Address to the Nation by H.E. the President of Sri Lanka
A year ago, more than 6.9 million voters in this country elected me as your new President.
It is no secret that the majority who voted for me then were Sinhalese. They rallied because they had legitimate fears that the Sinhala race, our religion, national resources and the heritage would be threatened with destruction in the face of various local and foreign forces and ideologies that support separatism, extremism and terrorism.
The main appeal made by the people to me was to, “Protect the Country”.
During this short period of time we have taken steps to ensure the security of the country as requested by the people. The public should not have apprehensions on this issue any longer.
An administration that protects the rights of all citizens regardless of racial or religious differences will be established during my tenure. I have always acted in accordance with the pledge I made in front of Ruwalweli Maha Seya to protect the unity of the country and to safeguard and nurture the Buddha Sasana as per the Constitution, the supreme law of this country.
I meet with an advisory council comprising leading Buddhist monks of Three Chapters every month to seek their advice on matters pertaining to governance.
Prior to my assumption of office, many lives have been lost in this country to the activities of religious extremists. 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 by extremists.
After I came into power, I appointed suitable officials in charge of 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.
Accordingly, we have managed to control the possibility of a resurgence of extremism in any form. A very effective and robust programme has been implemented to control the drug menace. There is no room anymore to engage in drug trafficking or operate the underworld from inside of prison cells as in the past. People of this country no longer have reasons to live in fear of underworld gangs, extortionists and racketeers.
We will strive to further strengthen this initiative in the future.
I have now set up a special Task Force to protect sites of archeological value and to preserve our Buddhist and national heritage.
All what we have done so far in line with “Saubhagyaye Dekma” (Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) Policy Statement formulated by the people for the people, which was endorsed by the majority of this country in both Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
The era of betraying war heroes, selling national assets, willingness to accept any deal for short-term gains, 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 will all the nations, non-aligned, non-partisan in conflicts between powerful nations. This is the reason today why we receive due respect from regional powers as well as global powers.
In a very short period of time we have been able to bring about many attitudinal changes in the traditional political culture of this country. We initiated this trend with the Presidential Election itself. At that time we introduced to the country an exemplary election campaign based on principles and free from plastic, polythene and posters, free from insults and slander. The subsequent Parliamentary Election too can be termed as one of the most exemplary election campaigns in recent history. Most candidates abstained from displaying posters, banners and cutouts. Violation of election laws were kept to a minimum. Violence, harassments and election fraud were not even heard of. With this transformation, the people have deprived many former politicians of their Parliamentary seats irrespective of their status. As a result, the newly elected Members of Parliament have the opportunity to regain the respect of the people who once said no to all 225 members.
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.
During the time gone by, we have not influenced the judiciary or the police in any manner. Appointments and promotions were all made on merit without any political bias. We totally rejected the practice of abusing the law to suppress political opponents. We showed by example, not by word, how we truly uphold the rule of law.
We appointed a committee comprising professionals to select right candidates for senior government positions. No other government has followed such a policy before. Furthermore it blocked the opportunity of unsuitable persons being appointed as heads of state entities due to political patronage.
When I assumed duties as the President, the economic growth rate of the country which experienced an immense decline during the last five years had plummeted as low as 2.1%.
The unemployment rate which had fallen to 4.3% in 2014 had risen again to 4.8% by 2019.
The sharp fall in the value of Rupee against the USD had destabilized the currency and left the economy in a state of great uncertainty.
The tourism industry was on the verge of collapse. Annual income from foreign employment was declining.
The country’s debt portfolio had skyrocketed. Then government had imposed a heavy tax burden on the people. Due to high interest rates, local entrepreneurs faced great difficulties.
We quickly took a number of steps to control this situation.
The burden of tax was reduced and relief was given to the people. The direct tax, especially on wages, was reduced and the withholding tax on interest was removed.
Measures were taken to provide a number of tax concessions aiming local entrepreneurs. Tax systems were simplified and the competitive imports unhealthy for local products were restricted.
Loans were provided to people and businesses in need through massive reduction of interest rates.
We managed to maintain the foreign exchanges rate, which had been falling steadily for several years, stable.
We were able to control the rapidly increasing foreign borrowings. We also paid off all foreign debt installments that were due to be paid without damaging the image of our country internationally.
We took action to settle large sums of arrears that had not been paid to local suppliers by the previous government. Rs. 24 billion for fertilizer, Rs. 32 billion for medicines, Rs. 119 billion for construction, Rs. 20 billion for elders’ allowance and Rs. 47 billion for those who provided services to various ministries were paid. The release of money in this way to the society helped to reactivate the economic process of the country that remains paralyzed.
As per the Saubhagyaye Dekma Policy Statement, we have done a great deal in a short period of time to revive the agricultural sector in which the majority of the rural population of our country are involved.
The guaranteed purchase price of paddy was increased from Rs. 32 to Rs. 50.
The fertilizer subsidy was made free.
Re-export of crops such as pepper was halted to protect the local agricultural producers and the importation of some agro products was stopped completely.
Import duties were managed so as to encourage the production of paddy, maize, cereals, potatoes and onions.
Importation of Ethanol was completely banned.
We were able to create a new impetus in the field of agriculture by re-cultivating abandoned paddy lands all over the country, attracting youth to cultivation and encouraging people for home gardening.
No matter how harsh the difficulties were, we did not let our exports to collapse. At present our total export earnings are at a higher level than in previous years.
Finding a sustainable solution to the issue of poverty among our rural masses is a priority in our economic policy. Accordingly, we have identified several areas that need immediate attention.