Peace | Speeches

"Our vow and our destiny are that peace must reign"

Second Presidential Inaugural Address

Colombo, Sri Lanka

December 22, 1999

It is with an intense and an immeasurably deep sense of gratitude to all my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters, who have once again reposed their faith in me as their President, that I humbly accept this electoral victory that has been miraculously bestowed upon me.

Particularly I must thank all those who have prayed for my well-being in the days since the terrorist cowards made their attempt upon my life, as well as those who have also prayed and worked so hard for this victory. Truly, from the depths of my being I thank you.

But I speak further, I humbly request that the entire nation keep one minute's silence with me now in memory of those whose lives were stolen in the terrible destruction of December 18; indeed, in memory of all Sri Lankans who have lost their lives due to this hideous conflict.

Friends, there is no doubt in my mind that this victory with which the gods have seen fit to honour me is a victory not only for myself, and not only for my two children whose mother has been spared, but a resounding victory for our entire nation. This victory is without doubt a very special and portentous gift of the gods.

For I believe that there now stands before you, before this nation, the one leader who is the single most qualified to lead us to the peace we long for. There now stands before you the one leader who understands precisely the sorrow in our nation's soul. The one leader who has felt every human pain that it is possible to feel, and yet has survived with the strength, the ability and the resolve to triumph over pain and to eradicate its source.

I have suffered our nation's sorrow in every way humanly possible: in the vicious pain of losing a father. In the loving pain of motherhood. In the soul-destroying pain of losing a husband. And now finally, I have nearly stepped over the threshold of my life into the deep abyss of the unknown darkness, only to be miraculously saved by the powers that be in order that I serve you further with even more passion and with even more dedication than I have before.

Friends, the night of 18 December, 1999 will go down in history as the night this land was touched by the hand of darkness one too many times. To all those who have ever doubted my resolve to lift the curse of hatred and death that has fallen upon our land, I offer the challenge to look into my face now and voice your doubt. I challenge them to say, if they dare, that Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is not genuine in her desire to forge a permanent peace with the arms of compassion and love.

I will answer them, indeed the very wounds I bear will answer them that there is no individual on this Earth more determined than I am to end this country's wretched and mindless bloodshed and destruction. I will answer them that there is no other political leader in this country who sees so clearly as I do the enemy that walks so freely about in our land. That enemy is hatred and he stands in front of me as I speak. I see him. I know him. I, and my family, and this nation, have felt his touch one too many times.

Indeed it is with unshakeable confidence that I declare that I have felt his touch for the last time. Because from this day forward I shall not rest until I have rid this land, of hatred and its curse of death and destruction.

This new lease of life, this national miracle, shall be the beginning of a new vow, a new destiny for our country. Our vow and our destiny are that peace must reign.

But peace does not arise from nowhere, just as presidents do not arise from nowhere. As a President is elected vote by vote by the individual hands of our people, so peace must be elected soul by individual soul.

A former President of France - Francois Mitterrand said:
Peace is a battle.
Peace is never given freely, never acquired.
Its conquest is the result of courage and of respect
for others.
It demands awareness and commitment from
Peace is not the law imposed by the mighty, but
that which is founded on equality and dignity of all

And so the task of forging peace falls not only to your President but to all of us, including those who have in the past stood back, uncertain as to which role they should play. All of us, from this day forward, each and every single day, must elect peace into our hearts and into our lives.

To the millions of Sri Lankans whose eyes are open to the truths of the spirit, my victory stands as a singularly fitting symbol of what must now come to pass. For as I hold the unique distinction of being the one political leader against whom an LTTE assassination attempt has failed, I say that I, as the President of this nation and the leader of all my peoples, of all races, religions and political beliefs, will be the one political leader against whom the entire LTTE terrorist enterprise will fail.

There are many who have watched this election campaign despairing that no politician talks about solving the ethnic conflict for any reason other than to win the people's votes. To any of you who have doubted, I say that my wounds are proof of my sincerity. When I first declared the Presidential election nearly one and a half years before its due time, I clearly stated that my main objective was to end the war and bring in peace without any further delay.

