A mandate for peace and human
Address to the nation after assuming office as the fourth
Executive President of Sri Lanka - November 12, 1994
I assume office as the Fourth President of Sri Lanka at a
momentous turning point in the history of our nation. The people
have overwhelmingly demonstrated their collective desire for
democracy, for peace, for honesty and efficiency in government
affairs and for an economic policy which will offer to everyone the
privileges so jealously guarded by a handful of self seeking
I have no words to express appropriately how deeply touched and
overwhelmed and how humbled I am to witness the immense confidence
and faith the nation has reposed in me and my government.
The scale and dimension of the mandate that has been given to us
knows no parallel in the history of elections of the democratic
world. Yet, it is even more significant to note that all the peoples
of Sri Lanka, in all their diversity, have spoken in one loud and
I take this opportunity to bow in homage before the courage, the
political acumen and the quiet determination of our people in the
resolve to triumph over the might of state terror and political
I take this opportunity to pay homage and gratitude to my parents
for teaching me the lessons of honesty, sincerity and commitment to
the people of one's land is worth much more than money could buy. I
also pay gratitude at this moment to my husband Vijaya for the
courage and the support that he gave me right throughout our
political life together.
The unsurpassed dimensions of this victory cannot be understood
merely in terms of an achievement of an individual or even in terms
of a political party.
Our people are well aware that whatever strength of mind, heart
and the will I possess, is entirely at the service of the nation.
I have long dedicated myself to the well-being of my country and
today is the suitable day for the renewal of that commitment.
This victory is not mine alone. It is the fruit of painstaking
labour and resolve of every segment of the Sri Lankan community
spread all over the country during the days of darkness which
engulfed our land in the recent past.
The magnitude of this victory is indicative of the extent to
which the people of a country motivated and enthused can strive
against overwhelming odds and achieve posterity through emancipation
from the harshest tyranny.
It is to the vast mass of our people, who have made their
contributions to and kept this struggle alive in the face of
terrific odds, in the darkest epoch in our country's contemporary
history, that I pay my warm and humble tribute on this occasion.
In the words of my father, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, "the
indomitable, unconquerable spirit of our people" has proved
strong enough to challenge and eventually to prevail against the
oppressive regime of the past seventeen years.
It is appropriate at this time to take stock of the current
national condition and to reflect on the reasons that underpinned
this avalanche of popular feeling.
The people of our country in displaying their strong resolve to
give me and the People's Alliance, a victory of this scale signify
their profound desire for change.
Their vote is in essence and above all else, a vote for change.
The changes, which Sri Lanka's electorate looks forward to are as
diverse as they are far-reaching. Preeminent among the changes that
our people yearn for is the rejection, absolute and uncompromising,
of violence and terror they had endured in silence-the pain of
senseless killings and disappearances of their loved ones.
During the era that spanned almost two decades, human life became
incredibly cheap. State terror raised its ugly head and continued
unabated in its destructive path.
A callous regime, which looked upon political power solely for
the attainment of its narrow and selfish ends, violated all canons
of decency, equity and fair-play with impunity and left behind a
society yearning for sense of security and fulfilment in the absence
of all accepted norms and values.
The people of Sri Lanka have told with patent clarity to all who
care to listen, "gone are the days when might was right, when
everything was negotiable and when the state refined and streamlined
all forms of organized violence".
The verdict of the people was in favour of the supremacy of law;
the enthronement of democratic ideals and values and the restoration
of decency, morality and conscience to the process of government.
Our people have voted decisively against corruption and the abuse
of power, which had taken deep root and spread right through the
social and political fabric of our nation.
It had terribly bedevilled every civilized institution we held
The people have demanded transparency and accountability in all
spheres of government. They have insisted that political power is
normally justifiable only so long as it is used for purposes
connected with the well being of the people and the uplift of their
condition. We have brought to an end an era when politicians were a
law unto themselves.
The country has endorsed in the most explicit terms, the
measures, which my government has already taken to wipe out
political violence and state terror and to restore integrity and
honour to the politics of the country.
The crippling burden of a high cost of living and the economic
hardships caused by inadequate employment opportunities and a
variety of other evils which have bedevilled the economy demand
We have been accustomed to an economic order, which in the name
of an open economy has enabled unconscionable benefits to accrue to
a small coterie, while the rest of society languished in poverty and
squalor. Essential services including health and eduction were
One of the priority tasks of our new government is to ensure that
our economy is truly free and competitive, that there is honesty and
transparency in all transactions. Clear development perspective
would ensure expanded and vigorous growth of national production and
thereby the generation of new employment and income opportunities
for our youth.
Foreign investment will be encouraged and protected. We will also
ensure that the benefits of this development will reach the poorer
segment of our population through equitable and efficient
distribution of income transfers and increased employment.
Our people have acted with extreme restraint, intelligence and
political acumen in the face of strong efforts to push them into the
abyss of dark, dangerous and wild attitudes of racial and religious
bigotry and hatred.
They have given a mandate for peace and human values. They have
convincingly proved to the world, that all the might of the bullet
can be defeated by the ballot, their commitment to democracy is
The youth of our nation have responded to our call to eschew
violence and take up with us the banner of freedom, of democracy, of
human decency and prosperity for all.
We pay homage to our youth for placing their hope in our ability
to deliver the goods.
The ravages of war in the northern part of the country have
inflicted an enormous toll in terms of loss of life and resources.
The verdict of our people in the recent elections leaves me in no
doubt of the depth and intensity of their desire and commitment to
This must be, however, peace with honour for both parties to the
conflict for it to be strong and durable.
My government and I will continue our quest for peace recognising
that the path is a difficult and tortuous one. We will ensure that
our approach to peace will fully address the necessity to safeguard
and strengthen the rights of the Sinhalese people, while recognising
dignity, self-respect and equality of treatment for all communities.
This will form the essential basis of a negotiated solution to
the ethnic problem.
Convinced, as we are, of the gravely harmful effects of the
Executive Presidential system of government and of the vigour and
vitality of the democratic way of life of our people, we have
solemnly pledged to eradicate this blemish from the constitution of
In dedicating myself and my government which I head to the
accomplishment of these goals, I ask for the continued support and
co-operation you have given us.
The hope and faith you have placed in us is the beacon which
lights our path. The guidance and support you extended to us give us
the courage and dedication to go on. Let us together climb those
Let us realise the difficult but beautiful dream.