'Devolution of powers - a necessary pre-condition for solution to
ADDRESS: Today we commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of
the United National Party. It was on September 6, 1946 at 5 p.m. the
inaugural meeting of the United National Party was held at 'Palm court'
in Albert crescent, Colombo. D.S. Senanayake who took the chair at the
invitation of the convener of the meeting, Sir John Kotalawala,
explained the aims and objectives of the Party.
At this inaugural meeting he emphasized the importance and the need
for unity among all the communities residing in the island. He also
appealed for goodwill and mutual trust among all communities and
expressed hope that the United National Party will be a strong political
force in the country and will play a great part in molding the future of
Symbolizing the commitment to these noble ideals the first resolution
to establish the United National Party was moved by S. Natesan and
seconded by T.B. Jayah., which followed the resolution of the manifesto
and the constitution of the party.
That again was moved by Molamure and seconded by A.R. Razik. What was
clearly evident from the above act was the recognition of the fact that
'unity amidst diversity' should be the guiding principle for the party
and the nation at all times. Those ideals infused life blood for the
Therefore any deviation from such ideals would make the United
National Party sterile barren and non-functional. We have been in office
for more than thirty years and nineteen years in opposition. The day
that we commemorate the birth anniversary of the party in my view
provides a good opportunity for us to reflect on both our achievements
and failures and to think of what our future course of actions should
This year such reflection become all the more important as we
commemorate this event not as a Party in government but as a party in
opposition, yet one that represent the aspirations of well over a 4.5
million of people in Sri Lanka. Therefore it would be pertinent to raise
a series of questions in a soul searching manner to ascertain whether we
have been able to live upto the expectation of the founders of our Party
and where we have been successful and where we have gone wrong.
There is no disagreement on the fact that the United National Party
even after sixty years remains a formidable force in the country's
politics. It still remains the single large party capable of forming an
alternative government at any given time.
Moreover it remains the safest and acceptable political base for a
community with ethnic and religious cultural diversity. Even in the face
of defeat we as a party have not succumbed to ethnic, religious or
ideological extremism for the sake of gaining power.
Amidst political victory or defeat it has stood steadfastly to the
ideals of the creators of this great political force. At this point let
me quote what D.S. Senanayake said in his opening address on September
6. He said that "The constitution, with which this island has been
endowed requires a government backed by a firm and disciplined majority.
It also requires a strong party. We are not as our opponents
wishfully think a temporary coalition for the purpose of winning seats
at the first election. We are a permanent organisation designed to act
on a constitutional policy in the House of Representatives whether as
government or opposition.
" These sentiments expressed by founders of our Party certainly cast
upon us a great responsibility in governance. Even as a party in
opposition we can be proud of being able to uphold most of these values
in the face of adversity and to be the members of a political party that
has created an unprecedented record on social, political and cultural
development of the country.
The first wave of development in the post independence era was
initiated by the then Prim Minister D.S. Senanayake who ventured to
develop the dry zone which was neglected and left for ruin by the
He foresaw the potential of this vast area which once was the cradle
of Sri Lanka's enviable civilization. Thus began the restoration of
tanks and irrigation systems in the rural hinterland making it once
again habitable for people.
He engineered a revolution in agriculture with the giant Galoya and
Udawalawe projects and the ancient irrigation tanks of Kantale, Padaviya,
Huruluwewa, Kandalama, Kawdulla, Girithale and Parakarama Samudraya
being restored to its former glory.
He brought back the pride and progress to the country which was
traditionally agrarian. Mass migration induced by this massive
development efforts by DS once again brought large tracks of land in the
dry zone under the plough paving way for the rebirth of a new
civilisation in this area.
It was his visions that made universal free education a reality which
in turn laid the foundation for a nation with high literacy and
intellect, a necessary precondition for a working of a democracy and a
By introducing free education the UNP shook the very foundation of
privileged few and created opportunities for rural youth to reach
position of prestige in public administration, engineering, medicine,
law and financial management among others.
Today we take pride in our human capital with its superior knowledge
skills and quality clearly attributable to this farsighted vision of our
past leaders. Following his father's foot steps Dudly Senanayake,
initiated the 'Green revolution' in the sixties to make the country
self-sufficient in food.
He walked along vast stretches of paddy fields, talking to farmers
and villagers, getting closer to their lives in order to understand
their real problems. His approach to issues were influenced by those
experiences. He is still in our memory as the 'Bath Dun Piya' the father
who fed the nation.
He exemplified 'gentleman politics' which still has a great influence
on us. Sir John Kotalawala a man with great stature contributed in great
measure for the development of the country by taking initial step for
tapping the hydropower potential in the country. And constructing a road
net work. The Bandung conference which he took great interest though
ridiculed by some of his political opponents later grew into a
formidable political force as non align movement.
