Address at the Republic Day reception
on 26 January 2014 by Consul General
at Green Grass Hotel, Jaffna
Chief Guest of the occasion Hon’ble GA Chandrasiri, Governor of Northern Province,
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Northern Province Justice C V Wigneswaran,
Hon’ble Members of Parliament,
Hon’ble Members of the Northern Provincial Council
Representatives of United Nations’ Organisations, International Agencies,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Friends
2 .On the occasion of the 65th Republic Day of India, it is my honour and privilege to welcome you all on this pleasant evening. This is the fourth Republic Day we are celebrating in Jaffna after the opening of the Indian Consulate. I am immensely pleased to see the number of guests on the ascendance year after year which is an indication of expansion of our friendship circle.My sincere thanks are due to all of you for being here with us on this august occasion.
3. I would like to specially convey my thanks to Hon’ble Governor GA Chandrasiri for having consented to be the Chief Guest on this occasion.
4. I am also delighted to see amongst us Hon. Justice CV Wigneswaran, the first Chief Minister of the Northern Province in its history along with his Ministers and other members of the Council.
5. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy 2014 and Happy Pongal. May this new year bring peace and prosperity to all Sri Lankans.
6. India attained its independence 67 years ago but became Republic in 1950 and today is India’s 65th Republic Day. India has undergone major changes in the past six decades. The bedrock of India, even as it continues to evolve since 1947, was laid through its Constitution, adopted on 26 January 1950. The Constitution represents a significant landmark, which has put India firmly on the track to progress and modernity. What is important is that the momentum for change and development is backed by popular will and is propelled by unflinching belief in fundamental freedoms, democracy and rule of law.
7. The President of India H.E. MrPranab Mukherjee, addressed his fellow citizens YESTERDAY on the eve of the 65th Republic Day. I thought of recalling here some of the important points he spoke about in his address. In his speech he lauded the deep Democratic roots that have spawned, and India’s continued commitment to Democracy while cautioning its fault-lines. In the wake of 16th General Election to our LokSabha , he called every Indian voter to cautiously and responsibly exercise his or her right to vote to ensure a stable Indian Government. Equally, the Indian President has cautioned those who seek the trust of Indian voters to promise only what is possible and called them to endeavor to eliminate the trust deficit between them and the people of India. He was hopeful that the year 2014 would be year of resurgence!
8. Coming back India and Sri Lanka affairs, India-Sri Lanka relations are more than 2500 years old and the relations between the two countries have matured and diversified with the passage of time encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance. In recent years, the relations have been marked by extensive people-to-people interaction, close contacts at the highest political level, growing trade and investment, cooperation in the field of development, education, culture and defence as well as a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.
9. India and Sri Lanka enjoy a vibrant and growing economic and commercial partnership with the leading Indian private sector companies investing in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is India’s largest trade partner in SAARC Region and India is in turn Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.
10. Since the last year’s Republic Day of India, several High level of visits from India took place which mark our close bilateral relationship. Our External Affairs Minister, H.E.SalmanKhurshid was the first foreign dignitary to visit Jaffna after Northern Provincial Council assuming office and had the opportunity to interact with the Hon’ble Governor, Hon’ble Chief Minister and other political leaders in the Province. Later, the EAM also represented India in the CHOGM. There were many Secretary level officials from our Foreign Office regularly visited Northern Province to monitor the progress of various development projects undertaken by India.
11. Looking back, the Consulate General of India, which was established in Jaffna in November 2010,has completed three years of its functioning, two months ago. I have the privilege of heading the Indian Consulate since its inception from November 2010 and can say with a great sense of satisfaction, that these three years have seen a tremendous transformation of the Northern Province. Today’s Northern Province is not the same that it was in November 2010, be it, in basic infrastructure, be it roads, hospitals, availability of medicines and doctors, electricity, availability of household goods and daily necessities of life, telecommunication and transport including restaurants and hotels. Today we have supermarkets and modern multi-flex cinema theatres and the quality of life has improved significantly in the last three years.
12. India has also contributed its part in rehabilitating and reconstructing the Northern Province which was ravaged by the three decades old armed conflict. India’s partnership with Sri Lanka for Development Cooperation is built on the foundations of political understanding, a historic past, geographic realities and socio-cultural empathy. This cooperation is based on a consultative approach that takes into account the priorities set by the host government and cooperative implementation by working together with agencies of Government of Sri Lanka. Although the nature of our assistance has continued to evolve since 2009, the focus remains mainly on capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure support. Over the past four years, Government of India has implemented projects in Sri Lanka worth SLR 24 billion, with our project portfolio encompassing virtually all major sectors of the economy.
13. Of all the Projects, the flag ship development project is the Indian Housing Project. The First phase of 1000 houses Pilot Project was completed in July 2012 in spite of all the difficulties particularly its spread over 25 locations remotely connected to each other spanning the entire Northern Province. The Second Phase of 43000 houses for Northern and Eastern provinces had gone into stream in October 2012 and today more than 10250 houses have been completed. We hope tocomplete the entire housing project of 50000 houses for Sri Lankaby 2015 as committed.
