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President bids farewell in final address

In what may well be his final address to the nation as Head of State, President Maithripala Sirisena said today that he gladly let go of the virtually limitless powers bestowed on him by the Constitution while also strengthening democracy and ensuring media and other freedoms.

“In my tenure, I was able to ensure total democracy in the country. I believe the media was it its freest under my presidency, and I also took steps to strengthen democracy. The result of this was that, using the very freedoms I facilitated, I came under vicious attacks, and my character was assassinated through fake news on social media and other outlets. But I was not deterred as it was my policy,” he said.

Noting that the next president has the unenviable task of selecting a cabinet untouched by allegations of corruption from the 225 parliamentarians, Sirisena said this year’s presidential election was the first since 1947 under a neutral incumbent head of state.

“Since nominations day, I have acted impartially, not taking any sides. The forces, which are under my purview, were freely utilised by the National Election Commission enabling a peaceful election island wide,” he said.

On a more sombre note, the outgoing president wished his predecessor well.

“Having served you for nearly five years, I now bid you farewell. You and I both know you will have elected a new president by tomorrow. I wish the new president well for the sake of the future generation, and hope he finds the strength to work for the country with sincerity and courage,” he said.

“All the sacrifices I have made for my beloved country so far, I will continue to make tomorrow onward. Justice and democracy must be strengthened; social justice must be established; media freedom, human rights, the fundamental rights of the people must be ensured. I will join you tomorrow to see that Sri Lanka will prosper as a leading democratic, economically sound nation of the world,” he added.

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