Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a ceremony in Jaffna today for the inauguration of the Duraiappah Stadium, the renovation of which has been funded by the Indian government.
Mr Modi said it was a “landmark day” and praised the renovation which cost over Rs 7 crore. The stadium has been out of use since 1997, at which point the Sri Lankan government controlled the Jaffna peninsula. In 2002 at least 23 human skeletons, including those of children, were discovered during refurbishment works.
Addressing the ceremony via a video link, Mr Modi said that “after a wait of nearly 20 years your applause and cheers will once again rekindle the soul of Duraiappah stadium”. “Even while we are sitting thousands of kilometres away in Delhi, we can feel the pulse of vibrancy, an atmosphere of change in Jaffna,” he added.
The Indian prime minister went on to praise the people of Jaffna stating, “its foundations are supported by your courage and great sacrifices”.
“Its successful completion is a signal that you have left the past behind and are looking to the promise of a prosperous future,” he continued. “The Duraiappah Stadium is not just brick and mortar. It is a symbol of optimism and economic development. An arena of prosperous and healthy future of Jaffna’s youth. It demonstrates your determination to shed the legacy of violence and pursue the path of economic progress.”
The prime minister also spoke on relations between the two regions, saying,
“Our relations are not limited to the confines of our two governments, they reside in the rich context of our history, culture, language, art and geography. India strongly believes that its economic growth must drive and bring benefit to its neighbours.”
“India desires to see an economically prosperous Sri Lanka. A Sri Lanka where unity and integrity, peace, harmony security and equal opportunity and dignity prevails throughout the country among all its peoples,” he said.
“Durraiappah Stadium embodies the spirit of our cooperation. Indeed, India’s support for Sri Lanka’s development is a promise of our friendship. And, that it will be based on your priorities and your needs is an assurance that you can rely on. This is what makes our enduring ties relevant to our present, as also to our future.”
Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena, who was present in Jaffna for the ceremony, said the two governments would continue to go forward with a “very good understanding”.