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Bridging North-South Divide Big Test: SL prez

Published: 05th February 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th February 2015 05:57 AM   |  A+A-

COLOMBO:Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has said that bringing about reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils was the “biggest challenge” the country faces 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, bringing about co-existence and national understanding,” Sirisena said in his Lankan Independence Day speech 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 reside 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, Sirisena said. Calling for soul searching, he 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 with what has been achieved?” he wondered, even as he promised to make the Lankan bureaucracy non-partisan and give more authority 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 and praised the role of ex-Army chief Sarath Fonseka and the heroism of the armed forces for bringing about peace. He also mentioned the election of  Mahinda Rajapaksa as President in 2005 as one of the factors which contributed to the LTTE’s defeat.

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