President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing the nation yesterday on the first anniversary of his office
- President recaps eventful year, gives breakdown of key policies, efforts to reduce crime, develop economy and fight COVID-19
- Calls on public to join together to beat virus, says he has every confidence in citizen commitment
- Says his presidency ended era of sacrificing sovereignty, foreign interference
- Insists policies not only to secure votes but to build prosperous nation; will not hesitate to take necessary action according to conscience to achieve it
- Believes yardstick of success is public opinion and not propaganda on social media
- Two-thirds majority proof people back policies
- Acknowledges 20A has controversial aspects but new Constitution on the way
- Pledges to punish wrongdoers irrespective of status
- Likens striving for economic development to defeating LTTE
Marking his first year President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday pledged to unremittingly continue his efforts to serve Sri Lanka by taking forward protection of national security, deliver on development goals and uphold law and order, and expressed confidence that Sri Lanka would be able to overcome COVID-19 challenges through citizen cooperation.
Recapping in detail steps taken by him and the Government during the past 12 months, Rajapaksa emphasised he would continue discharging his responsibilities towards all Sri Lankans and insisted that he had stayed true to his pledges made when he was sworn in.
The President also promised to remain unfazed by the multitude of tasks yet to be accomplished and said he had stared down harder tasks in the past with undeterred determination.
“I am a person who has constantly faced challenges and overcome them. I am not a person scared of empty threats. I don’t have the habit of simply running away from problems. Instead, I resolve those issues. I do not want to please anyone only for the purpose of securing votes. As I have pledged, my determination is to build a prosperous nation. I will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary according to my conscience to achieve this target.
“I love my country. I am proud of my country. I have a vision for my country. This is the Motherland of all of us. Hence, the time has come for all of us to join hands as productive citizens with the team spirit and fulfilling responsibilities in a disciplined manner in building the prosperous nation we promised to our people.”
He highlighted the steps taken to capture underworld figures, reduce drug trafficking, protect national sovereignty and end interference by foreign powers.
“The era of betraying war heroes, selling national assets, willingness to accept any deal for short-term gains, and allowing foreign forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the country have now come to an end. We have once again shown the world our position as a proud, sovereign country, ready to maintain friendly relations with all nations, non-aligned, nonpartisan in conflicts between powerful nations. This is the reason today why we receive due respect from regional powers as well as global powers,” he told the nation in his address.
The extensive speech also listed out many of his key policies including efforts to reduce Government expenditure, expenses to fight COVID-19, repay debt, extend debt moratoriums, tax concessions, infrastructure development, giving public sector jobs, and fighting COVID-19.
“The best yardstick of the success or failure of mine is public opinion and not the organised propaganda spread by political opponents on social media platforms.”
Getting a two-thirds majority at the Parliamentary Elections was proof that the people approved of his decisions, the President said, insisting that he would continue directly gathering the views of the public in order to serve them better.
“If you want to truly serve the people it is necessary to continuously listen to them. Because of that I go to the grass roots to address people’s grievances. In the recent months, I have travelled in the rural areas of Sri Lanka to see the difficulties suffered by fellow citizens and get first-hand experience. As a result of this I had the opportunity to take necessary decisions and actions with a correct understanding of the issues common to every district as well as issues unique to a particular area. I have always advised the Ministers, State Ministers and MPs to go among the people to give swift solutions to their grievances at the village level while understanding their genuine problems.”
“An efficient Government service is a requisite vital for the forward march of the country. I request all the public servants to take steps to swiftly provide solutions for the reasonable issues of the public instead of hiding behind rules and regulations. Occasionally I visit public departments and institutions to observe whether these institutions are functioning in an appropriate manner. I hope to continue this initiative in the future as well. Ministers and State Ministers as well as high-ranking officials of the Government should always scrutinise the functions of their respective institutions,” he added.
President Rajapaksa reiterated that his campaign promise to eliminate waste and corruption in the State administration would continue. This will include measures to completely eliminate waste and corruption in all the ministries and Government institutions.
“The wrongdoers engaged in such malpractices must be brought before the law irrespective of their social status.”
Defending the 20th Amendment he said that even though some “controversial aspects” remained, the Government had already appointed a committee to seek public opinion to formulate a new Constitution. “The people of this country have given me and our Government a huge mandate to make our country prosperous while changing the traditional political culture. We are at all times committed to fulfil those aspirations.”
“My hope is to establish a government which gives priority for talent or skill over relationships, give more attention for the common needs than individual desires, motivate investments instead of obtaining loans, honour actions than words and value the true public service than deceitful exhibitionism. The political authority as well as the public servants should take responsibilities in this regard.”
President Rajapaksa claimed that all appointments to top positions of Government and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were done based on merit since he came to power but this and other achievements only underscored the importance of staying true to the path outlined by his policy statement ‘Vision of Prosperity and Splendour’.
“Not only Sri Lanka but also the whole world has reached an important milestone in history. There are many challenges ahead of us. All Sri Lankans who love their Motherland must work together to take the country forward in a systematic manner while acting according to a definite policy frame to overcome these challenges.
“We were able to defeat the LTTE terrorism, which was a major threat for our country, as a result of a collective effort. At that time the majority of our country committed to achieve one goal. We faced the challenges with team spirit and in disciplinary manner. We should be able to conquer the economic challenges that the country is facing in the future in the same manner we won the war when most were of the opinion that we would not be able to win it. We should understand that all of us have a common responsibility in this regard. In this context, not only the politicians and officials but also the public have the responsibility to actively contribute in increasing the production capacity of the country, to improve service efficiency and eliminate corruption.”