Honorable Speaker, honorable Members of Parliament,
It is my great pleasure to offer you the congratulations of the people of Sri Lanka and welcome you to the new parliament. You are the democratically elected representatives of the people and you have been elected in the most peaceful election held in the history of our country.
As a person political experience of more than five decades, including 26 years as a Member of Parliament, I take this opportunity extend my thanks to the brotherly people in this country, those who voted for and against me at the Presidential Election on January 08, which I won as the Common Candidate of the opposition.
Honorable Members of Parliament,
By my address today another tradition of the parliament democracy is being fulfilled. This key note address, which is known as the Throne Speech according to British tradition and as Inaugural Speech according to American democracy is the presentation of the official policy statement of the new government to the parliament.
As I see, you, the representatives of the people who implement laws for the people have to face more challenges that any previous Parliament. Millions of Sri Lankans are now using new technological equipment which enable to connect with the whole world on their palms. While we went to school taking a slate for writing, our children and grandchildren have gone even beyond laptops and take iPads to school. The era in which they do it may come before the end of the tenure of this parliament. I like to tell you that the people have selected you as lawmakers in an era of transformation like this. Accordingly, everybody has the responsibility to build this country for that era to be dawn and the ambitions of new generation while protecting the values of our culture which binds us as the Sri Lanka nation.
I have something to emphasize about the national security of our country. I have the complete responsibility about national security and territorial integrity of the country as the Supreme Commander of the Armed forces as well as the Minister of Defense in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka. I will fulfill that responsibility to my best ability while requesting your complete cooperation and commitment which is not second to anything in that regard.
It is my belief that the new parliament commences today will mark an important landmark of the history of Sri Lankan politics. After gaining independence, we had experiences only of coalition governments that were formed by a major party with the support of small parties. But we can see examples from various countries where they formed conventional alliance governments, forgetting their political differences to face threats to those nations. As soon as the racial discrimination was ended in South Africa, the main political parties of that country established a consensual government to eradicate the racist divisions of political parties and to achieve a rapid development for the country. I strongly believe that this moment, in which Sri Lanka marches towards a post-war era, is the golden opportunity to build a consensual government to face national and international challenges.
Our two main political parties that ruled the country during three decades of continuous conflict did not have sufficient experience to understand how to govern the peaceful Sri Lanka in a democratic structure. As we did not have enough experience on politics of consensus rather than politics of rivalry, we failed to set up a consensual alliance government with unity of the two main political parties.
The most important task of the consensual alliance, formed with the unity of the two main parties of the country, based on the concept of national government is to build reconciliation among communities and take the country towards speedy socioeconomic progress and human development so that local and international challenges in the new world dawning in 2020 could be faced successfully.
While we were in a war for three decades, many other Asian countries with similar history as ours and with weaker socio-economic conditions than us have achieved rapid development. Therefore, we should not forget that a huge development gap had been created between those countries and Sri Lanka. Even though it is delayed I understood the importance of building a consensual government with the unity of two main political parties as the key strategy for winning challenge of minimizing this gap in development.
In order to fulfill this need without any delay, I took steps after taking leadership to establish a national consensual government in accordance with what I have clearly stated in policy statement, “Maithri Palanayak (A Compassionate Government)” for the Presidential election, 2015. This Parliament is setting up a consensual government for two years to fulfill that national requirement. I trust that it will be a start of a new developed political culture of this country.
My manifesto for the last Presidential Election, accepted by the majority of people in Sri Lanka will be the foundation for drafting the agenda for the consensual government to be born through this Parliament. Similarly, the “Panchavida Kriyavaliya” (Five-fold Plan) by United National Front for good governance, “Anagathayata Sahathikayak’ (Certificate of Guarantee for the Future) by United People’s Freedom Alliance and the “Harda Sakshiye Sammuthiya” (Agreement of Consciousness) by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna as well as the election manifesto of Tamil National Front have been studied in comparison with the policy frame based on the principles of Good Governance presented in my manifesto; ‘A Compassionate Maithri Governance – A Stable Country’. Accordingly, I will take action to establish policies in the new consensual government by mixing the policies of other parties incorporated into the future vision identified in my manifesto.
