COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has identified bringing about reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils as the “biggest challenge” facing Lanka in the post-Eelam War IV period.
“ The biggest challenge we face today is that of bringing together the minds of the people of the North and South, and through a process of reconciliation, bring about co-existence and national understanding,” Sirisena said in his Lankan Independence Day oration at the Parliament grounds here on Wednesday.
“North” refers to the Tamils, as they are concentrated in the North of the island nation, and “South” refers to the Sinhalese who live mostly in South Lanka.
Lankans had the opportunity to take the path of development and bring together the minds of the people of the North and South after the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. But they were unable to make use of it, the President said.
Need for Soul Searching
Calling for soul searching, Sirisena said: “I think it is a great responsibility and a duty before us today to ask where we have gone wrong, and how we can correct those errors.”
“As we look at the path we have trod in the 67 years of freedom, and especially since 2009 (when Eelam War IV ended) can we be satisfied at what has been achieved after the restoration of peace?” he asked.
Sirisena promised to make the Lankan bureaucracy non partisan and to give more strength to parliament by removing the “unlimited powers” of the Executive Presidency.
On foreign relations, he said Lanka would follow the “middle path” marked by friendship with all nations, and will move towards the resolution of ethnic and economic issues “by strengthening its international relations.”
Sirisena castigated the LTTE for foisting terrorism on the country and praised the role of the then Army chief Gen.Sarath Fonseka and the heroism of the armed forces for bringing about peace. He also mentioned as one of the factors which contributed to the defeat of the LTTE, the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President of Lanka in 2005.