President Mahinda Rajapaksa began his second six-year term today amidst marching troops, promising to usher in massive economic development in a country still emerging from a 26-year-long civil war.
Rajapaksa’s speech, however, had no mention of reconciliation with the minority Tamil community. There was no indication in what Rajapaksa said that his government would try and resolve the ethnic issue that triggered the war or meet the demands of the Tamils like more administrative powers for the regions.
Instead, in the televised speech after the ceremonial swearing-in, Rajapaksa harped on his own leadership during the first Presidential term that began in 2005.
"When I took over five years ago the country was heading for break up, but today it is a unified nation where terrorism has been defeated," Rajapaksa said. "From this day on, we will bring this nation to a position of greatness in this world implementing the policy of Mahinda Chintana: Vision for the future," he added.
Political analyst Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that the focus on economic recovery would leave the issue of reconciliation with Tamil minority on the backburner. "Any talk about political reform is considered irrelevant at best and subversive at worst,’’ he said.
On Thursday, which was also his 65th birthday, Rajapaksa inaugurated a port built and funded by China and named it after himself.
A government newspaper called it: 'a new era dawns.'
Rajapaksa said the country could become the "wonder of Asia" where "the world’s largest harbour and five other ports are being built, and the strides of development are proceeding to build airports, expressways and massive power stations."
The Indian minister of state for external affairs, Preneet Kaur, was present at the ceremonial inauguration and swearing-in ceremony.
A virtual holiday was declared in Colombo on Friday for the function with government offices and many schools declaring holidays and thousands of army personnel throwing a net of security in and around the Capital city.
The inauguration of the second term came 10 months after the president's re-election in January's presidential polls where he defeated former army chief Sarath Fonseka, now serving a 30-month jail sentence. (inputs from AFP)