Following are excerpts from President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech at the Momentum Forum for Professionals in Jaffna on 2 January 2015:
My dear friends, I am very happy to speak to you today at this historic city. This is a place with a great record in the freedom struggle of our country. It was Handy Perinpanayagam, the Jaffna youth leader, who made the first call for freedom from colonial rule for our motherland. great Arumugar Navalar will always be remembered for the contribution he made to education in Jaffna and the country. Jaffna has also produced many other great Sri Lankans in politics and statesmanship such as Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, whose names will always be remembered with honour and national pride.
When I reflect on Jaffna and about the people of Jaffna, there is something very special that strikes me. This is the identity of the people of Jaffna with their hard work and commitment to good education, dedication to duty and the achievement of excellence in one’s work. Over the years you have given strength to every aspect of social life, from the best of education to highest standards in administration and outstanding academic achievements. You have stood out for the contributions you made to the progress of our country and the advancement of society. I am glad to note today that many of you are still carrying on this great tradition of service to the nation.
To this day I feel the pain of all that was lost in the decades of conflict. I share your grief at your losses and regret all the many opportunities for peace and reconciliation that were missed as a result of that violence.
Peace, progress, unity
My dear friends, my pledge to you today is to do all that is possible to redress these losses, restore those missed opportunities and go much beyond to create new opportunities for peace, progress and unity. I will do everything possible to restore the honour and dignity of the people of Jaffna and the North, the honour that goes with your great cultural values and traditions. It is necessary to speak more of education when speaking in Jaffna. As we move forward, we will build the infrastructure necessary to make Jaffna a hub of knowledge. The education system will be further strengthened. Schools and the universities will be further improved. There will be new emphasis on computer science and information technology, bringing Jaffna ever closer to a centre of knowledge-based progress. Skills development programs will be set up. IT parks and research centres will be built through public-private partnerships. Support will also be given to set up high-tech industries and business offshoring centres so that new high-paying employment opportunities will be created for the seeking and deserving youth of Jaffna.
A great awakening
I have also pledged to provide other necessary infrastructure to the north of Sri Lanka. Last year I opened a new thermal power plant at Chunnakam to reconnect Jaffna to the national grid and improve electricity supply. Earlier this year, I was proud to re-launch the train service from Colombo to Jaffna after nearly 25 years. The Kandy-Jaffna line is also now open. We have also started work on the Northern Expressway. I have also pledged to improve water supply to the Northern Province by providing river water to Jaffna and building a tank for Elephant Pass to build on the strong traditions of irrigation shared by our people. These are only some of the many measures we will take to bring back opportunity and prosperity to the North of Sri Lanka. They are important steps towards a great awakening.
I urge professionals who are seeking to surge ahead with the new opportunities available to make Jaffna stand out again with the vast talent available here. As professionals, do join together to bring back to Jaffna the greatness of its schools, hospitals, centres of higher education, Government institutions and all other institutions that will be emulated by others in our land and abroad too. I also encourage business people to integrate your businesses with other regions in our country and make full use of the opportunities that exist through the economic growth that is taking place in our land and have been recognised by international observers and analysts today.
Our work has just begun
To you and to all our citizens, I say that our work has only just begun. Our journey has only recently commenced with good results already seen. As we look to the future, I see the vast potential and promise of a brighter tomorrow and I urge you all to join hands with me to achieve it. Let us work towards this bright new future together for all of us and each other, for the progress that awaits us all, for the new Sri Lanka that is within reach to stand out as the new ‘Wonder of Asia’.
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