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    Sri Lanka to set up religious "peace zones": Rajapaksa

    Colombo (PTI): Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday said the government would set up "peace zones" around sacred places in the country to enable the devotees to perform religious ceremonies without fear.

    The government would seek to establish 'peace zones' in various parts of the country, the President said after symbolically handing over funds to religious dignitaries of 42 Buddhist Temples, Tamil Kovils, Churches and Mosques at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.

    "Every citizen of this land should have the freedom and the liberty to enjoy the right of religious worship, as per his conscience. The terrorists grabbed this right from the people," he said.

    "We are a government which is fully committed and prepared to make sacrifices and (will) be committed to protect all faiths and their associated sites of worship," he said.

    He pointed out that when the rebel-held northern region comes under government control, the whole country would be a "peace zone".

    "We are obliged to protect our religious devotion which we have sustained over the years," he said.

    The President pointed out that the various religious units and departments which were scattered in the past, were brought under one ministry, with the objective of integrating all religious affairs under one management and authority and averting conflicts of any nature.

    Rajapaksa said that despite the war, the Government had not abandoned any mega development projects in the country, be it the expressways or the Norochcholai Coal Power project or any other. The construction of the first-ever 300 MW coal power plant is now underway at Norochcholai.

    "We will not abandon the development of the religious sacred sites too," he added.



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