Lashing out at his critics, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday described sections trying to scuttle his government’s reconciliation efforts as being “anti-national”.
He was addressing the country at a ceremony held at Galle Face, Colombo’s iconic beach-front, to mark Sri Lanka’s 69th Independence Day.
Mr. Sirisena said that while the country has received accolades both locally and internationally for its reconciliation efforts, there were “opportunistic forces” trying to scuttle the efforts for narrow political gains, thereby “acting against the country”.
In a thinly-veiled reference to his predecessor and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, now a key political rival, Mr. Sirisena said those opposing him were working against the stability of the country and prevented its rebuilding after the war.
Paying tribute to the country’s armed forces that crushed the rebel Tigers to defeat in May 2009, President Sirisena said the “war heroes” sacrificed their lives, lost their limbs and that their families suffered heavily.
In January 2015, President Sirisena unseated Mr. Rajapaksa, defeating him in what many termed a watershed election. Widely perceived as a moderate leader, Mr. Sirisena ordered last year that the Sri Lankan national anthem be sung in Tamil as well, despite considerable opposition from sections of the majority Sinhalese people.
Two years after he rose to power, on the promise of good governance and with the overwhelming support of minorities including Northern Tamils, he faces criticism from Tamils who are unhappy with the pace of his reconciliation efforts. At the same time, hard-liners among the country’s southern Sinhala-Buddhist majority have been pressuring him to limit the extent of power devolved to the Tamils. Meanwhile, the National Unity government he leads with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, faces challenges of alleged corruption and growing internal political pressures. (The Hindu)