The President also underscored as priority undertaking, the need to build genuine unity among all people of the country after the physical defeat of terrorism in 2009, and the necessity to work rapidly towards the eradication of poverty and ushering in constitutional change to give effect to establishing a truly democratic country with genuine sovereignty reposed in Parliament.

President Sirisena was addressing the Nation at the 67th Independence Day celebrations at Parliament Grounds in Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte yesterday. The 67th Independence Day ceremony was held under the theme 'Splendid Country - Glorious Tomorrow'.

The President also said the country would follow a middle path in foreign policy extending friendship towards all countries, with due respect to the United Nations Charter and the resolutions adopted by the United Nations.

Highlighting the need and value of creating strong bonds between people in the North and the South after liberating the country from the clutches of terrorism, the President said that the main challenge ahead of us is to connect the people in the North and South in a national reconciliation paradigm.

"We could not link the hearts of the people in the North and the South even though the sound of terrorist guns were silenced by the security forces in 2009. There is no point in accusing individuals for the failures in the past but what is more important is to rectify failures and mistakes.

The war was ended physically and now we should enable the co-existence of all ethnicities," the President said.

The President questioned whether we can infact be happy honestly with what we have achieved when we celebrate the 67th Independence Day. "It is not correct to level allegations against others since it is our prime duty to make all arrangements and look towards the future in the discharge of our responsibilities".

The President said that it is most fortunate that he was able to address the nation at the historically important city of Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte in the precincts of Parliament that reflects the sovereignty of the people.

"As we celebrate the freedom obtained 67 years ago, it is our duty and responsibility to remember with honour the heroes who fought to obtain this freedom. The year 1815 when our great Motherland lost her freedom is recalled as a year of great national tragedy. The uprisings of 1815 and 1848 against the forces of colonialism caused great bloodshed, when our soil was dampened by the blood of the heroic patriots and those who loved our nation and country," the President said.

"Those who gave leadership to these struggles, who, among many other heroes, include D.S. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake, Sir DB Jayatillake, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, T.B. Jayah, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Dr. N.M. Perera, Philip Gunewardena and Leslie Goonewardena dedicated a lot to liberate the country and to take the country forward. It is important to remember the contribution of Anagarika Dharmapala. Similarly, we recall the great men of letters of the time such as Munidasa Cumaranatunga, Piyadasa Sirisena, and other exceptional campaigners for freedom through their writings, who used their pens to effectively kindle the spirit of freedom in the hearts and minds of people," the President noted.

Looking back at the record of history, especially the 67 years that have passed since Independence, we reiterate that after receiving Independence in 1948, the people's government of 1956 led by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike strengthened our freedom by removing the British air force and naval bases at Katunayake and Trincomalee. Also, in May 1972, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, brought the Republican Constitution, which made this country one of greater independence and democracy, he added.

"If we look at the past and today, we know of the LTTE terrorism that took place for 30 years from the latter part of the 1970's, which through the brutality of terror brought our entire nation and our efforts at development, to a most tragic standstill. It is not possible to make an assessment of the immense losses incurred during that period. That brutal war slowed down the forward march of the nation, prevented the progress of the Motherland, and created great obstacles for us to rise in the world as an awakened nation," the President noted.

He further added that in 2009, we were able to end the terrorism of 30 years. The coming to office of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and through the contributions of military heroes such as General Sarath Fonseka, who gave leadership to thousands of heroic troops who made great sacrifices of life and limb, and suffered great tragedies in battle, we were able to free our land from LTTE terror and bring our country to peace in May 2009.

The President said that it is our special duty at this 67th commemoration of the independence to remember with the highest respect and pay due honour to all members of our security forces, who sacrificed their lives in this war on behalf our great motherland. Although by 2009, after the defeat of LTTE terrorism, and bringing peace to our land, we had the opportunity to take the physical resources of the land forward towards development, we were unable to do so; and to bring together the minds of the people of the North and South.

"To end the war against terror, our heroic troops were able with their guns to silence the guns of terrorism. However, the biggest challenge we face today, is that of bringing together the minds of the people of the North and South, and through a process of reconciliation bring about co-existence and national understanding, and thus take our great Motherland forward as a land rich in human affection and understanding.

"In so moving forward, there are many responsibilities before us. We need to ask ourselves whether we can truly and honestly be satisfied with what we have achieved, as we celebrate this 67th anniversary of Independence.

As we look back at these 67 years of freedom, the solution to our needs does not lie in the mutual pointing of fingers. It is my belief that all political parties, all political leaders who have governed this country in the past 67 years, should look back at themselves and truly study and understand one's duties and responsibilities, and look towards the future in the discharge of such responsibilities," the President said.

"President Sirisena said that it is the great responsibility and duty before us today is to ask where we have gone wrong and how we could correct those errors, as much as we look at the path we have trod in the 67 years of freedom and especially since 2009.

"Together with the mandate given to us by the people on January 8th, we made important promises and pledges to the people that working as a new government, we would bring about new transformations in politics, the economy, society and culture. We remain bound by these pledges. In the nearly three weeks that have passed, we have initiated many moves in this regard, and a beginning has been made. The level of poverty in our country stands at 6.7 %. We should pay special attention to this with a commitment to bring it to a minimum. This is the task of our new government, elected by our people," he said. "Accordingly, the new government will work towards reducing the income gap among people, eliminating poverty and strengthening the national economy. In speaking of our national economy, as an agricultural country, we should raise national agricultural standards by providing scientific knowledge from the advances in the new technological world, and through proper guidance and study bring new life to our national agriculture.

"We must strengthen our national economy.

It is the commitment of the government to ensure development of the various sectors of our economy, through new technology and industrialization; and joining hands with the industrial world move forward as a truly awakened country, the President said.

President Sirisena said that the government has a strong commitment to strengthen the public service, make it non-partisan, and through the expected constitutional changes, give more strength to parliament, remove the unlimited powers of the executive presidency, and thus ensure the strengthening of democracy for the people. The government will definitely implement the promises made to the people. "In considering the past, we make a clear commitment towards following a foreign policy of the middle path, in friendship with all nations, to move towards the resolution of our national issues through the strengthening of our international relations, and through the benefits of such friendship that will bring technological progress, to take our motherland towards greater progress, the President added.