May 18 is a red letter day in the annals of Sri Lanka`s history when the nation celebrates the first anniversary of the eradication of terrorism. Exactly one year ago, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared with justifiable pride that the country had been liberated from the scourge of terrorism and hoisted the national flag at the Victory Day celebrations at the Galle Face Green in May last year.
The true sons of our soil have achieved infinitely more than the so-called superpowers - crushing terrorism, and that too against the most brutal terrorist organisation in the world. The whole world was spellbound by that magnificent victory.
It is appropriate to celebrate Victory Day to recall the valiant efforts of our Security Forces and show our gratitude to all those brave sons of our soil who had made immense sacrifices for us to enjoy true freedom today.
The Security Forces not only destroyed the LTTE`s terrorist fire power in the North and the East in less than three-and-a-half years, but also put paid to the Tiger propaganda through their mercy missions in the battlefront.
The V-Day is not merely an occasion to celebrate Sri Lanka`s unique achievement to eradicate terrorism. It also marks the unprecedented human rescue mission in the world as the Security Forces liberated over half a million people from the clutches of LTTE terror.
In the greatest humanitarian rescue operation in modern world history the Security Forces risked their lives to liberate hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians, held forcibly by the LTTE as a human shield.
We should bear in mind that the battle against the LTTE was not a war against the Tamils. The heroic troops sacrificed their lives to save innocent Tamils from the grip of LTTE terror. This is precisely why Sri Lanka`s victory in defeating the LTTE becomes a victory for the entire nation, irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds.
It is now the responsibility of the entire nation to add value to that unique victory and make it more meaningful. The Government has embarked on massive development projects in the North during the past year to assure a secure future for thousands of Tamils who faced untold hardships due to the barbaric acts of the LTTE. The time is now opportune to win the hearts of the Tamils by ensuring them the maximum protection. They are an integral part of Sri Lanka`s community.
Many mega projects have been implemented during the past year to win the hearts of those rescued Tamil civilians, especially to build the confidence of the Tamil youth who had only witnessed stark LTTE terror. The Tigers brainwashed Tamil youth to show the world that the Sinhalese were their sworn enemy. The youth in the North and the East should be enlightened to prove the goodwill and amity that prevailed among the three main communities before the LTTE sowed the seeds of ruthless terrorism on our soil.
Sri Lanka has a rich tradition of having repudiated even the most ruthless invaders thousands of years ago by defeating them and saving the motherland. It is home to people with a traditional history of bravely confronting invaders from the time of King Dutugemunu. Sri Lanka by no means can afford to lose what was won at such great sacrifice to be divided or even a shadow of separatism to fall on it.
There will not be even an iota of racism in the solutions that will be offered soon.
There had been many attempts by past Presidents to defeat the LTTE militarily. The Sri Lanka Army produced some of the greatest Generals of the calibre of General Denzil Kobbekaduwa. However, none of them could vanquish the LTTE leadership and destroy it as the Heads of State succumbed to international pressure on every occasion our Security Forces made headway.
Sri Lanka eventually found the right political leadership that was solely needed to defeat the most ruthless terrorist outfit when a fearless leader with a far-sighted vision was elected to change the country`s destiny. From the time President Rajapaksa was elected as the First Citizen on November 18, 2005, he made every endeavour to protect the country`s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Unlike earlier leaders, President Rajapaksa is not prepared to compromise anything that devalues the country`s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Despite mounting pressure from certain countries and influential international organisations, the President stood his ground, and did not allow any country or organisation to underestimate the sovereignty of a legal State.
As the nation celebrates the greatest victory of victories and salutes the Security Forces for a stupendous task well done, we must also acknowledge our warm gratitude to the friendly countries which supported us in the battle against terrorism. Had it not been for their wholehearted support, Sri Lanka would perhaps never have become the first country to eradicate terrorism. These sincere friends in the international community acted with the greatest responsibility towards Sri Lanka`s freedom and sovereignty. Now it is time for reconciliation by linking the North and the South with an unshakeable bridge of friendship. We must sink petty differences and join hands and work in the true spirit to rebuild the nation.
Infrastructure development in the North and the East has been going on apace and the people in those areas too have started making a laudable contribution to build the national economy. The dividends of the eradication of terror are already visible with significant developments in the tourism industry. Business is thriving in the cultivation, fishing and the dairy sectors, ensuring a steady and regular cash flow to the two provinces.
Sri Lanka, which has been looked upon as a symbol of courage to the world, is gradually rising from the ashes. We must make a bold and determined effort to build the nation, in keeping with the rich culture and heritage as the country is blessed with an abundance of natural resources.