Any country or nation considers the constitution as the foundation of its self-identity. That is why we consider our constitution as the most supreme volume. We have had three different constitutions during past 60 years since independence. But, it is unfortunate that we could not agree with one constitution that could be acceptable to everybody as the foundation of the Sri Lanka nation. From the day 1978 constitution was established, most of the parties have been complaining about the Executive Presidency and the Electoral System which are considered as its foundation. I have paid special attention to this issue in the manifesto; Maithree palanayak (A Compassionate Governance). Passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of 1978 was a fulfillment of one of my key promises. It is the responsibility of the Parliament, where you are now seated, to take the final decision over the existence or the nature of the Executive Presidency. My other key promise during the election was to change the proportional representation and the preferential vote system which earned displeasure and hatred of most of the people for the last three decades and establish a new electoral system acceptable to everybody. You are aware that the foundation has been laid even by now through the proposals I presented at the end of the term of the last Parliament for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Accordingly, the historic task of formulating the most suitable electoral system in which all political parties and civil society agree, and passing it, are the responsibilities of this Parliament of which you all are members.
The Parliament also has the responsibility to take political decisions that we should have taken earlier, for reconciliation, coexistence and development to raise Sri Lanka as a proud nation.
You have become the partners in the task to build the modern Sri Lankan nation, which consists of the reconciliation among Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and burgher and the coexistence among the religions, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian. I am, as President, dedicated to give the leadership, guidance and cooperation in that regard without any delay. I emphasize it is a responsibility of this Parliament to raise Sri Lanka as a great democratic nation forging ahead.
The most valuable resource of our country is human resource. I believe that the foundation of the development process of our country is developing the human resource to a great extent. When the modern world is gaining technological achievements, a country can grow beyond medium income level only through developing the trained workforce. Hence, my government gives the top priority for skill development and empowering the Sri Lankan workforce to be fit for any requirement of the local and international market.
I should remind you that the 21st Century is the century of Asia. It is our fortune that we are geographically situated in a position which helps us to get benefits of the economic opportunities generated in a context where Asia is emerging as the hub of the world economy. Our key responsibility is to make future economic policies, plans and strategies in a way to take maximum benefits from this great opportunity given us by the nature.
There are several important sectors and related issues that failed to receive due attention during the process of making our economic plans in the past. Informal economy based on small scale enterprises is prominent of those neglected sectors. When we consider about the contribution made from the informal economy to the national economy of Sri Lanka, we should pay more state attention and provide assistance to this sector. The government will support rural economy through the initial understanding on the micro credit and credit management to the small scale entrepreneurs and farmers who do not earn a permanent income.
The most valuable resource of our country is human resource. I believe that the foundation of the development process of our country is developing the human resource to a great extent. When the modern world is getting technological achievements a country can go beyond medium income level only through developing the trained workforce. Hence, my government gives the priority for skill development; the enforcing of the Sri Lankan workforce to be fit for any requirement of the local and international market.
I should remind you that the 21st century is the century of Asia. It is our fortune that we geographically situated in a position which helps get benefits of the economic opportunities, generated in a context where the Asia is emerging as the hub of the world economy. Our key responsibility is to make future economic policies, plans and strategies in a way to take maximum benefits from this great opportunity given us by the nature.
There are important fields and related issues in which have not been paid attention during the process of making our economic plans. Informal economy based on small scale enterprises is prominent from those. When we consider about the contribution made from the informal economy to the national economy of Sri Lanka we should pay more state attention and give more assistance to them. The government will support rural economy through the initial understanding on the micro credit and credit management to the small scale entrepreneurs and farmers who don’t earn permanent income.
The mandate given by the majority of the people to me is an endorsement of the manifesto that promises a Maithri governance led by the principles of good governance, rejection of corruption and protection of state property. Therefore the commitment to eradicate corruption and fraud is a key principle of my government. I will not hesitate to take action against those who are charged with misusing of state property, take them before the Judiciary, without being partial to anyone. I am committed to eradicate corruption and further strengthen the institutional structures of the country.
As you are aware, our country today is a medium income one. Our aim should be to launch the initial economic strategies successfully and rapidly to increase that income to a considerable level during the period of this Parliament.
We cannot consider Sri Lanka as an economically developed country when benefits of all developments are enjoyed by a small number of members of the rich society, while most of the people suffer from poverty. As a result of that while we are increasing the per capita income of the country we must take steps to decrease the income parity in the country.
