Lest the masses forget the huge contribution made by Ranil and the UNP

There is so much trumpet-blowing going on these days when there is little or nothing to trumpet about, as far as development and progress by the government is concerned. The only people who deserve to be congratulated are the armed forces, for their progress with the war, and no one else.

Looking back, it would seem that anything of lasting value achieved in this country, including Independence, was achieved by the United National Party (UNP). The gigantic Gal Oya and Mahaweli projects, the Gam Udawa, the Mahapola Scholarship scheme, the huge Port modernisation project, the establishment of the Board of Investment, the introduction of the “open economy”, which triggered an unprecedented economic boom in the country – all these were achieved under successive UNP governments.

Whenever the SLFP and its allies came into power, we saw nothing but utter mismanagement of the economy. There has been a complete collapse of law and order in this country.

Sri Lanka has become a killing field, and not only on the warfront. Murders, abductions and assaults are the order of the day. Far too many mothers have lost far too many sons, wives their husbands, children their parents.

Despite all this, the present government continues to heap abuse and insults on the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. We should not forget the UNP leader’s own achievements and his substantial contribution for the country’s welfare.

As Minister of Education, Mr. Wickremesinghe initiated radical educational reforms aimed at a qualitative improvement of school education, with an emphasis on improving the standard of English teaching and encouraging sports. He introduced a schools sports division to inspire young people in the pursuit of excellence. He introduced educational TV and computers to schools, and insisted on special attention for the disabled and handicapped.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s other major achievements include establishing criteria for an education administrative service and a school principals’ service. The Colleges of Education and the National Institute of Education were established during Mr. Wickremesinghe’s tenure as Minister of Education.
His period in office also saw a realistic revision of salaries in the education sector. The formulation and implementation of the first comprehensive All Island Youth Development programme, promoting youth clubs across the country, was done during his tenure as Minister of Youth Affairs. In this capacity, he re-organised the industrial apprentice trainees’ schemes, thus increasing the country’s pool of trainees. He also established The National Youth Centre.

The second round of economic liberalisation, begun in 1989, was entirely Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s initiative. His strategy for industrialisation liberalised the financial sector, deregularised many other sectors, and privatised state enterprises running at a loss. He developed an industrial infrastructure and established both investment promotion zones and industrial estates.

It was Mr. Wickremesinghe’s brainchild to promote information technology (IT) in Sri Lanka and establish the IT industry here. The highest levels of economic growth seen during the decade were achieved in his time as Prime Minister, in 1993.

He also strengthened bilateral and multilateral ties with several countries. The Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) removed barriers, gave people a sense of freedom and security, and brought in considerable investment.

There is no other person among those present, including those out for his blood now, who has achieved as he has. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s steadfast loyalty to his party and all UNP leaders must not be forgotten.

I recall the late Lalith Athulathmudali saying that if Ranil had joined them on the impeachment issue, there would have been a different outcome. Followers of the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa would do well to remember Ranil’s loyalty to that late leader. Ranil was the only UNP front-liner who was not booed at the funeral of Lalith Athulathmudali, because the crowd respected him, and they knew that Lalith had too.

The handful of MPs who keep saying that Ranil is an ineffective leader should ask themselves why, if he was that ineffective, the government goes to such lengths to attack him. One chooses and follows a leader not because of what he does or does not do for you personally but for what he does for the country.

A true leader has integrity, intelligence, vision, negotiation skills and a sense of history. Good public relations alone are not sufficient to run a country and maintain its economy. “Men who love honour, men who cannot lie” – these words (by the 19th-century American writer J. G. Holland) describe well the character of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Prashan Sahabandu, Polhengoda

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