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Looking back on 50 years

“I have very close and cordial relations with the people in my electorate. Establishment of personal relations is very vital. I can call most of the people in my electorate by their name even today”

He is very close to the people of his electorate whom he has nurtured for more than 50 years. It is this feeling about him that has ensured the continuing confidence of the majority of people in the Horana electorate.


Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka

He spoke to the majority of people in his electorate by their names and those names are still in his mind when he completes 50 years in a political career. He has a gift of the apt word and vivid quotation and above all an appealing wicked sense of humour. He was a brilliant student who studied law in UK. The sudden death of his brother, Munidasa Wickramanayaka who was about to contest the election from Horana electorate made a dramatic change in his life.

The appeal made by the members of the Maha Sangha and the people in the Horana electorate who flocked to his brother’s funeral resulted in his debut appearance in Parliament in 1960. He is still a most dynamic politician far ahead of his time in Sri Lanka.

Premier Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka in an exclusive interview with the Daily News reminisced about the early stage of his political career as a member of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and his career in the SLFP as a Minister and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister has deviated from traditional politicians who like to be felicitated by the people. Prime Minister Wickramanayaka decided to felicitate the people in the Horana electorate and the Kalutara district at large when he completes 50 years in active politics today (March 19, 2010).

Excerpts from the interview:

* What made you to enter politics?

That was an accident. I came into politics after the sudden death of my brother who was about to contest the election from Horana electorate. I was studying Law in the UK when I received the message of my brother’s sudden death. I came into politics to honour the request of people and the Maha Sangha in the Horana electorate.

* How were you involved in politics as a student?

I was much involved in politics as a student in Sri Lanka and the UK. I was the president of Ceylon Students Association in the UK.

* How do you feel the difference between the Parliament in the 60s and 2010?

The number of legislators at that time was very low and it was a very small chamber. The present Secretariat of the President was the Parliament of Sri Lanka.

* How do you see the cooperation between the legislators of different political parties at that time?

The members of Parliament belonging to various political parties with different political ideologies did meet very often because of the fact that the House was very small. There were cordial relations between the members of various political parties whatever the differences we had in the House. We had lunch together and always maintained very close and friendly relations with the members from the Opposition.

* How do you see the conduct of politician in the 1960s and 2010?

I do not want to make any comment on that. That is a matter for the person concerned how he conducts himself.

* What is your advice to the budding politicians?

I do not want to give any advice to any budding politician. He or she must decide what a future he/she is going to be in. I can only talk of what I did. I have been true and sincere to my electorate.

* Why did you leave the MEP?

I contested the General Election under MEP and entered Parliament in March, 1960. The MEP decided to vote in favour of the Throne Speech and my decision to vote against it resulted in the end of my connection with the party. I contested the election from Horana electorate in July, 1960 as an independent candidate and entered Parliament.

* How did you join the SLFP?

I joined the SLFP on a request by former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. I consulted the people who elected me to Parliament before I joined the SLFP. I always acted with the approval of my people.

* How do you see your relationship with the people in Horana electorate?

I have very close and cordial relations with the people in my electorate. Establishment of personal relations is very vital. I can call most of the people in my electorate by their name even today.

* How do you see the leadership of former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike?

She was a lady with whom anyone could work easily. I was working with her as a Cabinet Minister and the General Secretary of the party.

* What type of difference do you see between the politicians in the 1960s and 2010s?

Unlike in the 1960s, we are no longer tied down to one problem today. We are expected to bring the country to the field of development. We have the responsibility of uplifting the living standard of the people and become self-sufficient in our food requirement.

* How do we become self-sufficient in food?

The country is blessed with good climate and dedicated workforce to give impetus to the agriculture development of the country. Organic fertilizer should be utilized for agriculture. The soil in paddy fields was full of worms and it was fertile. But today no worm can be found.

The pesticide, weedicide and imported fertilizer destroy the fertility of soil and the time has come to switch on to organic fertilizer such as compost. We will be able to provide less harmful food to our people, if we develop this method. It helps promote the health of the people.

* How far has Sri Lanka progressed during the past 50 years?

We had a number of opportunities to develop this country. But the 30 year old terrorist movement pushed back all our attempts for development. The country could not go further without bringing the terrorism to an end. The lives of the people were uncertain.

The terrorism was so rampant that the people were thinking of their own safety rather than the development of the country. The people’s mindset was also different.

That was an era in which the mother of the child had to go to the school again. She had to look after the child as his security was at stake. The clouds of fear and uncertainty no longer exist and we have decided to rededicate ourselves to fast moving development programs that could bring faster results.

* You stuck to a firm policy of eradicating terrorism. Why?

The terrorist activities were carried out by a few persons who took the law into their hands.

They were destroying their own leaders as well as our leaders. They were in the habit of destroying everything to achieve their ends.

This group of people can understand one language i.e. force met by force. I always advocated a military solution to an armed struggle. I am not a racist nor anti Tamil.

* Is it true that you refused to be felicitated by the people in Horana electorate?

Why should I be felicitated? I am the representative of the people in Horana electorate and the Kalutara district at large.

They should be respected and honoured for electing me to Parliament. They gave me courage and much wanted stamina for the past 50 years. Felicitations should be for them.

* What do you feel about the people in Horana electorate at a time when you complete 50 years in politics?

The people in my electorate were with me all this time. I always consulted them when a crucial decision is taken by me. I always respect the mandate given by them to me at all elections.

* How are you going to felicitate the people in Horana and Kalutara?

A number of programs will take place on the 18th and 19th this month to felicitate the people in Horana electorate and the Kalutara district at large. There will be an alms giving to confer merit on all the people.

A large number of artistes are expected to participate in various cultural programs that would take place in the Horana electorate throughout the day. The Raigam koralaya where we are living is famous for cultural activities.

A Devolmaduwa will also be held at the Horana Urban Council ground to confer the blessings of the deities to the people in the electorate and the Kalutara district.

We will introduce an insurance scheme for the benefit of the people in Horana electorate on March 20 at the Horan UC grounds.

************

We had a number of opportunities to develop this country. But the 30 year old terrorist movement pushed back all our attempts for development. The country could not go further without bringing the terrorism to an end. The lives of the people were uncertain. The terrorism was so rampant that the people were thinking of their own safety rather than the development of the country. The people’s mindset was also different. That was an era in which the mother of the child had to go the school again. She had to look after the child as his security was at stake. The clouds of fear and uncertainty no longer exists and we have decided to rededicate ourselves to fast moving development programs that could bring faster results

 

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