ADDRESS BY H.E. MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, PRESIDENT
OF SRI LANKA TO THE LOS ANGELES WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL,
28TH SEPTEMBER 2007
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be in the presence of such a distinguished
audience this afternoon. I am glad to be here with you in California,
a state which is home to a large Sri Lankan population, and in
particular, in your lovely City of Angles.
We are inspired by California, being the seventh
largest economy in the world, the home of the IT revolution and
the birthplace of the film industry.
I wish to express my own and my people’s
most sincere thanks to the people in the state of California who
came to our assistance in our hour of need, when the Tsunami of
2004 devastated our land. We will always remember your generosity
Earlier this week, I addressed the UN General Assembly, on a few
key issues - among them, Sri Lanka’s position on global
terrorism. Dr. Martin Luther King often said, “Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”; likewise, we
firmly believe that terrorism anywhere is terrorism everywhere.
Terrorism in Sri Lanka is nurtured by funds from
overseas. We urge all our friends around the world, to help us
to cut off funds to the terrorists in Sri Lanka.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our goal remains a negotiated
and honourable end to this unfortunate conflict in Sri Lanka.
Our goal is to restore democracy and the rule of law to all the
people of our country. 54% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population
now lives in areas other than the north and the east of the country,
among the Sinhalese and other communities. There is no ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka - as some media mistakenly highlight.
Sri Lanka’s security forces are fighting a terrorist group,
not a particular community.
I see no military solution to the conflict. The
current military operations are only intended to exert pressure
on the LTTE to convince them that terrorism cannot bring them
Sri Lanka’s armed forces have successfully
cleared the country’s Eastern Province of Tiger terrorism.
Despite the scale of the operation, we ensured that civilian casualties
were kept to a minimum.
We are mindful of various groups that have been
screaming about massive numbers of displaced civilians in the
east. However, only about 145,000 people were displaced, and,
that too, for a very short period of time. Approximately 110,000
of the displaced have already returned home. Others will follow
once land mines have been fully cleared. The UNHCR and the International
Committee of the Red Cross both acknowledge that Sri Lanka’s
programme of returning displaced persons to their homes has been
consistent with international standards.
These returnees now have to move on with their
lives. We are in the process of ensuring that they have access
to schools, health facilities and basic amenities. They also need
to be provided with livelihood opportunities. A massive programme
of rehabilitation and reconstruction has been launched, with the
objective of making the Eastern Province a model for post-conflict
reconstruction and development. We hope to accomplish the major
part of this program with our own effort but also with the assistance
of the international community. My Government has deployed approximately
Rs. 20 billion for the reconstruction of the East.
It gives us great strength to know that the international
community is with us in our efforts at rehabilitation and reconstruction.
During the time the Tigers controlled the east, they devastated
the economy of the area. Thus, there are plenty of opportunities
for civic groups to join in the reconstruction of schools, community
institutions, hospitals and in rehabilitating the livelihood of
the people of the East. There is tremendous potential for developing
fisheries, tourism and animal husbandry. A consortium of donors
including France, Spain and Japan are assisting in constructing
a major coastal highway. The EU is building another. We have also
begun a mono-rail project in Colombo. However, there are other
key infrastructure projects being implemented.
We believe that the current conflict has its
roots in poverty and underdevelopment. The way to wean the youth
away from violence is to create economic opportunities for them.
And there is tremendous potential for investment projects in the
east. Tourism, modern agriculture, aqua culture and the fisheries
industry are some of the lucrative areas for foreign investment.
Despite the ongoing conflict, Sri Lanka has not
neglected economic development in other parts of the country.
We are in the process of expanding the capacity of the Colombo
port. In a few years, Colombo port will be a modern commercial
hub with significantly enhanced capacity to handle container vessels.
Another port is being developed in the country’s south,
also an international airport. Several major irrigation projects
have been started. A national budget airline operates to seven
international destinations giving a boost to the tourism industry.
Sri Lanka has still not exploited its full potential to meet the
demands of the IT world. I invite you to consider Sri Lanka as
a destination, when you make your own investment decisions in
Our per capita income is around US Dollars 1350
now, one of the highest in South Asia. The economy grew by 7.2%
last year. Unemployment is at a record low level. We are also
on the way to achieving or surpassing many of the Millennium Development
Goals. For instance, less than 5% of our population is below the
poverty line. The net primary school enrolment in 2004 was 97%.
Almost every child in Sri Lanka goes to school. Very few countries
in the world can make this claim. Our infant mortality rate in
2004 was one of the lowest in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sri Lanka has been misunderstood and her actions
misinterpreted in many ways. Over the decades, we have developed
our democratic institutions with great care and pride. We have
enjoyed universal adult franchise since 1931. Democracy is deeply
rooted in our country, and we hope to restore democracy in the
Eastern Province without delay by holding elections. The pluralism
and democracy taken for granted elsewhere in Sri Lanka need to
be re-established in the Eastern Province and in the North. We
hope that before long, we will also be able to take this message
to the areas still controlled by the Tigers.
My Government will exert every effort to search
for a political solution that is honourable and sustainable. For
this purpose, I have convened an All Party Representatives Committee
comprising elected members of parliament, which has made substantial
I believe that the direction we are heading
will result in an outcome, which will ensure justice to all our
people. The solution we seek must necessarily be just, honourable
and acceptable to all, and above all, it must be a democratic
solution, a solution that preserves the democratic institutions
that we have developed over 75 years.
Thank you for your interest in Sri Lanka.
May the Triple Gem bless you.