In fact, I truly believe that the gods have spared me to achieve just this purpose of peace and national reconciliation. And if I did not believe that, then I would not be worthy of the high office to which you, my brothers and sisters, have once again called me.

And so to the root of our current problem. Again I say, look at me, look at my wounds. These are not the wounds of politics. These are not the wounds of a just fight for equality. These are not the wounds of a noble cause of independence and self-determination. These are not the wounds of sheer, naked, and unadulterated hatred of man for man, and disregard of all that is humane which raises man from the sheer bestiality of animalism to that heavenly realm of spirituality. Those who inflict such wounds can no longer be allowed to go unchecked and unpunished.

Let all those who act in the name of hatred and terror in the North-East and their supporters in the South be warned; far from being weakened by fear of attack, our resolve has been incalculably strengthened by your cowardice.

Let all those who aid and abet terror be warned; let those who by act or omission support terror be warned; let those who secretly or openly condone the path of violence pursued by the cowards of the LTTE be warned; the days of terror in this land are numbered, and that number is small.

Let all citizens of this country, Tamil and Muslim and Burgher and Sinhala, be warned that this Government will not for one second be deterred from taking the strongest possible action against anyone who supports terror.

The people of this country have made clear their desire. They seek peace, and have elected a leader of peace; they seek national unity, and have elected a leader who has proven able to unify our forces. But it is also certain that they also seek brotherhood, and they have therefore elected not only a strong President but clearly shown their support for a strong and vibrant opposition.

I believe that we must fully appreciate the meaning of the size of the victory that I have won. It is clear to me that the people of this nation do not intend the torch of peace to be carried by one half of our people while the other half rest. I believe that our people intend these two parties to share the burden appointed to us by destiny. This nation has the strength to create two strong parties. I believe that these two strong parties together must use this strength to once again create the nation.

The political fight is never an easy one. I therefore sincerely commiserate with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe in his unsuccessful attempt to win the Presidency. And yet I say to Mr. Wickremesinghe that he should take heart. He must take heart, because the very significant support that he and his party commands can mean one thing and one thing only: that the people of this country still intend for him to play a major role in our efforts to forge a new Sri Lanka of tranquility and tremendous opportunity that stands so close at hand.

Mr. Wickremesinghe, I stretch out my hand to you to join this government, both you and your supporters. I call upon you and your supporters to honour now by your actions the commitment to which you gave yourself throughout your election campaign, the commitment to this nation's peace, without compromising in any way with those who attempt to sow terror even for narrow political gains.

At the same time, I stretch out my hand to the leaders of all our nation's communities and faiths. Together, let us set out to clear away this culture of terror and death, let us invite all our cadres to join in this journey to rehumanise our nation's soul. Let us do as our various faiths tell us all to do, and leave behind the pettiness and spitefulness and difference to achieve this first, most desperate and most urgent target of peace, before we attempt to achieve all else.

I sympathize with those young and innocent people of our nation who have for too long been intimidated by terror into supporting the LTTE. I embrace you as dearly as I embrace my own children, and entreat you to give up this hatred which is gnawing away at your heart, and join in this nation's collective noble effort for your salvation and ours. It is only through that understanding that you will be able to convince your leaders that hatred is not the solution to any human problem.

In particular, I stretch out my hand to all our Tamil brothers and sisters who believed, mistakenly, in the benevolence of Mr. Prabhakaran to reject for once and for all the LTTE and all the violence and hatred they stand for. You must see the light of peace. I urge you to use every ounce of influence at your disposal to bring Mr. Prabhakaran to the negotiating table without any further delay. I urge you to persuade with every conceivable argument anyone who is a member or a supporter of the LTTE to renounce violence and join us in establishing peace.

I still believe in the goodness of man. I believe the time has finally come for the goodness of man to reign supreme throughout this nation. This is my one ambition, and from the achievement of this ambition, everything else that we long for and cherish will flow without hindrance.

From the threshold of death I have come back in order that I join with all of you to achieve this most urgent and noble task for our beloved land, for our people, and for our children.