Sri Lanka needs a strong leader


Just like the Kelaniya Prelate said to the press, I also voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe and the party. As everybody else, we wanted a new and better leader. I became disgruntled during last three and half years, when I personally encountered the new leader and the ministers at official meetings meant to help entrepreneurs solve their problems. I experienced numerous problems due to delays in the decision making process.

I used to attend meetings of CECM, and the Southern Development Committee, chaired by then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, R. Paskaralingam and Minister Sagala Ratnayake, respectively. If found that the leaders of the former government were either indecisive or unable to get the officials and other line ministers to carry out their orders.

These leaders were not listening to the views expressed by other members or the aggrieved parties, but showing off their power, and took decisions based on their own opinions.

I remember attending a meeting of the Southern Development Committee chaired by Minister Ratnayake. When the issue of re-commencing the Galle Yacht and Boat Repair Industry was taken up, I pointed out that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority did not allow me to proceed, and the minister came out with a lame excuse for not making a decision. I have nothing to lose and, therefore, I made a gesture of disappointment. The minister asked me why I was shaking my head disapprovingly, and went on to say that he was not in a position to do anything about the matter.

At another meeting in the CECM, chaired by the Prime Minister, I again took up the same problem expecting a decision to be made. The PM instructed the minister concerned to allow the project, despite some ludicrous reasons the minister had given for not permitting it. I argued about it, but once the meeting was over I knew that the minister was against it.

Later, some of our higher-ups in the company met the minister over the matter, and the latter asked them where the pundit was; he was referring to me!

Business leaders expect the political authority to make firm decisions, which were conspicuous by their absence during the last three and a half years.

When I was in UK, the current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the London Buddhist temple just before his first presidential election, to attend a religious ceremony, where I was also present. He had seen me after 10 years. He beckoned me with a wave. When I went near him, he held my hand and asked when I was planning to return to serve the country. One of my friends, while returning from Kataragama happened to meet Rajapaksa, who was the President at that time. The President did not know him but cared to talk to him.

We experienced a labour unrest when MR was the Minister of Labour. We had been compelled to close the shipyard temporarily in view of trouble. The workers met the minister, who called me for a meeting. He asked me why I had resorted to such drastic action. I told him that I wanted to maintain discipline. Apparently annoyed, he told me that I did not even listen to the minister, under whom I worked as chairman.

Minister Rajapaksa asked me whether I wanted to fight him. He said he was a street fighter and if I was ready we could fight it out, outside the ministry. Then, he winked at me and I realized that he was joking. A three-year collective agreement was signed and the strikers returned to work. Rajapaksa sorted out the issue to the satisfaction of both sides to the dispute.

A leader should have these qualities to win the hearts of the people if you want him to lead the country.

We need a leader capable of making firm decisions.


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