This is the first war heroes commemoration rally being held in the country that has obtained complete freedom after 30 years. I address you today in a country that is completely free, in a unitary state, under a single national standard.
Many years ago many of you too did not think it would be possible to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam militarily. Not only you even the international community did not believe we would be ever able to carry out that task.
Some national leaders from abroad told me that the LTTE leader was one who had achieved the best skills in warfare; that he had won in battles against many of our military commanders. The LTTE had both strength and experience. Therefore, we should not go to war with it. They wanted what was already divided to be given to the LTTE.
However, I had great belief in the people of this country and our security forces; not only in the commanders and higher ranks but in all our brave troops. There were some who said our army commanders were not even suitable to lead the Salvation Army. Where are they now? I know better about our people than the international community. We placed our trust in our people. We had great trust in our sons and daughters.
The people of our country have great love and devotion towards the land of their birth. This love and devotion is mostly hidden. I knew that when this love and devotion begins to emerge, it will not be second to any power in the world. We can then stand up to any power in the world.
What we enjoy today are the benefits of that love for the country. We have today destroyed the world's most ruthless terrorists without leaving any of their leaders.
Today, the terrorists have no large camps to which they can forcibly take away the children of Tamil mothers for military training. Artillery, heavy weapons and tanks do not speak for the terrorists anymore. Aircraft and runways have been blown to smithereens. Oil storage complexes, weapons factories, administrative centres of terror have been uprooted from the motherland. Naval Forces and ships can rest on the sea bed. The days when they were able to build marine fortresses and harbours are over. The courts of the tigers have been swept out of our motherland forever.
In short the entire 15,000 km of territory once given through a deed of gift to terrorists is entirely free.
Friends, In the past when a mother and father came to Colombo from Galle, one came by train and the other by bus, to make sure their children would have even one parent. The school van service was a solution the people found for the terrorist problem. Travelling in public transport was considered an invitation to death. Mothers in the north did not send their children to school for fear they will be dragged to war. Mothers in the south kept guard at schools for fear of bomb attacks. When our children went to school, in the North and East the children carried T-56 in their hands and cyanide capsules round their necks. Now our people are free of these fears.
The National Flag flutters calling for unity today.
There was a time when permission was needed from the LTTE to raise the National Flag in Trincomalee. The LTTE wanted their flag to be raised too. Wherever there is no right to hoist the National Flag, there is no freedom.
Today, both in the south and north, and every where the LTTE had fortresses, it is the same flag that flies. Today, the National Flag on the three-wheeler in Dondra flutters in Jaffna, too. The flag that is raised at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy flutters in Puthumathalan, too. We must be proud of this freedom we have obtained after 30 years. We should rejoice in it. If not you cannot be a child of Mother Lanka.Excerpts from the address by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the ceremony to pay tribute to the War Heroes in Colombo, May 23, 2009