ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Poll sends lopsided message to people

I read through your most interesting research report under the heading 60 Years of Independence: What it means to us’ appearing in The Sunday Times of February 3.

I was rather amused to go through question No. 4 posed to three categories of age groups to assess as to who was or rather is the best in leading the country towards economic development and prosperity in the post Independence era.

The poll had several leaders lined up since Independence who had ruled this country. In reality, D.S. Senanayake, R. Premadasa, Mahinda Rajapakse, J.R. Jayewardene, S.W.R. D Bandaranaike, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Dudley Senanayake and D.B. Wijetunga were actually Heads of States who led this country. Ranil Wickremesinghe although he was twice the Prime Minister of this country was never the Head of State. Others whom you have categorized as leaders such as Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake were powerful ministers who had contributed in no uncertain terms to the development and prosperity of this country as ministers, but never led the country.

Lalith Athulathmudali transformed the economy of this country by introducing sweeping projects in expanding the Colombo Harbour and converting it into an international container hub. Further, he introduced the "Mahapola" Scholarship Scheme for university students. Gamini Dissanayake completed the gigantic Mahaweli Project in five years increasing the hydro electricity power by more than 200%.

R. Premadasa undertook an ambitious housing programme converting the whole rural sector into a model housing complex. He also completed the challenging task of rehabilitating the highways and also opening up new highways.

J.R. Jayewardene, as the Head of State and Executive President, introduced the Open Economy, thus completely casting away the hitherto closed and 'frog in the well' economy. His greatest legacy is that he not only prevented a revolution but introduced a dynamic economic order that none could shake or destroy as we can see even today.

It is rather surprising as to how your team of researchers put Rohana Wijeweera who never led the country, into the category of leaders. He led the country into two disastrous insurgencies in 1971 and 1989 respectively sending countless youth to an untimely death and wanton destruction of public property. It is surprising to note as to how he was able to muster the support of even 1% of the 31-45 years age category and 1% of the 46 and above age category.

Although Ranil Wickremesinghe was not the Head of State at any stage it is rather surprising to note as to how these research officers based their supposed to be high quality standards to estimate the contribution made by Wickremesinghe to the economic development and prosperity of our country. The three age group categories mentioned in this research appear to be blind to the contribution made by Mr. Wickremesinghe to the economic development.

The sweeping reforms that he introduced to the National Apprentice Board to make it more aesthetic oriented, the establishment of Orugodawatte Vocational Training Centre, his sweeping reforms in the education sector in introducing educational reforms by establishing the Institute of National Education, the Examinations Complex at Pelawatte and the National Youth Services Headquarters at Maharagama and many other projects have been ignored by the opinion poll.

I do not for a moment wish to comment on your assessment based on the opinion poll placing President Mahinda Rajapaksa third. When he became the President in 2005 December, the inflation stood at 7% while now it stands at 21%. The rupee exchange value was Rs.96 to the Dollar whereas it now stands at Rs. 110. Before he became President we did not see the practice of raising dollar loans from foreign commercial banks at exorbitant rates of interest.

A war engulfing the whole country has driven a fear psychosis into the people. Bombs are exploding everywhere in the country. Defence expenditure is skyrocketing. The Cost of Living has become unbearable. If these are the reasons why President Rajapaksa should-according to your opinion poll- come third securing a total sample poll of 21%, that is 1% less than President Premadasa, then there is something radically wrong in the polling. The assessment of Leaders as Heads of State should not be handed over to a randomly picked 516 who make up just .0025 of the total population of three age categories, as it causes great injustice to these leaders.

The assessment of the achievements of our leaders who led the country should be left to the scholars and historians who are more competent than randomly selected miniscule groups. Assessment of leaders should be based on scientific and authentic evidence and material rather than haphazardly collected data. The greatest tragedy and injustice done by your opinion poll is to convey a lopsided message to the people of this country.

By Ranjith Ranadeera, Dehiwela.

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