Feb 04, Colombo: In his first ever Independence Day address today, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged to guarantee every citizen to right to live free and safe within a unitary democratic state.
“Sri Lanka is a unitary state. A free, sovereign, independent, democratic republic. Today, 72 years after the liberation from nearly 500 years of imperialist colonial rule, addressing you as the Head of State, I pledge to strengthen your independence,” the President said paying tribute to all Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays and Burgher leaders who were committed to achieving and ensuring this freedom.
“Every citizen living in Sri Lanka has the right to live freely and securely. We will always ensure their right to think freely, hold independent opinions, and express themselves without any hindrance. We will always respect the right of any citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice. Every citizen has the right of free association and of free assembly. We will always defend the right of every Sri Lankan citizen to participate in the political and governance processes through his or her elected representatives. We consider all these as rights of human beings that no one can challenge.”
Calling for a strong executive and legislature and an independent judiciary, President Rajapaksa said balancing the three branches is important for a strong democracy.
“There are several domains that need to be maintained in equilibrium for democracy to function properly. Maintaining the balance of power between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is very important in this regard. There needs to be a clear consensus on the responsibilities of the central government and decentralized authorities in the devolution of power. The responsibilities of the civilian and military establishments need to be clearly understood, and we must always remember that citizens have individual as well as collective rights. Coordination between the State and the public is integral to this,” he said.
The President said as the democratically elected head of the state, he is duty bound to serve all communities equally.
“In a democracy, when the leader is elected following a legitimate process, he becomes the President of all the people of the country. During his term of office, he must serve the entire Sri Lankan people. He is not bound to serve only the interests of the people who voted for him. I have the vision that I must serve as the leader of the country looking after all citizens rather than serve as a political leader concerned only about a particular community. As the President today, I represent the entire Sri Lankan nation irrespective of ethnicity, religion, party affiliation or other differences,” he said.
"I am committed to working towards fulfilling the needs of the people of this country. That is my responsibility and my duty. I do not envisage public officials, lawmakers or the judiciary to impede my implementing this commitment. I not only respect your freedom, but I will work towards improving it and guarantee the political and economic freedom in a truly democratic country."
The President emphasized that the public will only achieve true freedom when social and economic inequalities are minimized. All citizens within a Unitary State should have equal rights, he stressed.
Pointing out that there are many challenges ahead, the President request the public to support the government to overcome them.
"We have many challenges ahead of us. We need everyone’s support for the efforts taken by the government to overcome them. The Policy Statement I placed before you comprises an action plan that will allow us to overcome the challenges before us. It is our expectation to create a prosperous nation through this. Only the present generation can realize this hope on behalf of future generations. I request all Sri Lankans to join with us in accepting this responsibility that history has bestowed upon us."