Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declared his government was “determined to face” a UN Human Rights Council resolution in order to protect the “pride and dignity” of the armed forces.
Speaking at a military parade to mark Independence Day, Mr Sirisena criticised the previous government for not taking steps which would have prevented the UN resolution from being passed in September 2015.
“The government is determined to face the UNHRC resolution with the collective strength of all sections to protect and preserve the national pride as well as the pride and dignity of our armed forces that had made numerous sacrifices to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” he declared, according to the official President's Media Division.
Sri Lankan Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers on parade in Colombo on Thursday. They were used extensively throughout the armed conflict and thought to be responsible for a number of civilian casualties.
The military parade in Colombo saw almost 10,000 Sri Lankan troops, fighter jets and military tanks on show at a ceremony attended by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, former President Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.
Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan was also in attendance, marking only the second time in 44 years that a Tamil leader has attended the occasion, after decades of boycotts over the oppression of the Tamil people.
Mr Sampanthan also attended the ceremony last year, with a similar military parade and Buddhist religious ceremonies, sparking fierce criticism from Tamils across the North-East.
The ceremony, held under the theme ‘Ekama Deyak – Maha Balyak’ or ‘One Nation - Great Strength’, also saw a two minute silence for all Sri Lankan soldiers killed “defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty” reports the official Sri Lankan army website.
Schoolchildren sang Sinhala Buddhist songs of 'victory and blessing', and a 21-gun salute in honour of the president, alongside a parade featuring members of the National Youth Council and National Cadet Corps also featured.
“On this noble occasion, I would like to pay the highest tribute to all those War Heroes who sacrificed for the country and all our forefathers who worked tirelessly to gain Independence for the country,” said Mr Sirisena.
“Since the times of our ancestral royalties, it is the armed forces that took the lead in the defence of the motherland’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The president went on to state the country should “be grateful to the armed forces as well as the government leadership in defeating the terrorists and protect the country (sic)”.
“As we celebrate the gaining of Independence, today, we recognize our bounden duty to give all honour and respect to the members of the Security Forces who made great sacrifices to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity in the battle against terrorism,” he added, noting that “even to-date they are at the forefront for their sacred duties”.
The president also sent out a warning to media on the island, stating that though freedom of expression had been restored “it should be applied for the common good of the people and not for any political agendas”. If not, those who come into power later may curtail that freedom said Mr Sirisena.
Meanwhile, Tamils in the North-East raised black flags to mark the day, protesting against the ongoing repression of the North-East by the Sri Lankan government.