I don’t envisage public officials, lawmakers, judiciary to impede in fulfilling needs of people: President
Pic by Shameera Rajapakse
- Media has complete freedom. Everyone has the right to express themselves'
- Work towards removing restrictions to ensure people’s right to live freely
By Lahiru Pothmulla
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his first Independence Day address yesterday, said he was committed to fulfilling the needs of the people and that he did not envisage public officials, lawmakers or the Judiciary to impede him in implementing this commitment.
Clad in his simple attire but adorned with badges awarded during his military career, President Rajapaksa took part in his first Independence Day celebrations as the President at yesterday’s 72nd Independence Day celebrations held at the Independence Square in Colombo.
In a rather brief address, the President said it was his responsibility and duty to work towards fulfilling the needs of the people of the country.
“I do not envisage public officials, lawmakers or the Judiciary to impede my implementing this commitment. I not only respect your freedom, but I will work towards improving it and guarantee the political and economic freedom in a truly democratic country,” he said.
He said every citizen living in Sri Lanka had the right to live freely and securely and that the government would always ensure the people’s right to think freely, hold independent opinions, and express themselves without any hindrance.
“We will always respect the right of any citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice. Every citizen has the right to free association and of free assembly. We will always defend the right of every Sri Lankan citizen to participate in the political and governance processes through his or her elected representatives. We consider all these as rights of human beings that no one can challenge,” he said.
He also said some limitations on the freedoms of the people have arisen because of the way public administration has evolved over time.
“Those rules and regulations that have been enacted without adequate study and coordination have led to the public facing considerable harassment and inconvenience. This has led to various irregularities and corruption. Losses to the public in terms of time, resources and livelihood opportunities are enormous,” he said. “We must re-examine the need to obtain licences for things that affect the day-to-day lives of the people. We must refrain from imposing unnecessary restrictions on the majority of the people, instead, we must swiftly enforce the law against those who transgress it. We must give our people the opportunity and real freedom to live law-abiding, disciplined and virtuous lives,” the President said.
He said the outdated laws, regulations, taxes and charges that prevent people from freely undertaking self-employment, traditional industries or businesses need to be revised swiftly.
“We will work towards removing unnecessary restrictions imposed on the public to better ensure their right to live freely,” he said.
Commenting on the thirty years of war, President Rajapaksa said conflict and various other factors have delayed the progress of development in the country.
“We can no longer afford to waste time. We will act to accelerate our development activities in line with new trends in the global economy by making appropriate use of our country’s unique geographical location, natural resources and human resources,” he said.
He said an efficient and corruption-free Public Service is essential for the development of a nation and that the public administration and governance must function properly to grant people the maximum benefit of their freedom.
“The entire public administration must accept responsibility for this,” he said.
President Rajapaksa reiterated that the government has paid special attention to strengthening the National Security and Public Security.
“We will not allow extremist organisations that pave the way for terrorism to further function in the country. If due to terrorists, extremists, thieves, thugs, extortionists, women and child abusers, there is an impediment to the ordinary life of the people, then the people will not be free,” he said.
Referring to the drug menace, the President said parents will not be free until their children are liberated from the drug menace that has spread throughout the country.
He also said the government would strictly enforce the law to eliminate all social hazards that can impact ordinary social life including corruption in state institutions.
“The reforms required to increase the efficiency of the law enforcement agencies in order to accomplish this are already being carried out,” he said.
The President said he wished to fully strengthen the freedom of people to think and to write freely.
“It is then that visionaries and quality works of art will be created. My government is always ready to tolerate and accommodate opposing views. The media has complete freedom today. We have ensured that everyone has the right to freely express themselves.
Social media can pose new challenges to democracy. Spending more time online, often with strangers, creates situations where people are misled by false information resulting in their swiftly believing the worst of those who bear different views.
I request everyone to act in accordance with one’s conscience. Always think about the country. Think about your fellow citizens. Without thinking only about political requirements, think carefully about whether your actions and your words will benefit or harm the country. However, if your conscience tells you that the government is moving in the wrong direction, you always have a duty to point this out boldly,” President Rajapaksa said.