A commitment to Freedom | Daily News


A commitment to Freedom

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Address to the Nation from Independence Square on the 72nd anniversary of national freedom, yesterday, marked a departure from speeches made by previous Presidents. The President presented to his fellow citizens a holistic picture of what it really means to be ‘free’ and ‘Sri Lankan’. Sri Lankans heard a comprehensive reflection that outlined the challenges facing a nation that had experienced a multitude of trials and tribulations over the last seven decades.

Noting Sri Lanka’s tried and tested democratic credentials, President Rajapaksa noted that several dimensions needed to be maintained in equilibrium for democracy to function properly. As he correctly argued, maintaining the balance of power between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary is very important in this regard. The President reiterated his commitment to strengthening National Security and Public Security and vowed not to allow extremist organisations that pave the way for terrorism, to function any further. This will be reassuring to all Sri Lankans who still harbour the scars of those terrible events of April 21, 2019.

He made another very important point, with indirect reference to the arguments of some that he should primarily work for the welfare of the majority community who voted overwhelmingly for him. The President gave a fitting reply to this argument, noting that in a democracy, when the leader is elected following a legitimate process, he becomes the President of all the people of the country.

To quote the President: “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 a 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.” Well said, indeed. It is a strongly articulated message that will resonate with all Sri Lankans here and abroad.

Recent events and revelations may have eroded public confidence in various institutions including the Judiciary which is not healthy for a vibrant democracy. Thus a strong Executive, a Legislature and an independent Judiciary are essential for the well-being and advancement of any democratic society. He pointed out that if, for whatever reason, there is a loss of public confidence in any of these key institutions fundamental to the functioning of a country, such a situation can give rise to anarchy. Therefore, all such stakeholders must perform their role with the powers they have been granted for the welfare of the country and for protecting the sovereignty of the people with a national vision, he explained.

The importance of cutting through red tape to serve the public was also stressed by the President. “Some limitations on the freedoms of the people have arisen because of the way public administration has evolved over time. Those rules and regulations that have been enacted without adequate study and coordination have led to the public facing considerable harassment and inconvenience. This has led to various irregularities and corruption. Losses to the public in terms of time, resources and livelihood opportunities are enormous,” he said, mentioning the need for simplifying procedures for the public in obtaining licenses, permits and other documentation.

The President also called for the revision of outdated laws, regulations, taxes and charges that prevent people from freely undertaking self-employment, traditional industries or businesses. All Sri Lankans should also support his drive to eliminate corruption in the public service, as pledged in this address.

He then focused on poverty alleviation and development. “Thirty years of conflict and other factors have delayed the progress of our country. We can no longer afford to waste time. We will accelerate development in line with new trends in the global economy by making appropriate use of our country’s unique geographical location, natural resources and human resources.” This is a welcome pledge in the light of the fact that we have not made optimum use of our resources since Independence.

Freedom may have been won as a national community, but it is also about individual liberty. The President’s commitment is clear: “My Government is always ready to tolerate and accommodate opposing views. The media has complete freedom today. We have ensured that everyone has the right to freely express themselves. We will always ensure their right to think freely, hold independent opinions, and express themselves without any hindrance. ”

And he invites people to point out any shortcomings of the Government without any fear: “If your conscience tells you that the government is moving in the wrong direction, you always have a duty to point this out boldly”.

With such encouragement from our head of State, there is no doubt that our time to shine has come.

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