Colombo, October 10: The Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Sunday declared that he would present a new constitution to the country within the year 2022. He was Addressing the 72nd Army Day function at the Saliyapura HQ of the Gajaba Regiment in Anuradhapura.
On the Tamil issue which pertains to the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the country, the President took a conciliatory line. “We need to address the issues that caused terrorism (there). We should develop those provinces. It is necessary to raise the living standards of the people in those areas,” he said.
The President further said that he will establish “a new electoral system that the people have been expecting.”
Recalling that a young monk had told him that he expected the government to establish one law for all in the country, the President said that he would bring it about “this year” (2021). The reference was probably to the issue of Muslims having their own personal law in regard to marriage and divorce which are different from those applicable to other communities. Muslim liberals want reform of the law but the conservative majority among Muslims is resisting any change.
Referring to the multiple suicide attacks on several Catholic churches and hotels in Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in 2019, the President said that extremist religious terrorism is a global phenomenon which Sri Lankans have to face and counter.
“We have to act in a way which will give no room for such a thing in this country. It is not an attack on any religion. It is a situation that we all and the entire world know today. We have to face it. We need to protect our country. I have promised it to the people. I am committed to fulfilling that promise,” he declared.
On national security he said that when he came to power he promised that he would give priority to national security. “I have taken the necessary steps to ensure national security, taking it as a matter of policy. I have also taken steps to appoint the most suitable officers for the position of Secretary of Defense or the Commanders of the Armed Forces or Intelligence Officers. Also, I have elevated the mentality of the Tri-forces and the intelligence services,” he said.
The President decried the habit of levelling allegations against military personnel and intelligence officers and said that these have been stopped and the officers have been given the necessary powers to carry out their duties.
“It is our paramount responsibility to ensure that there is no room for recurrence of terrorism in this country. We defeated separatist terrorism. Now we need to stabilize the security thus achieved,” the President affirmed.
First Non-politician President
Patting himself on the back for being Sri Lanka’s first non-politician President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said: “For the first time in the history of our country, I am proud to say that I was able to become the Commander-in-Chief and the President of the country without being a politician. I was able to do that, because as an army officer I fulfilled my respective duties towards the country. As the Secretary of Defense, I rendered service to the country. That is why the people trusted me and elected me as the President of this country. I believe that all of you too can be proud of that.”
He then thanked the tri-forces for the “excellent service” they rendered in combating the COVID-19 pandemic especially in building quarantine centers and in vaccination. “It is because of your service that we have been able to become one of the top countries in the world in vaccination to control the COVID-19 pandemic. I will be grateful to everyone for that,” the President said.
In a candid self-assessment, the President said: “The people elected me as the President of this country with high hopes. From the day I was elected, during the last two years we had to face such a situation that the world has never seen before in its history. We have been fighting for the last two years to control the COVID-19 pandemic. We were compelled to take various measures such as lockdowns and implementation of various restrictions to control the spread of this disease. These measures had a huge impact on our economy.”
“But, I do not make any excuses. The people may have a sense of displeasure towards me and the government for not delivering as they expected. I accept that. Not only me but all ministers and MPs should accept it. But we have done a lot of work for the people under these circumstances. I promise on behalf of the people that we will move the country forward with new vigor by controlling the COVID pandemic and by opening up the country under new norms. Everyone needs to work together for this purpose.”
The President justified his policy of banning chemical fertilizer and added that he would not allow coal fired power plants both in the interest of the health of the masses.
He pledged to root out corruption and promised to eschew wasteful expenditure. “As the President, I have reduced expenditures as much as possible. I have set an example. I requested the Cabinet to set the same example. I urge the people to help prevent corruption. I urge officials to work efficiently in the public service on behalf of the people,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.