Similarly, it is the responsibility of my government to ensure that the development is equally spread to all parts of the country. Especially, the fruits of development must reach the conflict affected areas in the North and East, so-called border areas of those provinces that suffered due to the conflict and under developed areas in other parts of the country. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure all areas of the country are equally developed.
Many developed countries in the world have achieved a rapid economic growth causing significant environmental damages which has adversely affected the humankind. However, now they have identified the disadvantages associated with their development path and, at present they are being transformed into a knowledge economy from the industrial economy, and they are moving towards policies like innovative economy, green economy and sustainable economy. It must be emphasized that in the journey ahead when we take the country towards success of human development goals and socio-economic development , we should not do any form of harm to our beautiful environment, rain forests or to flora and faunas which make Sri Lanka one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I believe when we move forward on that path we must follow the Buddhist economic strategies what the Lord Buddha preach as “Santutthi paraman dhanan” (Happiness is the supreme wealth). The world is now aware that we cannot achieve a sustainable development by going against the environment. The Buddhist Philosophy which enriched our country for the past 2500 years, demonstrates how we can achieve happiness and prosperity by following the Middle Path while preserving the environment. I consider the Buddhist economic strategies that we have with us is a great resource for us when we step into the modern world. Don’t we have to hand over this country to the future generation as a country in which people can obtain maximum satisfaction with minimum necessary consumption levels and as a country where its people are contended and not as a country that consumes most goods and services in the world?
Today we are living in a globalized new world. In that context, every country in the world is important to us. There are many things we can learn from them and they can learn from us. As a result of that openness and friendship between the countries will remain as the foundation of our foreign policy. I have also previously mentioned that we have entered into the Century of Asia. Accordingly, I will state that my Government will pay more attention towards a foreign policy which is an Asia-centric middle-path policy.
I believe that during the past few years the word ‘Geneva’ was often talked about in our foreign policy. From the moment I took office as the president on January 08, the perspectives international community have towards us has changed in a very positive way. When facing such complex situations successfully, the faith placed on us by the international community and their cooperation and consensus is very important. I am very happy to state that during the past seven months my government was able to change the then existed situation towards our country in a positive way while restoring the good name and reputation of the country.
It is lamentable that our country has used to import food from other countries when there is an environment to produce those food items in our own country, as in ancient times Sri Lanka has been named as “Granary of the East”. Dependence on visiting grocery shops for vegetables and fruits that we can grow in our own garden, buying crops from distant areas when they grow in your own area and importing food from other countries when they can produced in our own country are not the agricultural policy of my government. Already, I have begun to implement a National Food Policy focused on home yards, villages and the country for growing agricultural products. The main objective of the “Api Wawamu-Rata Nagamu” Program, which I implemented as the Minister of Agriculture is to promote the local food production.
I recall with honor, the Agricultural philosophy of D. S. Senanayake which recognized six decades ago, that, in order to provide a sustainable foundation for the country, it is essential to develop the agricultural sector and he established large scale new human settlements for agriculture.
The main objective of my Government is to produce healthy food locally by promoting agricultural products including rice production to fulfill the nutrition needs of the people in the country. Accordingly, my Government will work to provide water for drinking and agricultural purposes by implementing multi-purpose development projects such as Moragahakanda and Kalu Ganga and will take steps to introduce modern technology into the agricultural and livestock sector. I have taken steps to implement a national program to prevent kidney disease faced by the farmers.
I will take steps to minimize the protein deficiency of the people in the country by developing the fishing industry. As we are living in an Island we should not delay our plans to utilize our marine resources. We should not limit our sea area, which is eight times the size of the land area, only to the fishing industry. Therefore, my Government will launch immediate preparations to use marine resources in large scale and in practical manner for the development of our country.
As all of you aware, a Government cannot fulfill every aspiration of the people within this modern world order. We need to strengthen our public sector, private sector, as well as civil society in order to accomplish the needs of the people. When empowering the private sector, it is necessary to provide more facilities to local industries. My Government will provide required reliefs, facilities and incentives to boost the private sector in order to attract local and international investments. Apart from this, the Government has paid its attention to offer benefits and concessions to the employees in the private sector.
