A bountiful economy
The text of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s
address at the Water Filling of the Hambantota harbour basin yesterday
We are aware that after many centuries Sri Lanka is ready to make a
great and significant mark in the world. A symbol of this is the
ceremonial intake of sea water to this great port today.
There were many obstacles to launching this great event in the
history of our country. There were many who found fault with us. There
was vengeful criticism of us. They blamed us for undertaking this
project. They were determined not to let this succeed. They challenged
us, and even sought to take legal action against us. But it is now time
for all of them to open their eyes to see this reality. The soft rain
that fell today and the water that comes in to this port from the sea
will wash away all that criticism and objections.
Many ports of fame
Throughout our great history there had been many famous ports around
this land. The port of Tambapani where King Vijaya landed was located on
the north-western stretch of sea below Mannar. Those who arrived in our
country for his marriage landed at the Mahathiththa Port also on the
north western coast. On the northern coast, at Point Pedro, was located
the great Dambakola Patuna port where the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi was
first brought to our land. On the Eastern Coast, below Trincomalee, was
located the Lanka Patuna port from where the Sacred Tooth Relic of the
Buddha was brought to our land.
After his many conquests abroad King Gajaba returned to the country
from Port of Godawaya, situated within sight from Ambalantota. Ports and
fords such as Kirinda, where Vihara Maha Devi arrived in the South were
located in the former Magampura region. Apart from this, the Sri Lankan
ports of Mantota and Gokanna are marked in the first map of the world
drawn by Ptolemy. This is a cause for great pride to all of us who
cherish our heritage.
But for these great ports the darkness that prevailed over many parts
of the world, without development, would have been longer by many
centuries. Our ports brought about greater links among the countries of
the world and brought fame to our land. Similarly, our Motherland will
shine in glory with this ceremonial sea water intake that will fill this
new great port. This is a great leap forward to be linked with the
international economic system.
To pay due tribute to those heroes who brought freedom to our land
there is a responsibility thrust upon us to ensure an independent
economy in our country. It is to build this independent economic order
that the Mahinda Chinthana seeks to build five great centres of progress
in our land. These centres include seaports, airports, power and energy,
trade and commerce, and knowledge. These five fold centres of progress
will enable us to join the international order to build a national
economy that adds to the strength of all communities in our land. It
will be an economy that will add value to education and learning, talent
and our own national thinking.
We must accept that we finally and forever broke away from the
defeatist mentality among Sri Lankans on May 18 last year. This is
another day that revives such feelings of pride and victory. Every drop
of water that fills up this great port should dissolve and wipe out the
feelings of weakness and inability that once prevailed among us.
Therefore, it is not sea water that will fill this port, but the future
prosperity of our nation. From this port will emerge our true economic
independence! This is a great symbol of our moving away from the days
when we said we are unable to develop for lack of funds, to a time when
we can show how the country can be developed through our own strength.
In the ocean that we see around us hundreds of ships sail past us
every day. These ships that come from the Middle East and African region
and others from South East Asia and Oceania sail past us within our
sight. A large number of ships that sail between the Indian
Sub-continent and the West are also among these. Through many centuries
other countries were enriched by these ships. Recently, when I observed
the passage of these vessels past our country, I saw them like heavy
traffic moving on Galle Road. The sea lanes near us were so busy. Some
cannot bear to see this changing, with these ships coming here.
Therefore, there were many who tried to delay the construction of this
port, even by a single day. We must not forget that there are forces
that are unhappy to see Sri Lanka join the other great countries of the
world. There are political groups and other organizations that use
poverty for their own benefit. They do not like to see the eradication
of poverty. They like to see our people continue to suffer in poverty.
What they would like to see is continuance of suffering of the people as
in the days of Leonard Woolf.
As in fighting a war, in building an independent economy too we must
be ready to face many challenges. Having overcome all those challenges
we were able to begin the filling of water to this international port
within four years. We did this without a cut in power supply to the
We did this while building the roads and expressways; while seeing to
the progress of agriculture, providing the fertilizer subsidy, and
ensuring food security.
We must announce to the world that this is a massive technological
achievement built in Sri Lanka.
Therefore, we will not anymore be a nation that is satisfied with
supplying only fuel and water to ships. This port must lead to the
emergence of tens of thousands of employment opportunities.
Today, and in the past, this has always been the expectation of the
people of Ruhuna. Great politicians who love the country such as DM and
DA Rajapaksa, who were born here in Magampura, had many dreams about
this port and its benefits to the people. This is the realization of all
“Made in Sri Lanka”
Our Motherland is not a place to dump the waste and discards of other
countries. We must transform our country as an economic centre that
spreads the national brand name “Made in Sri Lanka” throughout the
world. This must lead to Sri Lanka becoming an economic nerve centre.
Today, in what is called the dry and harsh area of Magampura we are
building an international airport, international conference and
convention centres, international sports stadia, new railways,
expressways and tourist regions. Not only the South, Hambantota,
Moneragala and Embilipitiya but the entire Eastern region too will
become a single vibrant economic region from these infrastructure
developments. This development is not confined to a single region. It
will help make the entire country one large economic zone.
We have now entered a period of massive development that is not only
for this region but covers all regions of the country. In Colombo the
sea is being filled up and a new port is being built.
The Oluvil harbour will be opened in December. In the Puttalam area
there is a huge power project and a tourism development zone. There is
such a project at Upper Kotmale, too. Railways are being built to Mannar
and Kankesanturai in the North and Kataragama in the South.
Massive expressways are being constructed in both the North and East.
