minister of Water Supply and Drainage, ALM Athaullah also presented the SL president with a shield expressing his gratitude on the 'Dawn of the East'.
Full text of the address delivered by the Sri Lankan President follows:
"I am greatly honoured at being given the opportunity of meeting with you on this proud occasion. I accept this honour with all humility, expressing the gratitude of the Sri Lankan State to the great heroes of war who have brought hope and glory to the entire country.
"The glorious chapter that begins with the communications presented to me as the custodian of the State by the Service Commanders will be etched in gold in the annals of our history. Never before have we had the opportunity to make the proud and satisfying declaration as it is announced today that the demonic forces of terror who for several decades had robbed the freedom of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people who lived in the fertile lands of the East of our motherland, have been completely driven away.
"This blessed land will forever cherish, protect and value the fruits of the brave and courageous operation conducted by the Sri Lankan Security Forces to bring liberation to the people of the East; who for more than two decades were held hostage by the forces of vicious and violent terrorism. For many centuries the memory of this feat will inspire generations to come.
"That this operation against terrorism was concluded with minimum harm to the people and least harm to the Security Forces stands out as an example of such action to all armies of the world that battle terrorism.
"I observed some criticism of this victory. It said this was the majority race trampling on the minority race. Majority – minority? I do not like this interpretation. We are the Sri Lankan Nation. It is the Tamil and Muslim people and the clergy in the East that paved the way for the National Flag to be hoisted at Thoppigala.
"I do not wish to describe the defeat inflicted on the LTTE as a purely military victory. There is in this victory something more, which is of larger national and international significance.
"There is no country other than Sri Lanka, where the criminal act of conceding a legal area of control to terrorists has been implemented through an agreement.
"It is the debunking of the myth of such an area of control, and the shattering into smithereens of the crowning terrorist fantasy of Eelam that our brave soldiers who captured Thoppigala have announced loud and clear to the entire world.
"That is not all. The East was considered the least developed region of our country. By being subject to the forces of terror, the fertile lands of the East and its enterprising people were handicapped both economically and socially. They were disadvantaged politically and culturally, too. Our children who covered their heads with hijab or placed a “pottu” on their forehead as well as Sinhala children were deprived of their right to education.
"Can you imagine your children of 12 or 14 years carrying weapons of war? Certainly you cannot? Yet, the reality in the North and East is that. What these children received in place of their books and crayons were the guns, ammunition, bombs and the cyanide capsules of the LTTE. Now, let us all join hands to build the future world of these children.
"I believe with optimism that our international friends would help us in this task. Friends, please come to the East.
"Similarly, I wish to ask the international community and even some of our own politicians, not to obstruct this New Dawn of the East by raising false slogans, and not engage in globe-trotting to betray the Sri Lankan State.
"If there are shortcomings let us get together and criticize them. It is alright slighting Mahinda Rajapaksa. But do not betray the country.
"The safeguarding of human rights is our primary responsibility. It is no secret that throughout my life I have stood consistently for human rights. However, one must understand clearly the difference between human rights and terrorist activities. Do not confuse the two.
"We also see an attempt to bury the victories of our troops by insulting them or leveling serious charges against them. Today, we see attempts by some who try to hide their own “stripes” by insulting the Maha Sangha.
"Is Thoppigala a forest? Or is it a sanctuary? How many tanks did it have? How many houses? How many trees were there to an acre? Such questions are only important to cartographers. Please do not look at this victory with envy or jealousy. This is neither a victory of the State nor my personal victory.
"This is not a personal victory of the Defence Secretary or the Service Commanders. Some who think so are engaged in insane prattle.
"This is a people’s victory. I invite the Leader of the Opposition not to be an outsider but to be a stakeholder in this victory. No matter that I am insulted or members of my family are insulted. We will bear it with patience. But do not insult our Security Forces. Do not belittle or underestimate our Security Forces. It is with the sacrifice of life and limb that they have won these victories for our motherland.
"The day we leave politics, our conscience will ask us what we have given to our children. Is it a colony or a heavily fractured country?
"No, friends, we will gift our children with a land they will be proud to live in.
"Let us bequeath to them a land where Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims can live together and smile as the children of one mother.
"What we seek to achieve through the All Party Representative Conference is to bring together the diverse views of political parties to find a political solution to the North East crisis. Please do not delay this any further. I make a public appeal to all political parties to kindly present their proposals with speed. Do not delay this any further. Please come together, discuss and reach agreement, and give us a single final solution.
"We should formulate a suitable framework to bring the Tamil speaking people more into the process of political power. We should be sensitive and responsive to the genuine grievances of the people in the North and East.
"We should not be prejudiced against anyone in our society by the fact of their being Tamil or Muslim.
"Similarly, the LTTE should even now accept the reality that it is not possible to bring liberation to the Tamil people through guns, bombs and cyanide capsules. What they destroy is the future of Tamil children. They destroy the future of the children of our country. What they demolish is their own culture. However dreadful, I will not be subdued or frightened by the violent growls of the LTTE. I will not be shaken by their threats of assassination. I am bound by conscience to fulfill my duties and obligations by the country.
"Now, did the people in the Eastern Province enjoy their basic right to vote? The civic rights of these innocent people were usurped for 15 years. We are returning these usurped rights to the people. We will take steps to conduct the Provincial and Local Government Elections in the East by the end of this year. By this time we will give the people of the East their sovereign right to elect their representatives to the Provincial Council and Local Government bodies. Those who engaged in election malpractices throughout history will shout this time too, as if frightened by a nightmare.
"Not only the right to vote, we are confident that the day is not far when the Eastern Province would prosper with more electricity, highways, buses, hospitals and new industries.
"Economic freedom is as important as freeing territory. We expect to launch an all out development war, throughout the country, giving priority to agriculture. I expect this economic war to bring back economic prosperity denied to the country.
"We have no desire to enter history as a popular politician. It is sufficient for me to be remembered in history as a trustee and protector of this country, its people, all its fauna and flora. I wish that history would remember me as a Sri Lankan who was in politics, not for elections but to serve the country. That will be the highest honour.
"In conclusion, My Dear Friends, I wish to identify the Thoppigala victory as the symbol of the aspirations and determination of the people who truly love our motherland.
"It is with the warmest of friendship that I recognize and appreciate the strength and courage given in this task by the working people, in silence, and amidst great difficulties; without strikes and other disruptions.
"Brothers and Sisters, this is the victory of your patience.
"The vast majority of the media in our country discharged their responsibility as a vanguard in this battle. Friends, the Government is with you at heart.
"Whatever problems they have, what our innocent people sought was an undivided country; an honourable peace. Citizens, this is your victory.
"Similarly, all political parties that unconditionally stand to protect the Government now become stakeholders in this victory.
"My Dear Friends who speak the Tamil language, I know that you value peace more than a war waged even on the most reasonable grounds. We all value this. I know you value peace more than an abundant meal. Therefore, I express my deepest regrets for that tearful history which was thrust upon you. Therefore again, it is with deep emotion that I have accepted the great responsibility for your future and that of your children.
"As much as the New Dawn in the East lights up the lives of the innocent people of the East, I am convinced this light would cause the historic brotherhood among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to sprout fresh shoots and thrive. Hence, make use of this victorious moment as one that changes the recent history of Sri Lanka. I call upon you with deep emotion and responsibility to resolve to live together in unity and fraternity among all races and religions.
May the Triple Gem bless you!
May all deities protect you!"