Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation with a rich culture and a proud heritage does not need external guidance to achieve post conflict reconciliation. This will be achieved through an organic, local effort consistent with our culture and our values, and not based on external ideals imposed by others, Defence and Urban Development Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.
He was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural National Conference on Reconciliation at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies yesterday.
“It is evident that cultural norms differ from country to country. People living in the United States of America, or Australia, or Canada, or the United Kingdom, or any other country, have no proper understanding of the ground situation in Sri Lanka nor do they understand our current cultural context. It is not for outsiders to impose their values or their judgments on Sri Lanka.” he said.
“Sri Lankans who suffered from the war for 30 years and who are now reaping the rewards of peace will find solutions to our national issues. But outsiders have no idea about the post war situation in Sri Lanka,” the Defence and Urban Development Secretary said.
“Presently, the country is striving to achieve prosperity on the foundation of peace resulting from the defeat of terrorism. Reconciliation is an essential part of this endeavour, and it is one that will be achieved. As we step forward into a peaceful and prosperous future, I have every confidence that all of us, irrespective of our ethnicity, religion, caste, gender or political affiliation, will put aside our differences and work and live together. We will first and foremost be Sri Lankans,” he said.
Further he said that Sri Lanka’s experience with terrorism began in the 1970s. By the time President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office in December 2005, terrorist activities in the country had continued for nearly thirty years. They did huge damage to the country’s economic,social and cultural development. They killed approximately 9,800 civilians and grievously wounded more than 10,000.
He also noted that the LTTE’s skill at political assassinations was another defining feature of its campaign of terror. Starting from Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa the LTTE killed seven Cabinet Ministers, 37 Parliamentarians and more than 50 office-bearing political figures during its terror campaign. Its intention was to undermine Sri Lanka’s democracy. They also assassinated democratic leaders and intellectuals in the Tamil community in order to style itself the sole representative of the Tamil people the leaders of other armed groups in the Northern and Eastern areas.
“The overall impact of the LTTE’s terrorism was devastating. In addition to the thousands of casualties it caused, the aura of fear and uncertainty it created had a severe impact on all Sri Lankans. In areas outside the LTTE’s control, ordinary peoples’ day-to-day lives were transformed. Parents did not travel together in the same vehicle for fear of orphaning their children by getting caught in a bomb blast. Students’ school attendance dropped every time rumours spread about impending terrorist attacks. Law and order deteriorated as terrorism fostered crime and corruption. The underworld became more powerful and its members gained access to arms and ammunition from various armed groups operating in the country at large. An entire generation grew up under a veil of fear.” he said.
Today, Sri Lanka is a nation at peace. As a result of the Humanitarian Operation to defeat terrorism, the primary obstacle to Sri Lanka’s prospects—the LTTE—has been removed. In looking back at what has happened over the last two years, the benefits this country has gained through the dismantling the LTTE are very clear. The senseless killing has stopped. Irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, all Sri Lankans are reaping the rewards of peace. The quality of life has improved tremendously. With the constant threat of terrorism removed, people can live their lives in full and without fear. Sri Lanka today is not only one of the most secure and stable countries in Asia but in the entire world,’ said the Defence Secretary.
The economy is also showing marked signs of improvement. With thousands of acres of arable land once again accessible, and key irrigation infrastructure being restored, agriculture is poised to expand significantly in the coming years. With the removal of the restrictions that had to be enforced due to terrorism, the fishing industry has already rebounded and registered tremendous growth. With the withdrawing of adverse travel advisories and the knowledge that the country is finally at peace, tourist arrivals have increased significantly. Local and foreign investment is on the rise, and new commercial activity is starting to take place in previously ignored areas. Sri Lanka is finally in a position to realize the economic potential that has been pent up for so many years,’ he said.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G L Peiris, Singapore ICPVTR Head Prof. Rohan Gunarathna, Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivad Cabraal, MP Rajiva Wijesinha, Jaffna GA Emelda Sukumar and other distinguished persons were present at the event.