Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday defended the controversial amendment to the Constitution that did away with Presidential term limits and gave him control over public institutions as a change that reflects what people of the country want.
Addressing the 65th UN general assembly, Rajapaksa said: ``…economic development and political reconciliation must go hand in hand. Towards this end, constitutional changes which appropriately reflect aspirations of our people will be evolved with the full participation of all stakeholders.’’
The 18th amendment has been critcised by many experts and analysts as the beginning of Sri Lanka’s slide into an autocratic rule where all powers were vested with the President’s office.
In what seemed a veiled reference to Tamil Nadu and New Delhi’s concerns about the minority Tamil community’s condition, Rajapaksa said only Sri Lanka was responsible for them. ``A great deal has been said by those beyond our borders about our Tamil community. Let me be clear, no nation on earth can wish Sri Lanka’s Tamil community more good fortune than Sri Lanka itself,’’ he said.
Praising his own election manifesto, ``Mahinda Chinthana – Vision for the Future”, Rajapaksa told the UN it articulated his vision of ``having sound infrastructure at the national, provincial and rural levels, which is vital for the inclusive growth, that will make development meaningful to the entirety of society.’’
He argued that the current international humanitarian law didn’t have the capacity to tackle the changing face of terrorism. ``It must be remembered that such law evolved essentially in response to conflicts waged by the forces of legally constituted States, and not terrorist groups. The asymmetrical nature of conflicts initiated by non-state actors gives rise to serious problems which need to be considered in earnest by the international community,’’ Rajapaksa said.
On international issues, Rajapaksa brought up ``the continued denial of the right of the Palestinian people to a State of their own within recognised and secure borders. We hope that Palestine will be a full member of this Assembly next year,’’ he said.