9:45 PM

‘New freedom, a great responsibility’ President

Dark days of terror are over and mothers of Sri Lanka do not have to fear for the safety of their children any longer, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing a mammoth rally held yesterday at the Parliament Grounds to pay tribute to war heroes.

The commemoration ceremony was preceded by a colourful winding procession which started from the Campbell Park in the afternoon and took hours to reach the Parliament Grounds.

Now that the reign of terror was over, children could go back to school without fear of bombs and abductions, the President said.

He said in the past mothers and fathers were scared of taking public transport together. One travelled by bus and other by train as they wanted at least one of them to survive a possible terrorist bomb blast to look after their children.

With the new freedom, he said, came a great responsibility. "We all have to show our success in work,' he said, "that is the meaning of accepting responsibility for the people."

Stressing the need for magnanimity and unity, President Rajapaksa said if anyone was hurt when one raised the national flag, there was no purpose in victory celebrations. Victory, he said, had to be celebrated by all people as one family because it belonged to them all, be they Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers or Malays.

President Rajapaksa said war heroes must never be forgotten as they had given their today for the country's tomorrow. The wind, in which the national flag fluttered, he said, was symbolic of the last breath of those men and women who had made the supreme sacrifice for the motherland. The nation, he said, was duty bound to look after the families of those who had laid down their lives for the country.

There had been times when the national flag could not be hoisted in many parts of the country without permission from terrorists. But, today, it could be raised anywhere and over 15,000 sq. km. that had been under terrorists were open for anyone to move about. "Terrorists have nothing today," he said adding that the country had waited thirty long years for that day.

In 1956, recalled President Rajapaksa, five socio-political forces had been harnessed for the benefit of the country. They were, he said, Sangha, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru and they were collectively known as the Pancha Maha Balavegaya. He said today there had been an addition to those progressive forces and they had become six as a result: Sangha, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru saha Ranaviru.

The President said in his policy statement, Mahinda Chinthanaya, he had promised to build the country. And for that purpose, he said, waste and corruption had to be eliminated. "We must crack down on those behind drug peddlers and bootleggers," he said.

There had been many obstacles on his government's way in defeating terrorism, President Rajapaksa said. International pressure, he said, had been tremendous. But, he and his government had overcome all those obstacles and withstood unbearable pressure to achieve the goal of defeating terrorism.

President Rajapaksa said he and his family had become targets of sinister forces because of the country's war on terror. There had been attempts to haul him up before international criminal courts for the crime of liberating the country from the clutches of a terrorist outfit described as the most ruthless terrorist group in the world. "Some are trying to do this even now,' he said, "but I am not afraid of walking up to any gallows, having defeated the world's worst terrorists." He said he knew he had the confidence and the strength of Sri Lankans.

"All I need is for my country, my motherland to shine in glory," said President Rajapaksa to a rapturous applause.