Sajith boycotts Ranil’s Tea Party

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe devoted much of his time to the compilation of his Policy Statement, which he was slated to deliver in Parliament on 3 August, at the commencement of Third Session of the Ninth Parliament.

He sought input from Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Special Assistant Sandra Perera and Director General of the President’s Media Unit Dhanushka Ramanayake.

After being sworn in as the new President, Wickremesinghe headed to Kandy last weekend to seek blessings from sacred Tooth Relic. He took part in religious observances at the Sri Dalada Maligawa and then proceeded to receive the blessings of the Chief Prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwathu Chapters.

Mahanayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter and the rest of the Buddhist Clergy asked for the President’s views with regard to the country’s economic and political situation. They also inquired about the President’s future plans for the country and the people. The President then briefed the clergy regarding the plans he has to revive the country’s stuttering economy and how he could stabilise the nation politically.

Wickremesinghe then headed to the Malwathu Temple and received the blessings of its Mahanayake Thera and there too he gave a detailed account of his future programme towards the public and the country.

He then met the Anunayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, Most Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Thera. Ven. Thera wanted to know how Wickremesinghe was going to establish a so-called All-Party Government in Parliament. The President stated that he had written to all MPs, inviting them for the forming an All-Party Government.

He further opined that he was waiting for the response from MPs and that he would also be having specific meetings with each political party being represented in Parliament in this regard. The President was joined during this visit by PM Dinesh Gunawardene and SLPP MPs, former Ministers Johnston Fernando and Pavithra Wanniarachchi. At the end of the visits to the Asgiriya and Malwathu Chapters, the President held cordial discussions with the MPs who were present.

“Sir, we will not allow anyone to impede your political journey and the programme that you intend to place before the country and its people. We will give our support to you and your Government to get this country back on track. We implore you to revive this country economically and politically,” MP Johnston Fernando said.

Another MP stated that a group of MPs who had contested on the SLPP ticket at the last General Election have by now become independent in the House. He urged the President not to treat them as another political party when discussing politics with them. The President insisted that he has invited only MPs and not as political parties.

On the same day members from the Ceylon Workers Congress and National Congress met the President

The President headed to the House on 3 August to deliver the Policy Statement.

The President had beforehand informed the Secretary General of Parliament to organise the event in a simple manner eschewing pomp and pageantry. The President had insisted that unnecessary celebrations should be shunned as he was only interested in placing before the country his Government’s Policy Statement.

He also conveyed to the staff at the House that the expenses for the subsequent reception will be taken care of by him.

The President started to receive phone calls, inquiring about the arrest of prominent trade unionist Joseph Stalin.

Director General of the President’s Trade Union Unit Saman Rathnapriya then joined the conversation with the President. He informed the President that Stalin had been one of his trade union comrades and that they had worked together in the recent past.

The President then stated that Joseph Stalin is one of his friends. However, since the arrest was made according to the law, I do not wish to interfere with that, Wickremesinghe said.

The SJB Parliamentary Group met the President last Friday to discuss the pros and cons of the formation of an All-Party Government.

Director General of the President’s Media Division Dhanushka Ramanayake received a call and it stated that a group of athletes were unable to take part at the World Junior Athletics Championship to be held in Columbia for want of cash.

He was moved by their predicament and he forthwith conveyed the information to his boss. The President immediately moved in the matter and advised Ramanayake to facilitate the cash to the athletes via the President’s Fund.

 He said the future of the athletes should be ensured at all costs. In the meantime, head of the President’s Staff former Minister Sagala Ratnayake also intervened in the issue and he too did his utmost to ensure the necessary cash was supplied to the athletes to travel to Columbia.  

Policy Statement

Stating that his planning is not for his own betterment, but for the young generation of the country, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said if Sri Lanka is built through a solid national economic policy, it would be able to become a developed country by 2048, when the 100th Independence Anniversary will be celebrated.

“I am not like other politicians. I have a long-term vision and plan. I clearly know that I would not eat the fruit of the tree that I plant. But tomorrow, our future generations will enjoy the fruit,” he said.

