Sri Lanka president calls for unity in New Year message

(From left) Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director - Payments and Settlements, Central Bank; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank

April 13, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse Tuesday appealed for unity as the country prepared for its first traditional New Year after the end of a 37-year civil war. Rajapakse said he was seeking peace and reconciliation between his majority Sinhalese and the ethnic Tamil minority ahead of celebrations for Wednesday’s New Year which is shared by both communities.

“It is my belief that these New Year festivities should seek to further unite our people in heart and mind,” Rajapakse said in his New Year message.

“The government has carried out all necessary measures to bring the joy and meaning of the New Year closer to the people.”

He promised prosperity through “agricultural development and encouraging an ethical way of life.”

Rajapakse marks the New Year after last week’s landslide parliamentary election victory which tightened his grip on power following his own presidential re-election in January.

Previous New Year celebrations have been marred by bomb attacks blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels who were defeated by security forces in May last year, ending 37 years of fighting in a conflict which had claimed up to 100,000 lives.

The T