I will take special actions to enhance the develop the services such as free health service, free education and public transport that provides a major service to the people. These services get more state contribution as they are beneficial to the people. My Government has paid more attention to introduce necessary reforms to state sector in order to improve the efficiency and the quality of the service. The Government will take steps to establish Advisory Committees in state institutions to make necessary arrangements to ensure they function properly, to take steps to reduce the salary anomalies, to introduce talent-based system when recruiting persons and to adopt a new system for promotions. The government will take action to make an attitude change in public views regarding the state sector and its employees. To realize the above mentioned goals, my Government must establish a new national policy which will not change when there is a change from Minister to Minister, Government to Government or President to President.
Although, we have spoken many things regarding the youths, the youth uprising during the past years in our country proves that as a nation we have done very little about them. Due to these violent conflicts we lost thousands of valuable young lives to our country.
The implementation process of the recommendations of the Commission Report on youth uprising in 1900 is taking place at a very slow pace. My Government will reconsider those recommendations and will formulate a method to apply these recommendations in a suitable way for present day requirements. Under this, I must emphasize that my government will not allow any form of political interference when providing jobs or in any situation where state mediation is required.
We must pay more attention to the vulnerable groups such as women, children, elderly and the handicapped persons in the society. Women who are more than half of the population in Sri Lanka make a considerable contribution to the national economy and for the sustenance of the good behavior in our society. The priority will be given towards the well-being of women in all development strategies in my Government.
Our children are the future of the nation. My Government’s main intention is to build a better future for the children and to ensure their security.
There are many disabled persons living with us. I will take immediate steps to pay the proposed monthly allowance to disabled people while preserving their dignity and will take possible steps to ease tough regulations now existed regarding the monthly allowance.
We see limitless opportunities for a Sri Lankan child to triumph in this modern world and one’s race, religion, region, social status or economic potential should not be an obstacle for that. However, that does not mean that if a person has an identity, it should be devalued. Regrettably, even today there are reminisces of the age of feudalism which prevents us from resurging as a Modern Nation. In many situations I have seen some people face inconvenience when their family names announced loudly in public places. I believe using family names in an inconvenient way to people is an obstacle to build the modern Sri Lankan identity. Because of that if there is a necessity to include the family name in public places and public documents, the relevant authorities must take permission of the holder of the name. My government will make necessary provisions if someone does not interested to show their complete family name, to use only the initials of the surname. According to this there is no hindrance to the right to use the family name publicly. Specially, I consider this action as taking a step forward of the social-democratic philosophy of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who gave leadership to the social revolution in 1956.
New challenges and new social problems will emerge inevitably within the world in keeping with its changes day to day. We must be ready to face these challenges with a new vision, while maintaining our good values.
Already Sri Lanka is a country with a high level of drug consumption. I must emphasize that if we fail to protect our children from this drug menace, none of our future objectives will be successful. Drug use, not only a health issue, it is also a social problem of our country. I have already initiated a new Island-wide program of action to prevent the drug use.
Scholars and intellectuals of the country have pointed out a long time ago, that a new political culture should be introduced in our country. I must recall that I came into power on January 08 in keeping with that pledge. I am committed to create a new political culture with political leaders with good values, good personality, a good image as well as discipline. These are the qualities an exemplary political leader must have.
Now we have the foundation for the new political culture in our country which the general public and local scholars and intellectuals, as well as those who are abroad, anticipated. I request the intellectuals around the country and all expatriate Sri Lankans to use your expertise and skills to develop the motherland in this consensual political environment. My Government will establish a special bureau under my directive to coordinate the expatriate Sri Lankans who wish to return to the motherland and we will offer a red carpet welcome to them. I would like them that now it is time for us to work unitedly for the betterment of the country, instead of dividing into endless factions and groups.
Finally, I must emphasize on one issue. Since we gained independence, this country has been ruled by the two major political parties. From that a one party ruled this country for 35 years. The other main political party ruled this country for 32 years. I would kindly request all of you to give me your assistance in my determined effort to build consensus among political parties instead of blaming each other for their particular doings during their respective regimes and increasing political rivalry.
From now on, keeping with this consensual politics as the foundation between the two main political parties, I request from all the political parties represented in the Parliament and all the people’s representatives in Parliament, to pay their attention to find the ways and means as to how we could use this consensus among all political groups and the present emerging good political culture for the betterment and progress of our country.
To watch speech in Sinhala click here.