Most work on the expressway to the South from the Katunayake
International Airport is now complete. The day is not very far when the
new large aircraft will land at the Mattala International Airport, as
they do at Katunayake. We will soon develop the airports at Palali and
Large bridges similar to those at Arugambay, Mannar and Katugastota
are being built throughout the country. The hill country and Rajarata
will be developed through infrastructure to serve the needs of a modern
The irrigation works at Moragahakanda, Uma Oya and Deduru Oya are
under construction. Large irrigation reservoirs are being restored after
nearly 1000 years. Similarly, several lakhs of acres of new land are
being enriched for cultivation, in the North East and South, too.
In the past five years the poverty levels of the ordinary people have
been reduced, inflation has been brought down, and per capita income has
been brought to the level of US$ 2,000. In 2005, the per capita income
was 1,050 US dollars. We achieved this in five years after waiting more
than 50 years since independence. The development of villages was done
in this period through the Gama Neguma and Maga Neguma schemes. The
Government is now working towards a target of raising the standard of
living further and increasing the per capita income to US$ 4,000 in the
next five years. While seeking to achieve this target, the Mahinda
Chinthana - Forward Vision, is seeking to build a modern road network
throughout the country, with a good market for the produce of the
people, the provision of good education and health services, and to
transform this land with a harsh environment into a land of sustainable
growth, abundance in food and produce, and rich in the blessings of
International economic cooperation
We are moving towards building a production economy where through
agriculture, industry and varied services we will increase the revenue
of the economy.
Those in the Small and Medium Enterprise Sector and others in Large
Scale Enterprise sector are being encouraged to produce all that is
possible within the country.
Our economic policies are being directed towards expanding employment
opportunities to our youth through the development of skills and higher
Priority will be given to further develop the universities and
technological education and training institutes that are located in
areas outside Colombo.
We are now engaged in laying the foundation and building our future.
Ours is the rising economy in Asia. This is our own vision. It is of our
own construction. This new emerging economy will be enriched with a
knowledge economy in addition to the physical and infrastructural
Dear children, this is your own future. It is an economy of a middle
income country. It is my vision that you will grow up and spend your
lives under economic conditions very different to those that I grew up
in; in a country that has an economy that is much more fulfilling and
We are now preparing to do justice by the people who were subject to
historic injustice by being treated as those living in areas considered
through the centuries as being arid, harsh, uncongenial and poor. We do
not make this a unitary state in terms of land only. By building a
country that is equal in terms of progress and development we will give
new meaning to being unitary.
We will build international relations both politically and
economically. This port will symbolize our non-alignment and friendship
with all. The step forward we take today as a nation will be one that
will see international economic cooperation built through mutual trust,
respect and friendship.
We must not forget that there are those who had to leave their places
of birth and homes for the construction of this port. They took the
decision about their land and homes, to cooperate with the Government’s
decision for the cause of development. We remember with honour that
sacrifice they made with the concept of country before self. That
commitment is also an investment in the future.
We must also thank all those who helped complete this great project
nine months ahead of the target. Our gratitude must be extended to the
former Ports Minister Chamal Rajapaksa who steered this work. Special
thanks is due to the Ports Authority Chairman, who I picked for this
work when I was Prime Minister, and who has carried out this work with
complete dedication to finish it nine months ahead of schedule. I must
also thank all Sri Lankan and Chinese officials and technicians who
helped make this a reality.
In the past, this country was situated on the Silk Route. Our country
was situated on the route between China and Southern Europe. The offer
by China to build this port that was located in the old Silk Route is an
act that reminds us again of our traditional friendship. I offer my
heartfelt gratitude to our old and traditional friend. The trade
relations between our two countries that were strengthened by the
Rubber-Rice Agreement, contributes today to the further strengthening of
rising trade in Asia, tourism and investment relations. Many are the
other friendly and neighbouring countries too that have contributed to
our development in this manner. We look forward to expand our relations
in tourism, investment and trade with those countries, too. All of them
are partners in our development. We must express our thanks to them,
This is a new port. It is a new port that renews the pride of the
past in our nation. This port, the Colombo Port, the Trincomalee Port
and the Kankesanturai Port, all help to nurture our country. The
maritime and naval economy that is built through this will lead to
industries using new and varied skills, professional services, banking
and financial institutions, and open new paths to take our produce to
the world outside.
Many countries that lagged behind us at the time we gained
independence have now passed us and gone far ahead. But, we must not be
prepared to copy those countries or work according to the development
models of those nations. Similarly, there is no purpose in continuing to
lament about our lost heritage. What we shall do instead is to surpass
them and reach a stage of overall development they have not reached, and
show new paths and possibilities to the world.
You are aware that travellers of fame have come to our country in the
past. They described this country to the world in terms of praise as a
Golden Isle or the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. We have now dug into the
earth, broken great rocks, overcome inland and foreign threats, diverted
the sea, and built a great port. This is the time to announce to the
world that through a massive development such as this we have now
entered the path to being the true Wonder of Asia.
We have freed this country by defeating the world’s most ruthless
terrorists. Similarly, we are now building massive ports such as this,
international airports, expressways, giant power projects, and huge
Therefore, I wish to remind you of another great responsibility that
you have. It is to produce a generation that truly loves the country and
its people, is strong in ethics and good values, wise, respectful of
what is good, and is courageous and brave. I call on all parents to
raise their children as those who show Maithriya or Loving Kindness
towards the country; who show respect to the temple, church, kovil and
mosque. On this historic occasion I call our children to follow this
example of your parents, follow the righteous path and take ownership of