COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday staunchly defended his government’s policy of returning to the Tamils in North and East Lanka, lands taken over by the Lankan military during the war.
“Is it wrong to return these lands to the original owners in a manner that does not affect the security forces, cause problems for national security and does not weaken security bases? How much private property and homes around the President’s house and Temple Trees were held by the Security Forces? Are we not going to restore these lands to the original owners?” he asked, addressing the nation at the conclusion of the first 100 days of his rule.
He said that a section of the media has been spreading falsehoods such as: the military has been removed from the North; their numbers have been reduced; that lands in Sampur had been given to LTTE terrorists; and that the Tamil and Muslim minorities have been given more rights than the Sinhalese.
“These stories are being spread by extreme communalists. Please do not spread these false messages to the world,” he urged.
He slammed opponents who describe him as a weak leader and said that he had come to power with the express purpose of dismantling the draconian powers of the Executive Presidency and restoring democracy and freedom in the island nation.
“Some say that I am not strong. Some say I am weak. Some say I am not a leader. However, I would like to tell these critics and my beloved people, during the last 100 days, I have not used the limitless powers of this position. Why did you elect me? It was to handover this power. I was elected the Executive President of this country to remove these limitless powers. People may have different interpretations. However, I have clearly stated in my election manifesto, that I want a mandate to remove the limitless powers of the Executive President,” he said.
Sirisena further said that he is not influencing the investigation of corruption and fraud, in contrast to the practice in the previous regime. The media has been freed, but a section is misusing the freedom, he regretted.
He has cut down on unnecessary expenditure. “When I was elected, there were 1,575 employees at the Presidential Secretariat. Now it is 600.”
Cabinet Plans to bring in Emergency Colombo:
The Sri Lankan cabinet has decided to urgently bring a bill to provide Lankans the Right to Information (RTI) as in India and several other democracies. Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told the media here on Thursday, that it will be presented to parliament as an “emergency bill” under clause 122 of the Lankan constitution. Senaratne said that the urgency was on account of the fact that bringing about an RTI Act within the first 100 days of his rule was one of the major election promises of President Maithripala Sirisena. Such an Act was to be part of several measures to loosen the tight control over information exercised by Mahinda Rajapaksa during his rule from 2005 to 2014. However, while giving Lankans the right to get information about State institutions, the bill will specify certain “no go” zones.