|Tuesday, 12 February 2013 19:32|
H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona
Today we celebrate 65 years of Independence. On 4 February 1948 Sri Lanka cast aside its colonial shackles after 133 years. While the transition was largely peaceful, we should not forget the bloody Uva Rebellion of 1818 and the Matale Uprising of 1848 which were suppressed with unmitigated brutality. With independence in 1948, we were free once again to reach out to a greater future, basing ourselves on our resplendent historical, cultural and religious heritage.
Our progress as a nation was marred by two internal youth uprisings and a three decade long brutal terrorist challenge. Today the dark age of terrorism is behind us. A sense of peace and tranquility pervades our cities and the countryside. The economy of Sri Lanka, under the leadership of H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, is continuing to surge ahead, despite the global economic downturn. We continue to do better than most other developing countries as we reach for the Millennium Development Goals. Despite the various challenges, Sri Lanka continues to improve its Human Development Indicators. Our infant mortality rate, the maternal mortality rate and the literacy rate are the envy of many other developing countries. Our life expectancy is comparable to most developed countries. Absolute poverty has dropped to less than 8%. We must aspire to even higher goals.
Inward tourism reached a record high in 2012. Foreign direct investments are also reaching significant peaks while unemployment remains at a historically low level. Sri Lanka will seek to become knowledge based economy with computer literacy exceeding 70% in the next three years. Sri Lanka, was once the hub of the Southern Silk Route. Traders from many prosperous nations in the East and the West, converged at our ports to exchange their products. With the expansion of the Colombo South harbour and the commissioning of the Ruhunu Magampura harbour, Sri Lanka is well placed to resuming its historic role as the trading hub of South Asia.
Sri Lankans living abroad have a historic opportunity to make a substantial contribution as the nation forges ahead. The expanding economy provides endless opportunities to all. It is not by scratching the wounds of our past differences but by emphasizing our essential unity that we will reassert our position in the community of nations. As Sri Lankans we must stand together and face the world as one nation. Internationally we must stand united as we build bridges and foster understanding.
The United States has contributed much to Sri Lanka’s development since independence and all of us must work at strengthening the people to people bonds further. Sri Lanka’s relations with the people and the Government of the United States which go back to colonial times, must be further strengthened.
I wish you an afternoon of enjoyment!