The 71 Anniversary of United National Party falls on September 6, 2017. However, the occasion will be celebrated only on September 10 (Sunday), in Ratnapura.
The founder of the United National Party was Prime Minister Don Stephen Senanayake. The party was formed on September 6, 1946. During his tenure, Senanayake commenced various projects in the country. Especially, they were commenced under the colonization schemes. Many landless people were provided with fertile lands for agricultural purposes in Galoya and Udawalawa areas. Despite protests from the opposition he didn’t abandon his mission. Udawalawa Tank, Senanayaka Tank and several other multipurpose projects were launched during this period. He also played a major role in forming the Colombo Plan. He was called the “father of the nation”
After the demise of D.S. Senanayake, in 1952, his son Dudley Senanayake became the Prime Minister. He launched several projects for the betterment of the people. We can highlight two of them. One is the forming the Farmers’ Force and selecting the outstanding farmers. He also established three research centers to help the paddy (Bathalagoda), tea (Talawakele) and coconut (Lunuwila) industries. He opened the University of Moratuwa, Hardy Advanced Technical Institute in Ampara and the Bikku University in Anuradhapura. These are ‘dowries’ given to the nation by him. Once he gave free rice and he was called “Bathdun Piya”. He tendered his resignation when there were strikes (Hartal) in 1953. The people who initiated the strikes were protesting against a reduction in their rice ration.
After that Sir John Kotelawala assumed duties as Prime Minister. During his period, Kotelawala launched major hydro power projects such as Lakshapana and initiated the construction of the Kelaniya Bridge.
Dudley Senanayake again returned to power in 1965 with the help of the MEP and the Federal Party, in the North.
During the 1970 elections, The National Government of Dudley Senanayake lost and the United Front assumed power.
After the demise of Dudley Senanayake the Leadership of the party was taken over by J.R. Jayewardene (JRJ) in 1973. JRJ organized the party from the grassroots level and ensured future victories. In the elections held in 1977, JRJ could record an unprecedented victory obtaining five-sixths in the history of Sri Lanka.
In 1978 JRJ introduced a new constitution and became the first Executive President of Sri Lanka. As the first Executive President, he initiated many things to develop the country. He established the free trade zones, opened up the economy, paved the way for Foreign Investors to invest in Sri Lanka and started other promising projects. Reservoirs such as Lunugamwehera, Inginimitiya, Maduru Oya, Rantambe, Kotmale, Randenigala and Victoriya were reconstructed.
Huge administrative centers such as Sethsiripaya and Isurupaya were constructed during his regime. He was able to provide the new Parliamentary Complex to the country, thanks to Japanese aid. It’s the Japanese who also constructed Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital. In the meantime, Kotte was converted in to a new Administrative Capital and renamed as Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. The television was introduced to the nation during JRJ’s regime.
JRJ introduced information technology as a subject to the schools. Lands were distributed to landless people under the Swarnaboormi Programme. The University of Ruhuna, Eastern University, the Medical Faculty of Jaffna, Air Lanka and the Special Task Force are creations of J.R. Jayewardene. A huge development project like Mahaweli was successfully concluded during his regime.
It has to be specially pointed out that he created a job bank for the benefit of his supporters at the grassroots level. As a result of this programme many party supporters, who were less influential, could obtain good employment opportunities in the Government Sector. That is the way he protected the party supporters at the grassroots level. He created the Jathika Seveka Sangamaya and Rajya Seva National Trade Union Federation. The Indo-Lanka accord was signed in 1987. The Provincial Councils were established under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
After the retirement of JRJ in 1988, R. Premadasa was elected as the Executive President of Sri Lanka. He launched many development projects. President Premadasa was called the ‘Leader of the Poor’. He spread Gam Udawa (The Village re-awakening Movement) across the country. As a result he was able to provide houses to homeless people under the ‘Million Houses Project’. He established the Urban Development Authority, National Housing Authority, Central Environmental Authority and Janasaviya, for low income families. President Premadasa also established large scale Garment Factories and decentralized administration to Divisional Secretaries.
He launched a programme to recruit people for the Government and Semi Government Institutions. He did this by conducting competitive exams. Candidates were shortlisted for interviews after considering their performances at these exams. The physical fitness of selected candidates was also checked. Therefore many could enter the Government Service sans political differences. This impartial way in which people were recruited must be commended. But there was a drawback in this system of recruitment. Many party supporters in the grassroots level as a result couldn’t enter Government Service that easily. Due to this programme only a few party supporters were seen in the Government Service.
After the assassination of President Premadasa, D.B. Wijetunga assumed duties as the President. Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1993. Wickremesinghe entered Parliament at the 1977 General Elections. He was appointed as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs by JRJ. Later he was appointed as the Minister of Youth Affairs. He is a nephew of JRJ. In 1994 Wickremesinghe took over the party Leadership. He had another stint in power in 2001. During this period, he created an economic resurgence in the country. Large scale investments were made and the country experienced a rapid economic growth. In 2003, President Chandrika Kumaratunga took over three ministries: Mass Communications, Defense, and Ministry of Home Affairs. This happened when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was visiting George W. Bush in Washington DC.
In 2010 and 2015 he didn’t contest elections for the post of president and supported common candidates. The Common Candidate Mathripala Sirisena won the Presidential Election held on 8 of January, 2015. This Sirisena did with the support of the UNP headed by Wickremesinghe and Civil Organizations. The main role during this election was played by Ranil. Critics wouldn’t debate it if one forms the opinion that hadn’t Wickremesinghe offered the fullest support of the UNP, it would have been difficult for Sirisena to have won the Presidential Elections in 2015.
After Sirisena won the Presidential Elections, there were huge concerns regarding the taking over of power from the former ruler. There is a secret. Wickremesinghe intervened in the matter and communicated with the USA Government informing them of the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka. This is undoubtedly an occasion when the country was benefited by Wickremesinghe’s healthy relationships with this powerful Western Country. Early in the morning on the following day of the elections, we heard on national television Wickremesinghe informing the USA Government about the situation in Sri Lanka. If somebody wants to know the veracity of this, a recorded version of this clip can be obtained from the National TV. This is possible only if the record hasn’t been erased!
After that the matter was settled. It is crystal clear that if Wickremesinghe wasn’t present on that day there wouldn’t be a Yahapalana Government today. Some people have penned books regarding the Yahapalanaya victory. However they haven’t included a single word about the role Wickremesinghe played, which paved the way for the smooth exchange of power from the former ruler to President Sirisena. I wrote to one of these authors who wrote a book on the much talked about presidential elections. It is sad to say that so far I haven’t received a response.
There wouldn’t have been a Yahapalana Government if Wickremesinghe wasn’t there. That is the truth. Therefore it is the duty of all UNP supporters and to pay homage to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe because we have been presented with a peaceful country.
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