The UNP reformists said that the Ranasinghe Premadasa policies should be reintroduced to the country to overcome the problems that the ordinary citizens were increasingly burdened with each passing day.
UNP MP’s and supporters addressing a gathering of thousands of people expressed this view yesterday at the commemoration of the 19th death anniversary of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa at Hulftsdorp where a statue of the late president stands.
The event was attended by the Premadasa family and a number of UNP MPs, including UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, Karu Jayasuriya, Buddhika Pathirana, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Thalatha Athukorala, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Jayantha Katagoda and other provincial and local government members. A number of members of the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian clergy, including the Ven Galaboda Gnanissara Nayaka Thera of Gangaramaya and others also attended.
The chief guest of the event -- UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa -- said that the present government had continued the development programmes initiated by President Premadasa but under different names, such as ‘Gam udawa’ and ‘Deyata Kirula’.
“The present government has not achieved even a fraction of what my father accomplished during his tenure as president through his vast contribution to the ordinary people. Today there is an urgent need to bring back a Ranasinghe Premadasa chinthanaya,” said UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa.
He said that today the highest income earners, comprising 20% of the population, enjoyed over 50% of the country’s resources while the poorest 20% had to make do with a meagre 4% of the country’s resources.
“We are living in an era in which the people’s problems are ignored. The farmer and the labourer cannot make ends meet. Taxes, electricity costs and the prices of goods are rising with each passing day. The people have been crushed and cornered” he said.
He said if his father were alive, he (Sajith) would not have been in politics as his father did not encourage his family to enter politics. “He did not grovel before other nations nor did he clash head on with powerful nations such as the US or UK. He maintained cordial relations and used these ties to further benefit the country. We should follow his example to develop the country,” he said. He said his father also saw the advantages and disadvantages of the open economy unlike other leaders.
He said the people should look forward to a Premadasa government in the future and strengthen the UNP to do so. “The Wickremesinghes, Jayasuriyas, Premadasas, Athukoralas and others must unite to make this a reality,” he said.
While it was enough for a small group in the Opposition to remain in the Opposition benches, for the vast majority in the UNP it was not enough, he said.
Mr. Premadasa thanked the UNP members for attending the event despite the various obstacles and hindrances they had had to face on order to take part in the event.
The Ranasinghe Premadasa Commemoration Committee chairman and UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya, who also addressed the crowd, said that 53% of the people in the country could not afford a meal a day; 27% did not have a place to live, and many had pawned their jewellery to celebrate the Avuruddha this year. “We are living in difficult times and the people are really feeling the burden,” he said.
UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara said that, although the people had asked why there were two UNP rallies, in reality there was only one. The rally in Jaffna was the official May Day celebration of the UNP; while the Premadasa commemoration was a separate event to commemorate the former president’s death anniversary.
“We are calling on all leaders to allow others to express their opinions. One leader’s views are not enough to address the interests and needs of the people,” said Jayasekara.(Olindhi Jayasundere)