Delivering Goods | Daily News

Delivering Goods

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has succeeded in delivering the goods both literally and metaphorically during the short period he has been in office, easing, to a considerable extent, the grave difficulties of the people caused by the economic mismanagement of the government for quite some time and the immediate reasons, the self-confessed mistakes i.e., the ban on the import of chemical fertilizer and not going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for succour, in time.

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, no sooner he assumed office, was able to contact those in charge of a number of sources of help, in addition to the IMF, a team of which agency was in the country for over ten days end May, such as USAID Chief Samantha Power. A visit by a delegation from the United States, State Department, for three days coincided with the IMF stay. The day following the historic occupation of the seats of power, the President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat, the IMF were to hold further discussions with Ranil Wickremesinghe and his officials.

All this was possible due to the prestige the Prime Minister enjoys internationally, his genial nature being able to confront his countrymen in a friendly manner not grinding his teeth when speaking, the experience he has gathered for almost five decades being the shining light in the political arena for that length of time, just as President J.R. Jayewardene was from the 1930s electing him to office only at the age of 71 and the ability to turn around the economy as demonstrated in the 2001 Government when a minus rate of growth was converted to over 6 per cent in no time.

Those who criticize him forget the fact that everything was not hunky dory since Independence in 1948. The strugglers’ claim that all 225 in Parliament are unacceptable is not without basis and has validity because we have not achieved enough as a free country in comparison to even other countries beginning to enjoy freedom even after us. The fact that we are an agricultural country was not given emphasis as it should have been.

We had achieved considerable progress in agriculture under D.S. Senanayake in the State Council days since 1931 but as it was put in charge of his young son Dudley with DS becoming Prime Minister in 1948 the momentum was lost, so much so by 1955 the then Ceylon Daily News had to carry an editorial saying that “the traditional paths of economic expansion are getting closed up. The country is reaching the very end of development. The rural population is increasing fast. The land under cultivation cannot increase at that speed… Ceylon cannot maintain the welfare services at the present level for long. The possibility of distributing wealth through increasing taxes is ending…”

The Times of Ceylon of January 19, 1955 reported Lands Minister Bulankulame Disava as saying: “The gravest problem in Ceylon today is landlessness. The cultivable land in Ceylon is only 30 lakhs acres…while the amount of cultivated land remains without increasing the population is increasing very fast. No one, without miraculous power, can solve this problem”.

Needless to say, DS paving the path for his son Dudley to succeed him on his demise also contributed to this situation. So much so, Dr. Dhirendra Mohan Prasad in his work ‘Ceylon’s Foreign Policy under the Bandaranaikes (1956-65)’ says: “Dudley carried on his Premiership in a very reluctant manner...” DS did it overlooking senior and mature members of the United National Party such as Oxford educated S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Cambridge educated J.L. Kotelawala.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who became Prime Minister in 1956 was not allowed to complete his work of implementing his Ten Year Plan (1956-1965), and his educated children Oxford educated Sunethra, Sorbonne educated Chandrika and London University alumnus Anura played their roles admirably well, it has to be mentioned in fairness to them.

Intellectuals such as Dr. Somasara Dassanayaka (later Bhikkhu Sumedha) my beloved Senior Lecturer in History of Political Theory and Modern Indian and European History at Vidyodaya University of Ceylon played a notable role as General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and National List Member of Parliament, followed by Oxonian Lakshman Kadirgamar, Prof. Viswa Warnapala, Kesralal Gunasekara and Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, but today mediocre individuals have taken control of a party founded by a towering intellectual who took pride in saying that he was bodily transported to Greece when Gilbert Murray of Oxford was doing Homer.

It cannot be gainsaid that Dudley Senanayake as the mature politician did yeoman service as Prime Minister from 1965 to 1970 ably assisted by Philip Gunawardena - for whom I led the students’ movement of all three universities as the first President of the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF)- as his Minister of Industries and Fisheries.

President J.R. Jayewardene taking the baton from Dudley, in 1977 with the able assistance of reputed intellectuals Ronnie de Mel, Oxford alumnus Lalith Athulathmudali and Ranil Wicremesinghe extremely well read free education scholar and Bachelor of Laws, did unprecedented service to the country

Had J.R. Jayewardene was allowed to continue as President for a third term which was denied to him by killing both the proposer and seconder of the motion in Parliament, and putting up posters: ‘Kill JR!’ the history of Sri Lanka would have been quite different!

Next, it was Ranil Wicremesinghe’s turn and he as Prime Minister several times from 1993 showed that he is a man to be reckoned with.

His finest hour was joining the government of a beleaguered president, as Prime Minister and Finance Minister, like Turgot of revolutionary France, in a sincere show of unique patriotism bringing much relief to a suffering people and declaring as one of his first words after assuming office that the struggle opposite the Presidential Secretariat will not be stopped, un-mistakenly displaying that he is a humanist and patriot par excellence solely having the noble thought and feeling of relieving the suffering of the people, caused by the shortage of fuel, cooking gas and the sky-high prices of goods, especially foodstuffs, topmost in his mind and heart.

It is entirely due to his endeavours that the supply situation of essential items such as, especially petrol, diesel and gas, is markedly improving.

His plea that the government must change according to the Constitution to enable negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to be carried to a successful conclusion has to be considered as of paramount importance.


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