First Citizen’s call for collective efforts to build a prosperous nation | Daily News

First Citizen’s call for collective efforts to build a prosperous nation

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with tomorrow’s leaders.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with tomorrow’s leaders.

A solid foundation has been laid during the last 12 months for protection of national security, delivery on development goals, upholding law and order, and reviving economic activities that came to a standstill due to the spread of COVID-19 by firmly containing the dreaded pandemic to a few pockets.

These are the major steps towards consolidation taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his first year in office and in his Address to the Nation, he expressed confidence that Sri Lanka would be able to overcome COVID-19 challenges through citizen cooperation. 

Rajapaksa faced the Presidential Election in November 2019 when the common perception of the people was that the country needed a leadership with a national vision. People handed over this country to Gotabaya Rajapaksa to fill that void.

The vision he had already displayed on seeking answers to political, economic and social crises was ingrained in the hearts of the public in his policy statement, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’.

Covering his first year in office, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday recapped in detail the steps taken by him and the Government during the past 12 months and emphasised that he would continue discharging his responsibilities towards all Sri Lankans and insisted that he had stayed true to his pledges made when he was sworn in. “The best yardstick of the success or failure of mine is public opinion and not the organised propaganda spread by political opponents on social media platforms.” 

He pointed out that getting a two-thirds majority at the Parliamentary Elections was proof that the people approved of his decisions, the President said, insisting that he would continue directly gathering the views of the public in order to serve them better.    

The President gave a vital boost to the sagging morale of the people due to unprecedented health and economic challenges, promised to remain unfazed by the multitude of tasks yet to be accomplished, and said he had stared down harder tasks in the past with undeterred determination. “I am a person who has constantly faced challenges and overcome them. I am not a person scared of empty threats. I don’t have the habit of simply running away from problems. Instead, I resolve those issues. I do not want to please anyone only for the purpose of securing votes. As I have pledged, my determination is to build a prosperous nation. I will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary according to my conscience to achieve this target.”

He took this opportunity to reiterate his patriotic feelings and to remind fellow citizens about their responsibilities. “I love my country. I am proud of my country. I have a vision for my country. This is the Motherland of all of us. Hence, the time has come for all of us to join hands as productive citizens with team spirit and fulfill responsibilities in a disciplined manner in building the prosperous nation we promised to our people.”

The President highlighted the steps taken to restore and protect national sovereignty and end interference by foreign powers. “The era of betraying war heroes, selling national assets, willingness to accept any deal for short-term gains, and allowing foreign forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the country have now come to an end. We have once again shown the world our position as a proud, sovereign country, ready to maintain friendly relations with all nations, non-aligned, nonpartisan in conflicts between powerful nations. This is the reason that today we receive due respect from regional powers as well as global powers.”  

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa highlighted the steps taken to restore law and order by curtailing underworld criminal activities and reducing drug trafficking. “The underworld had become powerful and a wave of killings had begun throughout the country. Sri Lanka had become a haven for international drug traffickers. The country was becoming insecure due to the weakening of the intelligence and security forces. Historic sacred sites of archeological value were being encroached on by extremists. After I came into power, I appointed suitable officials in charge of the security apparatus of the country and gave them the required authority to carry out their responsibilities without any compromise. The intelligence services that had collapsed in the past were restructured and revitalized.”

The President, emphasizing the need to feel the pulse of the people on continuous basis said, “If you want to truly serve the people it is necessary to continuously listen to them. Because of that I go to the grassroots to address people’s grievances. In the recent months, I have travelled in the rural areas of Sri Lanka to see the difficulties suffered by fellow citizens and get first-hand experience. As a result, I had the opportunity to take necessary decisions and actions with a correct understanding of the issues common to every district as well as issues unique to a particular area. I have always advised the Ministers, State Ministers and MPs to go among the people to give swift solutions to their grievances at the village level, while understanding their genuine problems.”

He reminded the public servants about their responsibilities and said that an efficient Government service is a requisite vital for the forward march of the country. “I request all public servants to take steps to swiftly provide solutions for the reasonable issues of the public instead of hiding behind rules and regulations,” he said. “Occasionally, I visit public departments and institutions to observe whether these institutions are functioning in an appropriate manner. I hope to continue this initiative in the future as well. Ministers and State Ministers as well as high-ranking officials of the Government should always scrutinise the functions of their respective institutions,” he added. 

President Rajapaksa reiterated that his campaign promise to eliminate waste and corruption in the State administration would continue. This will include measures to completely eliminate waste and corruption in all the ministries and government institutions. “Even after assumption of office, I acted on the principle that the Presidency is not a privilege but a responsibility. Accordingly, I have taken steps to completely eliminate unnecessary expenses, waste and vain glorifications.”

He assured that with regard to COVID-19, the Government acts according to a plan. “While successfully containing the spread of the disease, our healthcare sector has been able to maintain a mortality rate of less that 0.05 percent of those diagnosed with the disease and referred for treatment. The high infection rate of the new strain of virus is the cause for the rapid spread of the disease in the world,” he said, expressing confidence that past experience would be helpful in responding to the disaster this time in terms of detecting cases, contact tracing, testing and quarantine measures.   

Defending the 20th Amendment he said that even though some “controversial aspects” remained, the Government had already appointed a committee to seek public opinion to formulate a new Constitution. “The people of this country have given me and our Government a huge mandate to make our country prosperous while changing the traditional political culture. We are at all times committed to fulfill those aspirations.”

Commenting on development and economic policy initiatives during the first year, he said his government did a lot for the country amid challenges. He said the two-thirds majority received by his government after nine months into office bore testimony to it despite the organised disinformation campaign launched by the political opposition.   

Making his remarks on the Constitution, he said though the Government was able to scrap the 19th Amendment with its loopholes, a few controversial grey areas still remained in the Constitution. “We have already appointed a Committee to seek public opinion to draft a new constitution,” he said.   

“My hope is to establish a Government which gives priority for talent or skill over relationships, gives more attention for the common needs than individual desires, motivates investments instead of obtaining loans, honours actions over words and values the true public service over deceitful exhibitionism. The political authority as well as the public servants should take responsibilities in this regard.”

President Rajapaksa pointed out that all appointments to top positions of Government and State enterprises were done based on merit since he came to power, and this and other achievements only underscored the importance of staying true to the path outlined by his policy statement.

He urged the people to extend fullest cooperation to the Government. “Not only Sri Lanka, but also the whole world has reached an important milestone in history. There are many challenges ahead for us. All Sri Lankans who love their Motherland must work together to take the country forward in a systematic manner while acting according to a definite policy framework to overcome these challenges.”

He gave an assurance that the government was well prepared to meet any challenge. “We were able to defeat the LTTE’s terrorism, which was a major threat for our country, as a result of a collective effort. At that time, the majority of our country committed to achieve one goal. We faced the challenges with team spirit and in a disciplined manner. We should be able to conquer the economic challenges that the country is facing in the future in the same manner we won the war when most were of the opinion that we would not be able to win it. We should understand that all of us have a common responsibility in this regard. In this context, not only the politicians and officials, but also the public have the responsibility to actively contribute to increasing the production capacity of the country, to improve service efficiency and eliminate corruption.”

The message given by President Rajapaksa to the people is very clear. The nation’s aspiration for a prosperous country is building through collective efforts. The end result is that the people of Sri Lanka once again have high hopes for a better future for this country and a brighter future for themselves. It is an invaluable guarantee in any society that is rapidly moving towards its development goals. It is certain that the historical journey which the entire nation has joined hands with enthusiasm and anticipation is on the right track.