14. The reconstruction of Northern Railway line by the dynamic Indian public sector company – IRCON International Ltd. under the Indian Lines of Credit has seen tremendous progress ahead of schedule. The railway line between Omanthai and Kilinochchi was inaugurated in September last year and the link uptoPalai is in the completion stage and expected to be completed perhaps in February 2014.. Our expectation is to see the Yarl Devi Express, which used to ply on this route, restart its services upto Jaffna in 2014.
15. The rehabilitation of Kankesanthurai Portunder Indian Grant Assistance had seen completion of three stages with the latest stage being the dredging of the Port by the Dredging Corporation of India. Palaly Airport runway has also been relaidpartially under India’s Grant Assistance. Our offer to provide lines of credit to develop Kankesanthurai as a commercial port and Palaly as a civilian airport with regional connectivity is still on the table. We look forward to the acceptance of these proposals so that our agenda for greater connectivity can be advanced and once again our Sri Lankan friends can travel by rail and ferry to India.
16. During the year passed by, several Indian Development projects were initiated and some had seen their completion. Under Government of India’s grant assistance, the Northsea Fishnet factory located here in Gurunagar, has been fully equipped with latest machinery and handed over to the Ministry of Traditional Industries. This has enhanced the capacity of the fishnet factory five times.
17. The initiative to renovate 25 acres of Atchuvely Industrial Estate was taken in the beginning of last year and I am glad to inform that 22 Industrial plots would be available very soon , may be next month, to Sri Lankan Industrialists and entrepreneurs for setting up their industries with all basic facilities. I take this opportunity to urge the entrepreneurs of Northern Province to liaise with the Industrial Development Board of Sri Lanka to secure these plots and join in the process of reinvigorating the industrial scene in the Northern Province.
18. At Vavuniya District Hospital, a 200 bed-ward complex is being built with the assistance of the Govt of India and we hope , by May 2014, this will be ready to be handed over to the District Hospital authorities. During last year, Govt. of India provided assistance to 1,320 small businesses that were affected by the armed conflict in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts by providing them grants ranging from SLRs 25,000 to SLRs 200,000 to re-establish their operations.
19. Cultural relations continue to be strengthened through performances by visiting troupes, of which, particularly the programme of Divine Ecstasy coinciding with Nallur Festival is worth mentioning. In the programme held in August 2013, popular Carnatic Vocalists Ms.Sudha Raghunatan, and T.M. Krishna and the well-known Bharatnatyam dancer Ms. Leela Samson gave fabulous performances and also conducted workshops for the students of Jaffna University’s Ramanthan Academy of Fine Arts and other schools. We will continue to organise similar events in the years ahead. On the cultural front, India is also committed to restore the Thiruketheeswaram
Temple in Mannar and I am happy to inform that master craftsmen of India are sculpting and carving the statues and pillars for the temple in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and they will be shipped to Mannar in the coming months to restore the famous temple to its glory. Renovation of Duraiyappa Stadium in Jaffna will be taken up soon to improve the sports facilities.
20. I am confident that in 2014, we will see the foundation stone laying ceremony for the construction of the Jaffna Cultural Centre at a place close to the Jaffna National Library which will be a landmark building in the entire Northern Province.
21. Govt. of India has decided to set up 9 language labs, one in each Province of Sri Lanka. In Jaffna it will be set up with modern facilities at Kopai hopefully by March 2014.
22. Similarly, a Handicraft Village is proposed to be set up at Kaithady in 2014 where the craftsmen and artisans of Northern Province will be able to manufacture, display and sell their products all under one roof. This project will have a direct bearing on the livelihood of several families.
23. Under the spirit of “India-Sri Lanka knowledge initiative”, number of scholarships offered to Sri Lankan nationals has reached 800. Five hundred scholarships are offered for studying in Sri Lankan colleges and University and about 300 scholarships under various schemes and self-financing courses for professional studies such as M.B.B.S., B.E. and B. Pharmacy.
24. When we look back the year gone by, we feel proud for our contribution and assistance in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Northern Province. I am full of hope that the future of our development partnership is bright and look forward to continuously engage with the Sri Lankan Government, Northern Provincial Authorities and the people of Sri Lanka in enhancing the lives and livelihood of the people of the Northern Province.
25. Before I conclude I would like to state that the Government of India welcomed the successful culmination of elections in September 2013 to the three provincial councils particularly the one in the Northern Province. The high voter turnout and the enthusiastic participation of various political parties demonstrated the continuing commitment of the people of Sri Lanka to democratic values. We continue to urge all stakeholders to engage constructively, in a spirit of partnership and mutual accommodation. Only such a cooperative approach will pave the way for genuine reconciliation and a political settlement. The Government of India is committed to working with all stakeholders to further this process.
26. I hope the new year takes the India - Sri Lanka relationship to greater heights and that we can all work together to achieve this shared objective, for the prosperity and mutual benefit of our peoples.
27. Finally, I and my colleagues in the Consulate are deeply grateful for the warmth and friendship from the Sri Lankan Government, Northern Province Authorities and the people of Sri Lanka particularly from the Northern Province. Once again I thank you for having joined us this evening.