President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, addressing the 74th National Independence Day ceremony today (February 04), said the greatest benefit from freedom can be enjoyed when everyone fulfils their duty to the country.
“As citizens of a free and democratic country, we all have rights as well as responsibilities,” the Head of State said noting that it is not appropriate to speak only of rights while forgetting one’s responsibilities.
The freedom of a country is most meaningful when it is strong in social, political and economic spheres, he remarked. “As much as a government, the people too have the right to actively contribute towards this.”
Speaking further, President Rajapaksa said the support of each and every person in the country cannot be expected when steering the country in the right direction. “We are not ready to abandon our plans for the country’s future prosperity by looking upon those who will not change. Our objective is to do what is right by the country, and not to please everyone.”
“We can make our way forward successful only with a positive attitude that looks optimistically towards the future,” the President stated further.
He also rebuked pessimists, saying that they do not change the world. “They do not even have the capacity for it. Those who habitually criticize without proposing a solution to a problem do not have a vision for the future.”
Leading a team towards a vision is not easy, the President remarked adding that changing the existing ways, no matter how good the intention is not easy either. “On certain matters, both local and foreign forces organise against us. Sometimes it may seem that everything that happens around you is conspiring against you.”
President Rajapaksa, continuing his address, said people do not expect a leader to run away from problems, but to manage all crises and take the country forward. He also said his government has the positive mindset needed to do this and assured that he is always ready to provide the necessary leadership to overcome any challenge facing the country.
Social progress in all developed nations has been possible due to the positive thoughts of their leaders and the people, the President said while speaking of the feats accomplished by the ancient rulers of Sri Lanka, who manoeuvred the building of vast stupas, and the creation of excellent irrigation systems and mesmerizing cities. “We ought to be able to compete with the world in the future as well,” he reiterated.
He also stated that people of great resolve are needed to face difficult times and that anyone who demoralizes another is not doing any good to society. “All of us have an enormous responsibility to build a positive attitude in the country to face these crises successfully.”
“We have faced critical problems in the recent history as well, and found solutions. When pessimists maintained that terrorism could never be defeated in war, brave military leaders like General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and General Vijaya Wimalaratne instilled the positive attitude in their men that terrorism can in fact be defeated. Later, under the right political leadership, we were able to vanquish terrorism in as little as three-and-a-half years because we had belief in our own capabilities.”
The President noted that none of the crises we experience today are long-term, noting that solutions for them can be found with an optimistic approach. Speaking of the role that each of us can play to expedite this process, he stressed that we must all endeavour to do our utmost for the country by fulfilling our responsibilities properly.
With regard to Sri Lanka’s Covid-19 pandemic response, the Head of State said the government realized early on that the only solution to control the situation was vaccination. He also spoke of how Sri Lanka has been able to fully vaccinate more than 85% of the targeted population, mitigate the disease and resume normal community life.
On the economic challenges faced by the country, the President said what it is more relevant is to find both short- and long-term solutions, rather than going back many years into the past searching for reasons for such problems that the country is facing today.
“We need to improve all three sectors of agriculture, industry and services in order to strengthen the economy of Sri Lanka. Special attention must be paid on ways and means to enhance export revenue whilst encouraging local production. While our national policies are very clear on this stance, there should be more active participation in all sectors in implementing them.”
Speaking on investments, the President noted that the involvement of both local and foreign stakeholders is equally needed. “Foreign investment is especially important for large scale projects, industries requiring modern technological know-how and new ventures that open up global market opportunities for us.”
He also urged people to be more vigilant of those who attempt to propagate misleading public opinion against foreign investments, based on political motives.
The President called on public sector officials to fully understand the contribution of entrepreneurs to the country’s development and provide all assistance they require expeditiously within the legal framework. Preventing major delays in business registration and investment approvals help mobilize the entire country’s economic process, he added.
He said the economic development cannot be accelerated without encouraging entrepreneurship and removing obstacles faced by entrepreneurs. “We have a responsibility to be more respectful and friendly to entrepreneurs who start their own businesses amidst various vulnerabilities and provide employment and income opportunities for others as well.”
Speaking on the country’s education sector, the President said reforms are in progress to create more productive citizens
He appealed to every student completing school education to strive to develop a skill or industry that can contribute to the country’s economic process.
The people who shed their sweat in farmlands, factories and workplaces make an active contribution to the country’s economy, he added. “I pay my respects to all of them.”
Further, the President invited all Sri Lankan expatriates to invest in their homeland in order to continue to actively contribute to building the island’s future. He also appreciated their regular contribution to energizing our economy.
The Head of State went on to urge all ministers, parliamentarians and other politicians to act in an exemplary manner at all times, for the sake of the country. “If we are to overcome the challenges, and accomplish our future goals successfully, all of us have to make a change. We all have to make some sacrifices towards it. As the President of the country, I am ready to set the necessary example for it. I am already doing this to the best of my ability.”
He also asked people to act prudently as there are forces against national leadership that values the country’s indigenousness and protects its sovereignty. These forces mislead the people through various false propaganda. “No one can mislead the people if they make inquiries based on fact, ascertain the truth and make decisions.”
The President said he would always uphold his pledge as the Head of State to protect the freedom won for the future generations, and to safeguard the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country.
Sri Lanka is a nation that safeguards the rule of law and respects international conventions. Although some parties have attempted to make various allegations against Sri Lanka for narrow motives, the government has not condoned any type of human rights violations, and will not leave room for such incidents in future either, the President stressed.
“Under no circumstances shall we allow extremism to raise its head in this country. Today we have secured national security as promised by the government to the people.”
Speaking further, he said there have been no changes in the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour Policy Statement’ policy framework the government presented with regard to identified priorities such as green agriculture, promotion of renewable energy use, education reforms compatible with the modern world, encouragement of local entrepreneurship, export diversification and value addition, and promotion of technology use for a new leap in the economy.
President Rajapaksa stated that the government is committed to achieving the basic goals of a productive citizen, a happy family, a disciplined, virtuous society and a prosperous country.
“I was given the leadership of the country at a very difficult time. In the last two years we have had to find solutions to a number of unanticipated problems. Despite all these difficulties, our government was able to carry out many development activities.”
He said all plans required for the sustainable development of the country, during his remaining tenure are being implemented. “No matter what the obstacles are, if the majority of the people in our country are optimistic about the future and give their due contribution, we will be able to achieve those goals.”
Concluding his speech, the President invited all patriotic Sri Lankans to unite to build a proud nation that has achieved the true meaning of freedom. – ada derana