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Sovereignty, security and Buddhism - Sri Lanka’s president addresses parliament

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to “protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana” in an address to parliament this morning, where he called for changes to be made to the Sri Lankan constitution in order to safeguard “security, sovereignty, stability and integrity”.

In his speech, Rajapaksa outlined policies for his tenure and repeatedly referred to defending Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” and "Buddhist values".

“The people who elected me to office desired a profound change in the political culture of this country,” said Rajapaksa, who swept across the Sinhala south in presidential elections last year, but was overwhelmingly rejected by the Tamil North-East.

“They rejected political agendas founded on race,” he claimed, referring to his supporters. “The majority of the people proved that it is no longer possible for anyone to manipulate and control the politics of this country by playing the role of king maker. “

“We must always respect the aspirations of the majority of the people,” he continued. “It is only then that the sovereignty of the people will be safeguarded.”

He went on to state that in accordance with Sri Lanka’s constitution he “will always defend the unitary status of our country, and protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana”.

Rajapaksa also reiterated policies aimed at strengthening Sri Lanka’s military, which continues to have tens of thousands of troops deployed across the North-East. Despite criticism over the promotion of accused war criminals, which also took place under the previous regime, Rajapaksa said that “talented officers have been given appropriate responsibilities again”. “The network of national intelligence agencies has been reorganized and strengthened,” he added.

“Ours is a country with an ancient history, and a society nurtured by Buddhist teachings and the teachings of other world faiths. We must always safeguard our culture and our values.”

In addition Rajapaksa said that “changes be made to the existing constitution”, which currently includes the 19th amendment that looks to limit some of the powers of Sri Lanka’s executive presidency, “in order to safeguard the security, sovereignty, stability and integrity of our country”.

“Ours is a country with an ancient history, and a society nurtured by Buddhist teachings and the teachings of other world faiths,” he concluded. “We must always safeguard our culture and our values.”

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