Rajapaksa: ‘I will ensure Sri Lanka remains neutral in global arena’

Sri Lanka’s President-elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives to take oath of office during his swearing-in ceremony at the Ruwanwelisaya temple in Anuradhapura. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2019

Rajapaksa: ‘I will ensure Sri Lanka remains neutral in global arena’

  • Thanking the citizens who voted for his victory, the president also welcomed all communities in the country to join him to work for  the prosperity of the nation

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will remain neutral in the global arena and will not intervene in any conflicts, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka, said in his maiden speech on Monday.
He was addressing the nation after being sworn in by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya in the sacred city of Anuradhapura.
Secretary to the President Udaya R. Seneviratne read out the proclamation declaring Rajapaksa as the new president at a ceremony which was attended by members of all faiths at the foot of the Ruwanweli Seya in Anuradhapura.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, members of the tri-forces, diplomats from Palestine, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US including, Western Province Governor A. J. M. Muzammil, were also present on this occasion.
Rajapaksa, who represents the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna achieved a thumping majority of 1.3 million votes against his nearest competitor, Sajith Premadasa, at the presidential polls on Saturday.
Promising to abide by the constitution of the country and not to support or encourage the creation of another state in or outside Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said that his country will remain neutral in its foreign relations and stay out of any conflicts among the world powers.
“We will have our fullest commitment to achieve the sustainable development goals of the UN,” the new president said, urging other nations to respect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
Thanking the citizens who voted for his victory, the president also welcomed all communities in the country to join him to work for  the prosperity of the nation.
He also appreciated the gesture of all citizens who displayed their sense of civic responsibility by exercising their franchise at the polls.
He also pledged to lead the country via the Buddhist philosophy, which advocates principles of equality and justice.
While providing state sponsorship to safeguard the traditional heritage of the nation, he said he will take measures to protect the rights of the civilians to live in peace and harmony.
Stressing that he would give utmost priority to national security, the new president said that a more effective mechanism will be worked out to safeguard the homeland.
“The time has come to work as one force to build the nation and a people-centered government is imperative to achieve such a goal,” he said.
“The government should always set an example to society. Professionalism and efficiency should be the cornerstone of the government administration. Meritocracy and technocracy should be promoted at all times, corruption will be never tolerated under my administration.” Rajapaksa said he has plans to form a new government soon to forward his policies.
He said it is his responsibility to serve every community in his country: “No challenge is impossible, if we work together for a united Sri Lanka.”
Muzammil told Arab News that the people have made the right choice in electing Rajapaksa, recognizing his proven record of service as defense secretary.
The EU election observation mission has concluded that the election was largely free of violence and technically well-managed, but that unregulated campaign spending, abuse of state resources and media bias affected the level playing field. The US Embassy in Colombo commended the country on having a peaceful election.
It stated that Sri Lanka has continued to show the strength and resilience of its republic with a free, fair and transparent presidential election befitting Asia’s oldest democracy.
The statement further read that they look forward to working with Rajapaksa in supporting Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and in fostering an Indo-Pacific region where all countries can prosper.

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 23 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

 Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

 Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

 The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

 Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

 Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

 The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

 “Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

 “So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

 Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

 The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

 Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

 Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

 She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

 One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

 There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

 The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”