As Sri Lankan Tamils marked the festival of Diwali today, President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised the beginning of a new era where their sufferings "will be a thing of the past" and they would be able to return to their homes in the war-torn north.
In his message on Diwali, Rajapaksa said the festival symbolises the victory of good over evil, and hoped "the light of goodwill will dispel the darkness of terror in our land".
"We are now at the threshold of a new era, where the suffering faced by the Hindu community will be a thing of past and they could look forward to living in peace and harmony in the comfort and tranquillity of their own homes," he said.
He said the Sri Lankan society was celebrating the festival with "a spirit of unity" marked by increased harmony among people, "irrespective of ethnic, religious and other differences that have kept them apart for a long period".
The Hindu community celebrated Diwali in the country, the first after the end of the three decade old civil war.
The government said Kovils or Tamil temples were lit up in northern Sri Lanka and shops in the hill areas were full of people, amidst tight security in the region.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake in a message said: "Today we have overcome that dark period and entered a good era... None could forget the trials and tribulations suffered by our society for 30 years due to the activities of evil persons".