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The speech made by the 'flexible' President

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President Maithripala Sirisena addressed the nation via all television stations on April 23 (Thursday), and reviewed the 100-day program which has come to an end. Following are excerpts of the speech.

 On this occasion that marks 100 days since my election as President, I think it is proper that I address you as your first servant, appointed by you. Following the results of the Presidential Election on January 8 this year, you gave me the opportunity of being sworn in as the Head of State or President of this country.
In the 100 days since then, we have as a new government, taken many important steps with regard to the country’s economy, politics, development and international relations.

I think that when the people of this country voted on January 8 they clearly carried out both a transformation, and revolution with their democratic right. The manner in which the freedom and democracy obtained by this transformation and revolution has been used by certain elements in the past three months, their political decisions and activities, brings to my mind the occasions in world history when in countries that carried out revolutions were later faced with counter-revolutions.

We are aware that very often it is a common occurrence in countries for counter-revolution to follow a revolution. When the great humanitarian leader Abraham Lincoln of the United States took action to abolish slavery and introduced legislations for this purpose, for some time after this some of the people in slavery stated that they preferred the condition of slavery. This is because they thought that going forward in life in slavery was better than enjoying the freedom given and building themselves on their own strength, as they were used to living under conditions of slavery. This is the reality of human society. It is therefore essential that we understand this.

Today some asked what has been done in these 100 days. I say, there was much done in these 100 days. Some of these valuable actions are neither physical in nature nor visible to the eye.

You will recall the international situation facing our country at the time I was sworn in as President on January 9th. The international community was divided over us. You will remember what took place at the United Nations, the Human Rights Commission and the Security Council. However, after January 9th, because of the faith you placed in me and elected this government, the international community that was divided over us, now place their trust in this government, and me just as you did, and believe that as Head of State I would protect the freedom of this country and its Democracy, Human Rights and Fundamental Rights.

My recent visits abroad started with our friendly neighbor India and later to Britain to participate in the Commonwealth Day events.

My next visit was to China. As a friendly state that gave support for national development and made much investment in this country, I had the opportunity to further strengthen the friendship that existed between our two countries. I next went to Pakistan, which is one of our very close friends. I believe that trough these visits to India, China, Pakistan and Britain we have achieve a much towards winning over the entire world.

I remember how close the world was to us at the time of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike with the foreign policy of Non-alignment, which my government too clearly follows today. This leads to strengthening friendship with all states.

Therefore, I wish to emphasize to those who question what we have done in the past 100 days that we have regained the international friendship and trust that had considerably declined under the previous government, and that my government and I were able to win over and strengthen this friendship for the benefit of the people of this country.

You are fully aware of the conditions under which you brought me to this office. I recall that prior to January 8 if I spoke to one of our own Pradesheeya Sabha Members by telephone they would shout and ask me not to speak because the telephones were tapped.

In the past 3 months, this freedom has been restored and strengthened. This was similar with media freedom, too. I recall how prior to January 8 those who yielded political power spoke to the heads of media institutions, news directors and news editors. That included intimidation, threats and mental pressure. Today, the media is free of all this.

Let us take the Judiciary. You are aware of how the rule of law was so badly damaged. Did the people have confidence in the Judiciary? The Commission on Bribery or Corruption, the Supreme Court and all these institutions were subjected to telephone calls of those who were in power. You know very well how persons associated with various crimes obtained freedom at that time; how judgments in cases were obtained.

National Security has now been strengthened. I informed the Tri-Forces and the Police at the Security Council that we need a new plan of action on national security.
My dear people, there is another thing I wish to bring to your notice. Some have made various criticisms about my performance during these 100 days. I came to remove the unlimited powers of an Executive President. There could be many analyses about this. I wish to state clearly that my election manifesto stated very clearly that my election would be to remove the unlimited powers held by Executive President. I wish to mention how flexible I have been on this matter.
As I recall in 1999 the United National Party adopted a resolution at their convention against this. The UNP has been opposed to this since1999. This dialogue prevailed among the common people that went together with their knowledge, wisdom, understanding and experience. Therefore, this must be done. This is the 19th Amendment.

In order to build a democratic and civilized society, it is necessary to prevent the emergence of dictatorship and taking control of state power, state assets, the judiciary, parliament and all of this to one’s own control that comes from the Executive Presidential system.

It is now necessary for us to act in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court. We cannot go beyond this. Therefore, in the past few days there were certain obstacles with regard to presenting of this 19th Amendment to Parliament. It is my respectful appeal to the honorable representatives of the people to consider this as a historic occasion that has come to you. Voting for this will bring respect in history to you.

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