President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the Social Justice Commission will be established in order to build a country where everyone can live in harmony, by solving the problems of the people belonging to all sections of the population and that the government expects to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The President said this during his address at the National Thai Pongal Festival held at the Jaffna Durga Hall this afternoon (15).
The President, who was escorted to the venue by a Tamil cultural procession, was received according to Hindu rituals. Many Tamil cultural performances added colour to the event.
In addition, the President stated that in order to build a country where all races coexist and achieve economic prosperity, everyone must return to the Sri Lankan identity established by the late Mr D.S Senanayake 75 years ago.
The President stated that a statement on the government’s steps toward reconciliation will be made public in February and that a meeting of party leaders will be convened next week to discuss the matter.
President Wickremesinghe also stated that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work will be accelerated in order to provide relief to the families of the disappeared.
The full speech of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is as follows:
First of all, I wish everyone a very Happy Thai Pongal. Thai Pongal festival in particular is a national festival. We were an agricultural country in the past. After harvesting the annual harvest, we thanked the gods and performed these rituals.
I would like to express my appreciation to the students of Ramanathan Faculty of Aesthetics who made a splendid presentation at this event today. I would like to say that it is a high-level drama. The Nadasalam band also performed according to traditional knowledge. I express my thanks to all of them.
Both these teams can compete in international competitions. As Sri Lankans, we should be proud of that. This afternoon we decided to hold an art festival in Jaffna as well, similar to the Galle festival. We have created a new Tamil culture’ and we should show it to the world. The cultural aspects of this festival ended with harmony.
This country needs reconciliation. As well as 30 years of war and insurgency, our country has been divided by divisive, racist, sectarian and bankrupt politics. As we all have to live in one country, we must return to the Sri Lankan identity and build the economy that Late Mr. D. S. Senanayake created 75 years ago
I saw people pouring water, milk, rice, and jaggery into the pot kept on fire on the stage where the Thai Pongal festival is taking place. Pongal is coming. So, in this difficult time, let’s put Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and Burghers together and take a Sri Lankan identity.
We are discussing the problems of the North and the Tamil people. I called all the party leaders to the Parliament and said let us work to unite this country and restore harmony. I also discussed with the Tamil Party MPs in Parliament. Also, I hope to announce to the country in February about the measures taken by the government to create Reconciliation in the country. I have informed the Parliament to take that decision and have called a meeting of party leaders next week to discuss it.
These issues cannot be put aside and resolved by delaying them. The solution should be told to the country and the Parliament. That is why Parliament’s views are first sought. We have discussed a number of issues. To provide comfort to the families of the disappeared, to find the truth, to find out what happened. And we are discussing appointing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into this.
Three weeks ago, I asked our Army Commander’s idea about the establishment of the TRC. He said to fix it, and then we can answer the allegations. No one has any objection to this.
And instead of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, we are bringing a new law. Some say that this bill is used against the North. No, we use this to create stability in the country. I could have deployed this to the south last year. And we could bring new laws.
Next is the land issue. Today we are discussing the issues related to the Wildlife Department. We are also discussing the return of land in Jaffna. During the war, the army kept about 30,000 acres under their control because they wanted to protect these areas.
Today only 3,000 acres are left under the security forces. The army has expressed its willingness to hand over another part of it. We are discussing it.
As our Bishop said, we are taking steps to build those Catholic and Hindu churches. There are offerings that have been held for hundreds of years, there are newly started ones, we should continue all of them.
We hope to fully implement the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Not only in the North but also in the South, the Chief Ministers are demanding that it be implemented. We are continuing those activities. In the next two years, we will continue this work systematically. Today, poverty, hunger and deprivation are not limited to the Sinhalese or the Tamils, we all suffer. We all have to overcome these challenges together.
It is not only the problems of the Tamil people in the North and East. There are other issues to discuss. After this meeting, I will call the MPs representing the Tamil people in the hills and the parliamentary party leaders and start the second round of those discussions. The Tamil people of the hills are fully integrated into our society and given the same rights and privileges enjoyed by the Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim people. The country cannot marginalize this group that earns foreign exchange. They must be joined with others.
After that, Muslim MPs and party leaders are expected to be invited for discussion. Muslims have many problems. Therefore, those people should be brought to discuss those issues and provide solutions. There are problems not only for Tamils and Muslims but also for Sinhalese. There are isolated villages. In some places, casteism is an issue. Poor people are marginalized. The Christian people fear for their safety. A social justice commission is expected to be established to talk about them. I tell everyone that we should talk about these and further strengthen the Sri Lankan identity.
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