President Gotabaya Rajapaksa inaugurates the Parliament of Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: The president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Friday stressed the strengthening of ties with all countries and described the vision of his government when he inaugurated the fourth sessions of Parliament, one month after he extended the House after his victory in the presidential elections. The parliament would meet on December 3, but President Rajapaksa extended it for a month and set January 3 for the start of the next session.

He attended parliament for the first time since he had never been a member of parliament. The president chose to dress in European attire, a deviation from his five male predecessors who always wore traditional national dress.

In his ceremonial speech, the president recalled his family's long association with the assembly and explained that, although he did not wear the garnet family shawl with national dress that he claimed to represent the peasants of the deep southern region of Giruwapattuwa, he still had his interests as a priority of its administration.

The president described his government's vision for efficiency, the eradication of corruption and crime with the accelerated development of infrastructure to revive the local economy.

He told the assembly that electoral and constitutional reform would be needed to make Sri Lanka A progressive state The executive presidency must be strengthened so as not to leave room for extremist politics, he said.

He said he wants stronger relations with all countries such as the foreign policy of his government. We will not kneel before any foreign nation, he said.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, a former military officer, was sworn in as Sri Lanka's seventh President on November 18 after he defeated the ruling party candidate by more than 13 lakh votes, marking the return of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty.

He called his older brother and former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister after Ranil Wickremesinghe He resigned from office after the electoral debacle.

The 74-year-old leader will function as prime minister of the provisional cabinet until the general elections in 2020.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to dissolve the current assembly in early March to set dates for a new parliamentary election in late April or early May.