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DateLine Sunday, 30 December 2007

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Government Gazette

Unite to bring about lasting peace

As the curtain comes down for 2007 and we approach yet another New Year, it's time to evaluate how we have fared, be it as individuals or as a nation on the whole. As the New Year dawns in a couple of days time, we get a golden opportunity to take stock of our achievements and failures during this year and gear to face the challenges ahead in 2008.

It has almost become habitual for people across the world to approach the dawning of a New Year with fresh hopes for a better future. But then there are quite a few people who dismiss such yearnings with a considerable measure of sceptism and cynicism.

True it has now been customary to extend New Year greetings. However, the time has now come for us to ponder whether those greetings are limited to mere words or we make them from the bottom of our hearts - whether our wishes for happiness, peace and prosperity are really genuine and sincere.

However, we in Sri Lanka could only make those wishes a reality by living in amity with one another and by respecting each others' beliefs, customs and traditions, irrespective of our race, caste or religious beliefs.

As it has been during the past two decades, the main hope of the majority of people in Sri Lanka is undoubtedly peace and harmony amongst all communities. While eradicating terrorism, we expect the Government to provide a fair solution for genuine problems of all communities. But at the same time, the majority of people expect it to be an honourable peace, fulfilling the aspirations of not only the Tamils, but the Sinhalese, Muslims and Burghers as well.

Though the 'peace agents' and some notorious NGO agents make a big hue and cry, the majority of people in Sri Lanka do not want 'peace at any cost', which is relatively easy to achieve. But the 'honourable peace' which the majority of loyal and patriotic citizens of this country are expecting may be a bitter experience for a ruthless terrorist organisation such as the LTTE.

During 2007, the Government gave the right leadership to the Security Forces. Though many people during the UNP regime thought that the LTTE terrorists are unstoppable in the East, our forces completely wiped out terrorism from those areas and liberated the entire Eastern Province. Those people who were rescued from the clutches of the LTTE's merciless terror rule, could begin the New Year with hope and confidence as the resettlement process has almost been completed.

There was no political interference and the field commanders were given the liberty of taking crucial decisions on the battle field. The Ministry of Defence, under the able leadership of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, launched many welfare and awareness programmes to further boost the morale of the Security Forces and give them better recognition.

But it is not that hard to bring about peace, if the entire nation stands as one, irrespective of our political and social affiliations. We could put an end to Prabhakaran's ruthless acts and eradicate terrorism by the end of the coming year, if we unite.

In achieving that, we may have to face stiff challenges and also make huge sacrifices. But those are negligible when one compares those with the benefits that we could enjoy under a peaceful environment. The huge sums of money that we spent in the nation's battle against terrorism could be used for development and welfare measures.

However, the Government has not neglected any development work due to additional spending to defend the nation. Mega ventures such as the Upper Kotmale Hydropower project, Norochcholai Coal power plant, Hambantota harbour, Weeerawila International Airport, the Southern Highway and Moragahakanda reservoir would progress rapidly during 2008 and the nation would soon be able to enjoy the benefits of those development projects.

It's just two years ago that President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the gigantic task of taking Sri Lanka forward. Most people here believe that he is the man who could usher in peace. Thanks to the untiring efforts of our brave Security Forces, the President has proved that to a great extent. We wish everybody, including our leaders, the requisite strength and courage to fulfill the aspirations of the nation and build unity, peace and prosperity among the people to live as one family and one nation in the coming years.

Last but not least, we must remember our brothers and sisters in the Security Forces. Though we enjoy the festive season with our loved ones, there are thousands of security forces personnel on duty to safeguard the territorial integrity of our country. Unlike us, those guardian angels of our nation do not have an opportunity to celebrate the New Year with their loved ones. Many of them have not seen their families for months. While we enjoy the dawn of the New Year, those brave members of our Security Forces spend many sleepless nights in bunkers under trying conditions, keeping a vigilant eye against the terrorists to protect us all. It is their sacrifices that ensure our security and protection against terror acts.

In recognition of their dedication and devotion, our New Year thoughts should always be with those brave men on duty. It's due to their courage, dedication and sacrifice that we enjoy this freedom. They are the true heroes who would continue to protect us in the New Year too.

The foremost wish of the people across the globe is to wipe out terrorism and bring about lasting peace that would enable all nations to live in harmony. May sanity prevail among all sections of the people in Sri Lanka and help to bring about lasting peace to our motherland.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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