The Victory Day celebration to mark the second anniversary of liberating the country from the clutches of terrorism was held with pomp and pageantry at the Galle Face Green yesterday under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A military parade by the Army, Navy and Air Force showcasing their military hardware, a fly past by the Sri Lanka Air Force and a Navy parade along the Galle Face coast were the main features of the celebrations.
The full speech given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reproduced below.
Today we celebrate the victory of ensuring the Right to Life of thousands of citizens. We can look back with pride and much satisfaction at the last two years since we achieved freedom from terrorism. You are aware that we have been able to draw a new map of Sri Lanka through the development revolution taking place here today. The north and east won by war heroes are fast becoming prosperous, in place of the hardships that prevailed.
After uniting the country with the defeat of the most ruthless terrorism in the world, today we were able to hoist our national flag with dignity and honour.
Today we celebrate the victory of ensuring the right of every citizen of the country to live in harmony. It is the victory of freeing thousands of civilians in the north, who were held as hostages.
By adding Human Rights to the Constitution it will not guarantee those rights to the people of this country. If someone robs the right to life, it is only by ensuring the right to life can we preserve human rights.
Therefore, today we also celebrate the victory of ensuring the Right to Life of thousands of citizens.
We can look back with pride and much satisfaction at the last two years since we achieved freedom from terrorism.
You are aware that we have been able to draw a new map of Sri Lanka through the development revolution taking place here today. The north and east won by war heroes are fast becoming prosperous, in place of the hardships that prevailed.
As we removed the ‘border village’ from the Sri Lankan map, we are now taking measures to delete the words ‘displaced and destitute’ from our vocabulary. Many thousand acres of land sowed with landmines are now being cultivated. Thousands of displaced civilians were resettled with all the facilities — from shelter, bedding to mosquito coils. Likewise, reconstruction of the North and East is a major development task in our history.
With rays of freedom rising in the north and east, the rays of development are also dawning on people in those areas.
People in those areas should bear in mind that what we rebuild rapidly are the public properties destroyed by terrorists.
When we rebuild the north and east destroyed by the terrorists, the world knows what the terrorists who are abroad did during past two years. Since the country was united with the death of the last LTTE leader in Vellamulliwaikkal on 19 May, these elements organised against the motherland again. They did not cease to collect funds for terrorism and many other illegal activities.
During the war they had heaps of money for purchasing weapons and ships. With that huge amount of money the terrorists continue to spread false rumours, conspire and spread false propaganda against Sri Lanka. Even though terrorism was eradicated from Sri Lanka, terrorists living abroad continue to work to destroy our country. Those abroad, misusing the democratic freedom and their right to vote in the countries of their domicile, are influencing those countries against us in campaigns against us.
Terrorism in a country begins with shooting down the truth. Even after war the Tamil Tigers continue to target the truth. As a result of this, conspiracies were launched to write false reports against our country and our war heroes.
We do not hesitate to ensure the democratic and human rights of the citizens living in the north and east. But we will not heed to the demands of separatists or terrorists. When people in this country do not accept their demands, they look for ways to make us bow down using foreign influence. But I must emphasise that no one can do anything in this country without the consent of our people. It is only we who can solve our own problems, and no one else.
I will recall what I said in the past that our troops went to the battlefront carrying a gun in one hand, the Human Rights Charter in the other, food for the innocent displaced on their shoulders, and love of their children in their hearts. They did not target any communities or religions, and did not march ahead with hatred towards anyone.
After the death of the terrorist leader, we took care of his mother and father. We still look after the families of leaders who surrendered. We were able to protect our country over the centuries from invaders because we did not hate any race, religion or person.
It is based on the great Buddhist traditions that do not preach hatred towards any race or person, and also on the core values of other religions, that we fought against the most ruthless, most cruel terrorist organisation in the world.
We are the only country that fought the terrorists fighting against us while feeding them and providing them with medicines. Therefore, when we see how some countries carry out operations against enemies today, we are proud of the humanitarian nature of our operations against the enemy.
We were with you in the battlefield. It is same today. We will not betray you before the world.
Heroes of War,
We did not confine you to barracks after the end of the humanitarian operation. We gave you an important role to play in the task of rebuilding our motherland.
From the Foreign Service to the beautifying of Colombo City, war heroes contribute immensely for the betterment of this country. You who shed your blood for this country, are today toiling for the development process of the country. Your discipline and the commitment have placed a high demand for your services in many sectors.
There is a truth we have to tell the world. We did not build Armed Services to invade countries. What we have is an Armed Force committed to rebuild the country with utmost commitment to the people.
Whenever we step with freedom on this motherland, we must remember with honour that there are thousands of Great Heroes of War at rest in this soil. I state with pride, that even at this very moment, our war heroes are ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the protection of this country.
To make the sacrifice made by war heroes more meaningful, we have to build a great future for people to live in harmony. We have shown to the world that we are capable of doing so.
The best answer to those who ask what benefits the people received with the end of the war, is to respond by showing the development both in the North and South today. The economic growth rate in the country in 2007 was 6.8%. But after the end of the war, we have achieved an economic growth rate of 8%. The current growth rate in the north is 14.2%. The unemployment rate has come down from 6% to 4.9%. We were able to stabilise the value of the dollar.
The best way to meet our future challenges is to strengthen national unity. Today we do not hear a single incident of communal disharmony in this country.
Two years ago, we celebrated the victory over terrorism without hurting the feelings of any community.
Today, Sinhalese take part in Vel processions; Tamil people participate with enthusiasm when Sinhalese conduct Sambuddhathva Jayanthi celebrations. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims alike went sightseeing in the night to view Vesak decorations.
It is our responsibility to preserve this bond between communities.
I emphasise to all political parties and groups that it will do no good to reopen the healing wounds, to continue to dig up the past, and creating disharmony and hatred among people will be of no benefit. The only way to secure this the freedom of our land and this victory is to protect this great bond between communities.
Heroes of war,
Those committed to bring peace to the country are pleased to see that people who were once hiding in the jungles with their kids are freely moving about today without any fear at all. When you see the land burdened with landmines is now being cultivated and the sea routes used by suicide vessels of the Sea Tigers now being used by our fishermen to earn their livelihood, you will realise that your sacrifices have not been in vain.
Your hearts will be filled with happiness to see children who inherited the suicidal cyanide capsule, now learning in schools. I pay tribute to everyone who was committed to make our motherland free, content and prosperous. (www.info.gov.lk)