"Reservoirs are like the arteries in our body. The sustenance of our nation was due to huge reservoirs and great irrigation works like the one we are launching today(April 29). We breathe life to our nation through these reservoir projects", the President Mahinda Rajapaksa was quoted as saying during his speech delivered on the occasion of the visit of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Sri Lanka, at Sapugaskanda.
"The Islamic people of the world have suffered immensely from war. We know that hundreds of thousands of our fraternal Muslims people live in refugee camps due to Israel - Palestinian war and other conflicts in the world.
That is not all. The inhuman sufferings the Sri Lankan Muslims have undergone due to terrorism are not seen in many other countries. It includes the massacre of Muslims when they were praying to Almighty Allah at the Kattankudi Mosque; and the eviction of several thousand Muslims from the North in just 24 hours", the President further added during his speech.
Full text of the speech made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the occasion of the visit of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Sri Lanka, at Sapugaskanda - April 29, 2008
Your Excellency President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad of Iran
Hon. Prime Minister,
Hon. Ministers and Members of Parliament
The Iranian delegation led by the Hon. Foreign Minister of Iran
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Secretary to the President, Secretaries to Ministries and Public Officers
It is a pleasure for me to address you on this occasion when with the goodwill of the historic nation of Iran the Sri Lankan nation is to receive the Uma Oya Development Project and a modern oil refinery .
Your Excellency, A reservoir is the noblest gift one could give the Sri Lankan people.
Reservoirs are like the arteries in our body. The sustenance of our nation was due to huge reservoirs and great irrigation works like the one we are launching today. We breathe life to our nation through these reservoir projects.
You know that we mentioned in the Mahinda Chinthana policy document that we would build huge multi-purpose irrigation projects such as the Deduru Oya, Rambukkan Oya, Moragahakanda and Uma Oya projects in addition to the Ten Thousand Reservoirs project. These comprise the very life of our nation.
Statistics cannot measure the utility that would be provided to our nation by a reservoir of this nature. How many crops would have been cultivated and harvests gathered through the ages, from the waters of the Parakrama Samudraya, Kala Oya and the like? As in the past, how many generations yet to be born would be served by these reservoirs? Hence, a generation cannot fix a monetary value for a project like this, just as mother's milk cannot be priced. We do not estimate this at 450 million dollars.
Friends, postponing the tasks of today top the future only results in burdening the future with the weight of the past. We cannot do that. Today we bear the responsibility of completing with speed many tasks that should have been finished in the past.
This Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery is such a task.
Modernizing this refinery with Iranian assistance will result a twofold economic benefit to the country. We will be able to refine all our needs in oil from this refinery.
We are aware that Iran supplied the most crude oil to Sri Lanka. Yet, without showing the power of oil, Iran has been in the spirit of friendship to assist us to establish a modern oil refinery.
Iran and Sri Lanka have long history of close relations. Iran has been mentioned in our history and literature as 'Persia'.
There is evidence of the visits of your ancestors to our country. In Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya we have preserved buildings and religious symbols that were designed according to Persian tradition. We have written evidence about strong relations between our two countries during the time of King Voharika Tissa in AD 225.
We have Persian coins dating back to thousands of years, when we traded with the people of Persia. Then Sri Lanka had trade relations with many countries of the world. It is said that a member of a Roman trade delegation told King Voharika Tissa that Roman coins were more valuable than Persian coins. But, Mr. President, we value your nation's friendship more than coins. The unity of our peoples is worth much more.
Friends, the Islamic people of the world have suffered immensely from war. We know that hundreds of thousands of our fraternal Muslims people live in refugee camps due to Israel - Palestinian war and other conflicts in the world.
I have a good understanding of the sufferings of the Muslim world as I was the President of the Palestine Friendship Society for a long time. That is not all. The inhuman sufferings the Sri Lankan Muslims have undergone due to terrorism are not seen in many other countries. It includes the massacre of Muslims when they were praying to Almighty Allah at the Kattankudi Mosque; and the eviction of several thousand Muslims from the North in just 24 hours.
That is why I pledged at the last Presidential Elections not to allow any race to take any other race hostage. While we could build the overhead bridge at Kelaniya in 62 days, it took us only two months to resettle in their old villages the Muslims who lived for decades in refugee camps. We have not only provided electricity, roads, education and livelihoods to the people of the East but also gave them an opportunity to enjoy democracy after twenty years.
By resettling our people in their former villages we gained the same satisfaction that you achieve by safeguarding the Iranian people from war. Already we have spent Rs. 6 billion for the development of the liberated East.
We have developed the Batticaloa - Trincomalee railway line and the towns of Valachchenai and Kalmunai in such a way that the terrorists would not be able to grab them. Those who were vanquished could well raise their heads again and try to regain what they lost. It is the duty of the people to protect all these gains and defend these victories.
Friends, we should consider this Iranian gift as a contribution to the consolidation of our independence.
Thousands would find employment when the waters of Uma Oya would irrigate 25,000 acres during both seasons; when we employ 98 percent local engineering talent and build the longest trans-plain tunnel of 23 km for the project.
When Iran is meaningfully employing science and technology for human development instead of war, Sri Lanka is also moving in the same direction. We have increased computer literacy to 20 percent from very low levels. When the electricity plants of the Uma Oya Project generate 100 MW of electricity we could further raise the computer literacy in the villages.
Therefore, I say again that we consider this donation as one that would consolidate our independence.
The foreign policy of the government of Iran is peace and justice. We welcome this policy whole heartedly. This modern oil refinery is a symbol of such friendship.
Friends, a simile in Buddhist literature says that when waters from the four directions flow into the sea they have the same salty taste. Similarly, let us pray that this Uma Oya project would bring solace to all people irrespective of their racial or religious differences.
Today we have been privileged to address our glorious past under your dignified leadership and presence. As a nation and a people it is with feelings of loving friendship that we honour you and your people for this great opportunity. I trust this friendship will endure and flourish among future generations of our two lands, just as the Uma Oya which flowed steadily for thousands of years watering our land and making our fields fertile.
May the Noble Triple Gem bless you!
May Almighty Allah bless you!
Courtesy: Policy Research & Information Unit- Presidential Secretariat
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