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“I aspire to adopt and follow Prime Minister D. S Senanayake’s vision” – President

23 Mar 2023 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Even before 1943, Sri Lanka was the second most developed nation after Japan as a result of Mr. Senanayake’s policies

By Kamanthi Wickramasinghe

A commemoration event to mark the 71st death anniversary of the first Prime Minister of Ceylon, D. S Senanayake was held at the Independence Square yesterday. 

The event was graced by the presence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Speaking at the event, President Wickremesinghe said that the late Prime Minister’s vision should be taken as an example.   

“I spoke about the IMF agreement in Parliament today with much regret. We have become a bankrupt nation, 75 years after Prime Minister D. S Senanayake worked to bring independence to this country. However, I’m happy that we now have a chance to restructure debts and restore the country back to normalcy. But I wonder how we got into this situation. Even before 1943, Sri Lanka was the second most developed nation after Japan as a result of Mr. Senanayake’s policies. We provided loans to England. But what happened to us? Countries such as war-torn South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh have transformed into developed nations. China and India are developing nations. But why did we fall back?,” he questioned.  

President Wickremesinghe stressed on two elements Prime Minister D S. Senanayake introduced to develop this country, one being the Sri Lankan identity. “People of all religions obliged to the King at the time. When Sri Lanka achieved independence, even though the King was still the symbolic leader at the time, Prime Minister Senanayake requested all people to protect their Sri Lankan identity. He said that the rights of the majority Sinhalese and that of minority groups should be safeguarded and to allow them to exercise their freedom. But we developed a nationalist agenda in 1956 and this was followed by an ethnic conflict. Therefore, if we are to move forward as a nation, we need to do so while keeping the Sri Lankan identity in mind.”  
“This country failed due to extremist and religious ideologies,” he continued. “Singapore didn’t allow that to happen. Secondly, Mr. Senanayake brought a proposal to establish a free market economy; to privatize manufacturing and business activities. But instead, the government imposed taxes to develop the country. This allowed us to have a free education and health system and there was a lot of money. But today, this money isn’t sufficient to improve the education or health sectors. These institutions were then transformed into public and state-owned enterprises. But now we need to take one step ahead.”  

President Wickremesinghe further said that the government should now provide an economic support programme to provide services to the people. “Even at the time, Mr. Senanayake requested to handover these activities to the private sector. A majority of the private sector comprised Sinhalese people. However, the socialist campaign to protect the Sinhalese in fact destroyed the Sinhalese. The lands and businesses were owned by Sinhalese, they had insurance and other facilities as well. But eventually they were brought to their knees. Had this continued, this country would have developed further. But this country moved away from Prime Minister Senanayake’s vision. But I aspire to adopt and follow his vision. We removed his political heritage and this was subsequently adopted by Lee Kwan Yew and Singapore. Now our people say that we want to become Singapore. Is this politics? 75 years ago if we adopted his vision, it wouldn’t have led to the downfall of this country. We now have to move forward. I don’t want to adopt outdated economic policies. The Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers have a lot of capabilities. Let the government perform their duties and while allowing the business community to carry out their tasks. This way, we will be able to transform into a powerful economy in less than 100 year’s time,” he said in his concluding remarks while adding that an attitudinal shift is paramount at this crucial hour.