Delivering his final address to the nation as the incumbent leader, President Maithripala Sirisena assured to offer his support in the future to build a democratic society, a prosperous economy in our beloved Motherland.
President thanking the 6.2 million voters for electing him to lead the country on 8th January 2015, said he did not run for a second term as he promised.
“I believe I was able to fulfill many of the promises in my election manifesto and achieved much on behalf of the country and people,” he said. “Yet, it was no secret that policy battles, political battles, not personal…between me and members of my own administration caused serious clashes within the Government.”
“Consequently, just as we, as a Government, completed a considerable programme of work within the past five years, we were unable to complete some most essential tasks on behalf of the people,” he said.
“That is because of the conflict within the Government.”
President Sirisena gave himself credit for having ushered in and strengthened democracy. Through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, he transferred some of his limitless powers to Parliament. The Cabinet, independent commissions and judiciary were strengthened. He said willingly gave up one year of the six-year term for which he was elected.
The President said there was democratic and media freedom to a degree not experienced before. This was made use of to humiliate him, to assassinate his character and to spread lies through social media. “None of that discouraged me,” he said. “That’s because it was my policy.”
He said that when he took over, his motherland faced severe pressures from foreign forces, interference and threats. He compared the current situation with that of 2014, before he took over. During his term, he dispelled 99 percent of international pressures, interference, threats and war crimes allegations.
“There was talk of setting up an international court here,” he said. “There were global challenges to the sovereignty of the country. Today, we are free of all these.”
There are challenges for the future, the outgoing President said. They include poverty alleviation as well as heralding togetherness and reconciliation among Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and others. The foundations have to be created for the people of this country to live as one family.
“You know I took tough political decisions against corruption and irregularities,” he said, pointing out that he set up commissions investigate bribery and corruption in his own administration–possibly the only Government leader to do so. These bodies inquired into the Central Bank financial scam and corruption in public institutions.
Suspects were indicted. Investigations are still ongoing. Forensic audits were carried out on the Central Bank matter, he noted. He expressed hope that the reports would be presented to Parliament by the incoming Government.
The new President’s first challenge will be to appoint a Cabinet from among the 225 members of Parliament who doesn’t have corruption allegations.
“This is the first time since 1947 that a national election, Presidential election, was conducted under a neutral Head of State,” President Sirisena said. “From when nominations were presented till today, I created a background for the military to fully support the national Elections Commission’s work and made provisions for an extremely peaceful election to be held around the country.”
“I believe the election was this calm because I remained neutral,” he continued. “Every Prime Minister and every President before this directed elections also as leaders of political parties. As a result, there was sometimes limitless abuse of State power.” The difference between the election of 2015 and November 2019 is ample proof of how far Sri Lanka society has progressed.
President Sirisena expressed hope and requested that initiatives he spearheaded–such as the drugs eradication programme, local food production, reduction of kidney disease and welfare of those patients, rural empowerment and the national child protection initiative–will be strengthened and taken forward by the new Government.
Special mention was made of the people of Polonnaruwa from which district he emerged as a political leader. “I was given to the country from there,” President Sirisena remarked.
“During my term, whatever the obstacles, I worked towards creating a socialist democratic framework,” he said. The background to the major battles within the Government was the mismatch between a fundamentalist new liberalism that was unsuitable to the country and the socialist democracy and nationalism that he respected.
The President spoke of service rendered to the North-East people who had suffered much in the war. This included returning their lands, providing social welfare and development of natural resources in their areas.
“As a President, some of the decisions I took were controversial,” he admitted. “Some people said I only wielded the sword but did not use it. No, I did use the sword. I sacked my own Prime Minister. I appointed another Prime Minister. I issued five gazette notifications to dissolve Parliament that were debated and criticised around the country. I took touch decisions to rid the country of drugs and other things harmful to the country.”
Since taking over the Police Department 11 months ago, he said he had amended laws to facilitate their work. New legislation was brought in.
The cruel terrorist attacks on April 21 were the most painful incidents he and the people had to endure during his term, President Sirisena said. “I bring to mind with respect the Sri Lankans and foreigners who died,” he continued. “It was an incident that clearly could have been prevented. I will not speak further on this.”
President Sirisena said he leaves his position with a feeling of satisfaction and joy. “I gave the country and the people many things,” he maintained. “A lot of what I provided is not felt by the pocket. It is not felt by the stomach. It is not felt by the body. I was able to execute my responsibilities towards bringing about democratic freedom, governance free of corruption and a just society.”