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Rare show of unity

*Forum to meet once a month

*Eighteen parties represented

*JVP, UNP, TNA active participants

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday urged all political parties to join hands and work as a team shedding differences, in forging national reconciliation and driving the nation towards rapid development.

President Rajapaksa made these observations addressing the inaugural session of the Presidential Committee on Development and Reconciliation at the Presidential Secretariat which was represented by 18 major national political parties in the country.

In a rare show of solidarity in national politics, Sri Lanka’s major political parties came under one roof, heeding the President’s call to sit at one table and discuss the burning issues faced by the country today.

Major parties like the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), United National Party (UNP), and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which were reluctant to take part in such events on previous occasions due to differences of opinion on political grounds, were active participants this time. Political analysts described the move as a new step towards establishing national unity, by which, Sri Lanka could uphold the claims made by President Rajapaksa that there were no minorities in the country, but only one race called Sri Lankans.

The active participation of the TNA in the forum has being viewed in a very positive manner as this is considered to be the first occasion where the party broke the ice and sat at one table with other major parties in the country, specially to discuss a solution to the ethnic issue and welfare activities of the displaced, in recent times.President Rajapaksa addressing party representatives said it was time to bury the hatchet of earlier animosities and make a fresh beginning.

He also emphasized the need to alleviate the sufferings of the displaced and affected people due to the conflict on a priority basis and to put in place a mechanism which could effectively help them to go back to their normal lives without fear or discrimination.

He pointed out that there were nearly 300,000 IDPs in camps and that their speedy and sustainable resettlement was the need of the hour.

To expedite resettlement in a meaningful way, the President drew the attention of the forum to lay focus in areas such as rebuilding the affected areas at the earliest possible by removing landmines, providing infrastructure and introducing viable livelihood projects.

“After the successful conclusion of the humanitarian mission - 01’ to liberate civilians held hostage by a terrorist outfit, its time to launch ‘humanitarian mission – 02’ to get them back on track with their normal lives”, the President said.

”We must forge unity and understanding considering the future”, the President said adding that it was of utmost importance to ensure equal opportunities to all people, irrespective of where they live.

He noted that it was his firm belief that there could be no reconciliation without development and both should go hand in hand. “To realise this twin objectives, we should bury petty political rivalries and work towards the common goal for the greater good of the nation”, the President added.

Following the vanquishing of LTTE terrorism, President Rajapaksa vowed to usher unity among all with the aim of achieving national reconciliation after three decades of blood shed. To realise this noble goal, the President sought the cooperation of all political parties to set up the Development and Reconciliation Committee.

The initiative launched yesterday garnered popular support by all main political parties in the fray, unlike such efforts in the past.

The initiative launched yesterday aims to prepare a practical road map with the objective of ushering a home grown resolution with the concurrence of all political parties at the earliest possible.

The forum will meet once a month under the President’s leadership.

Yesterday’s maiden session was represented by members of 18 political parties such as ACMC, CDUA, CWC, EPDP, JHU, LSSP, MEP, TNA, National Congress, NFF, NUA, JVP, SLFP, SLMC, TULF, TMVP, UNP and the UPF.

Other relevant stakeholders such as the SCOPP, APRC, officials of the Finance and Planning Ministry and Foreign Ministry participated in the deliberations.

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