The second wave of development was the one that ushered by Late
President J.R. Jayewardene in the 1977 era by resurrecting a virtually
ruined economy with his transformational economic and social policies.
The open economy enunciated by him demolished the fortress of
bureaucratic controls and restrictions and set free forces of the market
economy to create wealth for the enterprising citizens.
It was during this second wave that steps were taken to create a
modern day hydro civilization by constructing large number of man made
reservoirs, creating human settlements, with a touch of modernity and
ushering an era of socio-economic revival in the country.
The Mahawali Development project saw the work on four huge dams
commencing in quick succession with completion accomplished in six
years. Vast stretches of arid lands in the dry zone once again was
brought under irrigation.
Nearly 2 million acres of land were given to the landless
We saw the birth of a modern sea port with technological prowess
which could compete even with its counterparts in the Asian region in
maritime business. Millions of unemployed rural youth both men and women
found gainful employment in the modern industrial sector.
Industrialization accelerated as free trade zone opened up with
streams of foreign investors pouring in capital bringing in machinery
and providing the state of the art of technology. Improved communication
supported the success of an open economy.
The world revolution in telecommunication technology was drawn into
Sri Lanka with introduction of mobile cellular phones and networks.
Media freedom received special consideration and it was the UNP
government that opened Sri Lanka window on the world with the
introduction of television.
President Premadasa who was committed to pro-poor development
policies made it possible to ameliorate some of the adverse effects of
the economic liberalisation programme that was made necessary by the
changing global circumstances.
Millions of people who enormously benefitted out of these programmes
still express their unreserved gratitude to him. Late President
Premadasa is still remembered for the massive housing development and
the poverty alleviation programme which was implemented under personal
Those programmes which received even international recognition are
still considered models worthy of adoption. He is more particularly
remembered for initiating a rural base industrial development programme
bringing benefits to rural youth.
The third wave of development under the UNF government under the
leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002 was about to be unfolded with
the initiation of the peace process. An economy which was in doldrums
with a negative growth, massive internal and external debt, and economy
under siege by terrorist attacks was gradually revived and resuscitated
and the government was once again able restore the lost confidence on
It was a brief period of renewed hope and expectation for the
country. As a result of the ceasefire agreement there was a respite for
the 30-year war and the government was able to bring the worrying
fraction to the negotiating table and work towards a negotiated
In spite of various allegations levelled against the ceasefire
agreement by extremist elements, what I believe is that this is the
single opportunity in the recent past that we all could have got
together to work towards a lasting solution to this national issue. It
is undoubtedly a lost opportunity.
Unfortunately the government's efforts were subverted through a
constitutional conspiracy, and today the country is once again dragged
into a war situation rendering thousands of families homeless, with
refugees in their own country.
While we do not want to make any critical comment on the approach to
the national problem by the present government we appeal to them to be
concern about the human misery that has been brought about by the
resumption of war and to take every possible action to minimize the
agony and bring peace.
We in the United National Party do not believe in a military solution
to the national issue. At the same time we will never compromise on the
indivisibility and territorial integrity of the motherland of ours which
belongs to all communities. We totally and out rightly condemn the
atrocities committed by the LTTE and other armed groups.
As a party committed to democracy we firmly believe that we can find
a solution to the national problem within a democratic frame work. In
that we would not hesitate to look for new modalities of governance that
could give true reflection to the aspiration of a multilingual and
multiracial community if that could be a solution to stop this cruel
We have very clearly expressed our view points on these matters. It
was the leaders of the United National Party along with patriots from
the other communities who fought for the independence and the
sovereignty of the nation. We don't need to look for new 'ideologies'
'isms' to any of our problems.
We still can draw inspirations from our founders who put the interest
of the country before self interest. As the political history bear
evidence for D. S Senanayake the 'Sri Lanka polity was one and
indivisible. Need for generous concessions to the minorities for him was
much more than a matter of political realism'.
This thinking was well reflected even in the drafting of the Soulbury
constitution. It was further reflected in the formation of the United
National Party. It was designed to make a fresh start in politics in the
direction of consensus of moderate political opinion in the national
Though it was to be a political party necessarily representative of
the majority community it was to be acceptable to all other communities.
While these cherished ideals would guide us in seeking solution to the
national issue today it may require redefining some of these concepts in
the light of the complexities of the problem that has developed over the
It was with such understanding that the United National Party brought
about several fundamental changes through amendments to the
constitution, thus introducing the concept of devolution of power. This
we firmly believed as a necessary pre-condition for solution to the
Devolution of power in its true sense, with restoration of democracy
through good governance, equality in opportunity for sharing the
benefits of progress by everybody irrespective of race religion and
language we believe is the way forward for the country.