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Fruits of freedom for North soon

Launch of Oluvil port project a symbol of Eastern resurgence - President:

OLUVIL: The Government will never backtrack on its journey to liberate innocent civilians from terrorist clutches and restore peace in fear of terrorists, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

"I will challenge Prabhakaran to clash with me directly if possible without engaging in a killing spree targetting innocent civilians, Parliamentarians and Ministers," he said yesterday.

The President was speaking after ceremonially inaugurating work on the Oluvil port project in Ampara district.

President Rajapaksa said as much as the Government liberated the people of the East from terrorism and enabled them to enjoy the fruits of freedom, the people of the North would also be given such an opportunity soon.

He emphasised that steps would be taken to set up a popularly elected Provincial Council in the North as well soon.

The President who described the launching of the Oluvil port project as a symbol of the Eastern resurgence, said this project was a realisation of one of late Minister M. H. M. Ashraff's dreams.

"Late Minister Ashraff campaigned for the Oluvil port project and got Cabinet approval for it during his time and today we are honouring him by starting work on it," he said.

"From the very inception late Minister Ashraff requested his people not to vote for the Elephant symbol.

"The best way for the people of East to pay tribute to him is to abide by that request at the forthcoming election," President Rajapaksa said.

"When this port is built and the area is developed, the people had to safeguard this process to ensure their future welfare."

President Rajapaksa said the people of the East were fully aware of the people bent on retarding the liberation and peace they have achieved.

The trials and tribulations they underwent at the hands of terrorists need no repetition as Minister Athaulla described them in detail in his speech, the President said.

"The LTTE terrorists did not even allow people to engage in their prayers peacefully. Hundred and sixty people were massacred while they were praying in a mosque. Children in the area could not do their schooling or enter Universities.

The innocent civilians were not allowed to use public transport to attend to their daily work. What was the duty of a responsible Government in this situation. We took the side of innocent civilians and took necessary action to Liberate them from the terrorist menace," he said.

Now the people of the East should decide whether they should be governed by their own representatives or according to the dictates originating from Killinochchi. Rauf Hakeem was party to the CFA agreement reached with the LTTE which enabled it hold away over the entire Eastern Province upto the Hambantota border, President Rajapaksa said.

The Eastern citizens would decide on May 10 whether they wanted the development process started in the region to continue or whether they wanted to go back to the clutches of terrorists, he said. The Government on its part would vouch that development work launched would be continued without hindrance, he said. The President paid a special compliment to Minister Ferial Ashraff whom he said was performing a dedicated service to the people in honour of her late husband. Minister Athaulla was also performing a dedicated service towards this people in the

Eastern province. They were Leaders who would stay among the people and serve their cause without betraying them.

But certain others who became Parliamentarians switching from one district to the other were now spreading rumours that Muslims would be evicted from Hambantota. They even criticised the Iranian President after he offered billions of rupees in aid for development projects in the country, the President said.

President Rajapaksa said a UNP youth who crossed over to the UPFA had given him a pamphlet issued by the UNP to deceive youth and obtain their support to the UNP campaign. The pamphlet issued in the name of a Southern MP had promised to initiate on the spot insurance schemes for youth.

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