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China's role should not be misunderstood - Defence Secretary

'China is active in Sri Lanka in commercial and economic development activities as it is becoming one of the most active and influential countries in the global context because of its vast economic strength.

Architect and Town and Country Planner L T Kiringoda being inducted as the new president of the Organization of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka by outgoing President Uditha H Palihakkara at a ceremony at Waters Edge Battaramulla on Tuesday. Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody who was the chief guest and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was the guest of honour, are also in the picture. Picture by Nissanka Wijeratne

It has economic ties with a large number of countries all over the world including Sri Lanka. That is the nature of its influence and it is important not to misunderstand China's role in Sri Lanka, Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

He expressed these views at an induction ceremony of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) at which he was the Guest of Honour at the Waters Edge yesterday. Architect and Planner L.T. Kiringoda was inducted as the 31st OPA president at the ceremony.

The Defence Secretary further said that achieving economic development is one of the key ambitions and Sri Lanka must utilize the opportunity afforded by peace to achieve both development and national reconciliation. That is the best way to ensure that the benefits of peace flow to all Sri Lankans. 'It is also the best possible answer to those who criticize us, and the best defence against those who seek to create new problems in our society, he added.

'One of the most important gains resulting from peace has been the restoration of democratic elections in every part of Sri Lanka. In the North, people exercised their franchise without fear after three decades. That electoral transparency and political plurality has returned to these areas is clear from the results of these elections.

'This is a significant achievement for a region that was for so long under a virtual dictatorship, he pointed out.

'Since the end of the Humanitarian Operation, the government has done a great deal of work towards achieving these objectives. Particular attention was paid to the North, where there were several issues that needed to be addressed urgently.

'The most pressing issue was resettling the 294,000 Internally Displaced People and demining. As demining progressed, reconstruction of villages and resettlement of IDPs took place. Most of the demining work is now completed and there are less than 3,000 IDPs remaining in camps today.

'Another critical issue involved is the 11,000 former LTTE cadres who surrendered or were detained by the military.

'Among them were 595 child soldiers who were rehabilitated under a programme supported by UNICEF and reunited with their families within one year.

'The vast majority of the adult cadres also underwent extensive rehabilitation programmes. Most of them have now been reintegrated with society. A small number of cadres with known higher-level involvement in LTTE activities have been identified for prosecution. Today, less than 700 ex-LTTE cadres remain in government custody, he said.

Rajapaksa explained that such generosity has not been shown to captured combatants in most other parts of the world.

'Neither in Afghanistan nor Iraq nor in any other recent conflict have such combatants been rehabilitated and reintegrated with such speed. Unfortunately, some sections of the international community tend to ignore this fact, and continue to criticize the government on such issues.

'Despite all of these achievements since the restoration of peace, the LTTE cadres, activists and sympathizers in foreign nations do their best to portray a bleak picture about Sri Lanka today. Unfortunately, their efforts to discredit Sri Lanka's progress are sometimes helped by individuals and groups within Sri Lanka whose actions are governed by petty politics.

"No matter what disagreements anyone has with the government's policies, constructive engagement is what is needed, rather than actions that can have a serious impact on the country" , he added.

'There are ex-LTTE cadres, pro-LTTE activists and LTTE sympathisers operating in various guises in various countries.

'Some of them claim to be working within the democratic framework. Others claim to be rights activists. Some are militant in their outlook.

'Whatever appearance they adopt, however, their intention is to roll back the hard won peace and drive Sri Lanka once again into conflict, he said.

'We must not let this country be taken back to the state it was in during the past thirty years. As a nation, Sri Lanka has had more than its fair share of suffering.

'We must all work together to put the past behind us, and work towards a brighter future for this nation and all her people, the Secretary said.

 

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