“Enormous loss was caused to our country due to opposing foreign investments. People are also aware of the losses caused to the country due to corruption and fraud,” the President said.

“When we tried to develop the oil tank complex in Trincomalee together with India, it was stated that Sri Lanka would be a sell-out to India and this development project was halted. If at that time we were allowed to develop the oil tank complex, today people would not have to spend many days in queues for fuel.

Even when the ‘Suvasariya’ ambulance service was initiated, a similar objection was raised. Some doctors held media briefings stating, “if the patient comes to the hospital by the ‘Suvasariya’ ambulance service, deaths will occur.”

When Japan offered to establish the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and develop the Container Terminal in the port, it was opposed by giving a number of baseless reasons. Therefore, our country lost more than USD 3 billion in investments. Regrettably, the traditional friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka has been adversely affected.”

“Ever since I entered politics, I wanted to create a society with a Sri Lankan identity without these divisions, the President said, adding that although many criticised his attempts in the past to achieve that, he is happy to see that people, especially the youth have accepted that they want to continue his policies.

It is also essential to provide a political solution to the issues faced by the Tamil community for a long time. They are suffering with many social and economic issues due to the hardships caused by the war. There are many land issues that need to be resolved. We have to think anew about the development tasks in the North, he said.

“Similarly, women, who are the majority of the population, still face issues of harassment, violence, and other discrimination and inadequacy. We have to take necessary measures to change this situation,” he said.

The President ended the speech quoting the poem ‘If’ written by Rudyard Kipling. I memorised it while studying at Royal College, he said.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stood and build’ em up with worn-out tools:

You’ll be a Man, my son!”

Tea Party

After the President’s Policy Statement, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa got SJB MPs together and started to discuss about the speech.

At that time, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella asked Premadasa whether they were going to attend the traditional Tea Party. Rajitha Senaratne said the SJB should attend the occasion.

A majority of the SJB MPs had said the party should attend the tea party, except a few who were listening to Premadasa’s speech. MPs Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickramaratne also said they should attend the occasion.

However, Premadasa did not stop his speech. Then Kiriella left saying he was going to the tea party and others can join if a decision is reached.  After that Harsha de Silva, Mayantha Dissanayake, Gayantha Karunatileka, Eran Wickramaratne and Mano Ganesan also left. Only a handful MPs including Ranjith Maddumabandara, Thalatha Atukorale and Rohini Wijeratne remained with Premadasa.

It is reported that Thalatha Atukorale stressed that the party should attend the tea party despite political differences and Premadasa should not behave like a child. Both Atukorale and Rohini Wijeratne left after that.

SLFP meets President

The President met the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and MPs Prof. G.L. Peiris and Dullas Alahapperuma on Thursday in connection with forming an All-Party Government.

The President told the MPs that the 22nd Amendment Bill has been presented to Parliament and it would be better if everyone would reach common ground with regard to that through discussions. Wickremesinghe said he expects everyone’s support for the discussions.

He also said that the Interim Budget will be presented to Parliament in the first week of September and steps will be taken to re-establish Sectorial Oversight Committees as an immediate measure. He said he is ready to call the Chairpersons of those committees to the Cabinet meetings as well.

SLFP Chairman, former President Maithripala Sirisena said his party will fully support the formation of an All-Party Government. SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said the All-Party Government should be formed within a framework that would be accepted by all.

SLFP National Organiser Duminda Dissanayake said this was a golden opportunity for the country to correct past mistakes and move forward as a nation.

The SLFP presented its 11 proposals to the President with regard to the All-Party Government.

MPs Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Jagath Pushpakumara and Angajan Ramanathan also participated in the discussion.

Prof. Peiris noted that there are positive hopes about an All-Party Government.  Alahapperuma said everyone should prepare for discussions with regard to the matter.

MPs Dilan Perera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Dr. Charitha Herath participated in the discussion, along with Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Adviser to the President on Parliamentary Affairs Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake and Additional Secretary to the President Attorney-at-Law Chaminda Kularatne.