Sri Lanka president calls for unity in New Year message

Sri Lankan boys react to cameras as they enjoy an evening marking the new year festivities, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 12. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year falls on April 14. New Year's eve and New Year's Day are among the most celebrated holidays on the island. (AP)

Sri Lanka's President as the country prepaMahinda Rajapakse on Tuesday appealed for unity red for its first traditional New Year after the end of a 37-year civil war.

Rajapakse said he was seeking peace and reconciliation between his majority Sinhalese and the ethnic Tamil minority ahead of celebrations for Wednesday's New Year which is shared by both communities.

"It is my belief that these New Year festivities should seek to further unite our people in heart and mind," Rajapakse said in his New Year message.

"The government has carried out all necessary measures to bring the joy and meaning of the New Year closer to the people."

He promised prosperity through "agricultural development and encouraging an ethical way of life."

Rajapakse marks the New Year after last week's landslide parliamentary election victory which tightened his grip on power following his own presidential re-election in January.

Previous New Year celebrations have been marred by bomb attacks blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels who were defeated by security forces in May last year, ending 37 years of fighting in a conflict which had claimed up to 100,000 lives.

The Tigers fought in the name of the island's Tamil minority and demanded a separate state.

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