New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala on Saturday jointly inaugurated a state-of-the-art stadium that was recently renovated with India's help in Jaffna today. PM Modi participated in the event through video conferencing.
Some 8000 people have also joined the event at Duraiappah Stadium where a yoga demonstration has also been organised ahead of the International Yoga Day on June 21.
In 2014, the United Nations had declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day.
The stadium, named in honour of former mayor of Jaffna late Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah, has been renovated by India at a cost of over Rs.7 crore.
This is the first major event at the renovated stadium.
In his address, PM Modi said, “India will walk side by side with Sri Lanka as it charts its own path to progress.”
He said, Sri Lanka was among the first supporters of the UN resolution on Yoga Day.
“Our relations are not limited to confines of our two governments but reside in our rich culture, art and language," PM Modi said.
“The Duraiappah stadium is not just brick and mortar but a symbol of economic development,” PM Modi said, adding, “Last year I was in Jaffna, the warmth and affection I received from the people is still fresh in my mind.”
"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," Modi said on the occasion, speaking via video-conferencing from New Delhi.
PM Modi said the modern tools of communication have enabled 1.25 billion people of India and the friendly people of Sri Lanka to "join in this celebration".
"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 said.
On his part, the Sri Lankan president thanked India for providing the financial assistance for renovating the stadium and said, “This is a historic occasion which will strengthen relations between India and Sri Lanka.”
"I consider the stadium as a centre for reconciliation because in a stadium you do not feel creed, race, religion or any differences. Sports and playground are the symbol of reconciliation. It is the centre of reconciliation," Sirisena said.
Sirisena's remarks assume significance as he has taken many steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority after coming to power.
Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives.
(With PTI inputs)