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Ranasinghe Premadasa – the People’s President



97th birth anniversary on June 23, 2021

The 97th birth anniversary of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, which falls on June 23, 2021, evoke fond memories of a great leader who stood steadfastly by his party and the common masses through thick and thin.

My father, the late E. P. De Silva (EP), former Editor of the then Daily Mirror and Times, was a longstanding friend of Premadasa. In fact, he was a close family friend like Dr. N. M. Perera, Peter Keuneman and others who were engaged in trade unions and political activities at the time.

My father, a well-informed political reporter before he became the Editor, also had a close rapport with leftist leaders and trade unionists such as Alavi Moulana and Bala Thampo. As a result of these societal connections, President Premadasa consulted my father frequently as he knew the power of journalists and made good use of them to the advantage of the country.

In the good old days, the phone in our home at Rawathawatte, Moratuwa, started ringing from 5.00 am. The first regular caller was always President Premadasa. This was the pattern since he served as an opposition MP, deputy minister, minister and later Prime Minister.

My father kept an ear to the ground and was well tuned to the political affairs. He had a network of “contacts”, which kept him well briefed of the ‘behind the scene’ developments in the political firmament.

Ranasinghe Premadasa ventured into politics in 1950. He was first elected a Labor Party member of the Colombo Municipal Council and later ascended to the position of Deputy Mayor. In 1956, he joined the United National Party (UNP) under the leadership of the late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake. Four years on, he was elected a Member of Parliament from Colombo Central.

In the late 1960, he was appointed Minister of Local Government, Housing and Construction. Thereafter, in 1977 when J. R. Jayewardene became the first President of Sri Lanka, Premadasa was appointed the Prime Minister.

Premadasa worked tirelessly to eradicate poverty in Sri Lanka. Among his major endeavors were the Janasaviya poverty alleviation program and the 200 Garment Factories initiative in addition to building model villages with infrastructure facilities and amenities. His mission in life was to give a better tomorrow to the common man.

When my eldest sister passed away on January 2, 1973, we informed our father, who was on a call with Premadasa. Though he was not told anything about the death by my father, he called over to console us. Later in the evening also, he visited again with Mrs. Premadasa, a simple and gracious lady.

In the same way, the both of them also paid their last respects to my father. Premadasa was such a grateful person that he never forgot us. Whenever he visited Badulla district, he made it a point to visit me. He came over when I was the Assistant Superintendent at Downside Estate, Welimada and when I served as the Superintendent at Shawlands Estate, Lunugala.

With Premadasa’s untimely death, the country lost a dynamic leader who had the vision to spearhead the development of the economy by taking small-scale industries to the villages and providing employment to rustic youth. This resulted in alleviating poverty in the rural sector to some extent.

President Premadasa made it a point to monitor and evaluate by sending his staff to visit sites and submit a report to him. When the inspection reports were received, he proceeded with comparing the statistics maintained by the Ministries. This enabled him to track officials who worked hard to achieve results and those who tried to bluff him.

If we could have continued with the era of President Premadasa, we would have been a nation like Singapore today.

– Lalin I. De Silva,

Senior Planter/Agricultural Advisor & Consultant/Freelance Writer

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SLFP tells major partner how to resolve crisis



Kotelawala Bill rallying point for Opposition

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has offered to support the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Act if the government met its four conditions primarily meant to ensure KNDU remained within the State University system.

The SLFP, in a missive dated Aug 3 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has made the following amendments to the KNDU Bill, namely (i) the KNDU should be under the University Grants Commission (UGC) (ii) those outside the military to be admitted on the basis of Z-Score rankings (iii) taking into consideration undergraduates had to pay for receiving education at the KNDU and making arrangements to provide them with loans payable later and (iv) civilians should be in the majority in the unversity governing bodies.

The SLFP parliamentary group consists of 14, including one National List member, Dr. Suren Raghvan. The SLPP with 116 seats on its own enjoys a simple majority in Parliament.

Office of former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (4) made available a copy of its letter to the President signed by Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, MP, Chairman of the SLFP committee that inquired into the simmering KNDU controversy.

The SLPP decision to go ahead with KNDU Act has triggered protests in Colombo and several other areas, including Jaffna.

Acknowledging the pivotal importance in addressing issues pertaining to University level education, particularly those who couldn’t enter State universities seeking entry into Universities even in developing countries, the SLFP has recommended the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to examine the issue at hand within a specific period would be the most suitable measure. However, if the government wanted to move the matter expeditiously in Parliament, the SLFP believed the above mentioned four amendments should be included.

Lawmaker Siyambalapitiya told The Island that the party consulted the SLFP parliamentary group as well as several other stakeholders before reaching consensus on the KNDU Act. MP Siyambalapitiya said that the SLFP expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pay special attention to the suggestions made.

Senior Vice President of the SLFP Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told The Island that if there had been proper mechanism for consultations among constituents of the SLPP led alliance issues such as the KNDU Bill could have been easily avoided. Prof. Piyadasa emphasized that those in political authority should have consulted all constituents before it finalised the KNDU Bill and presenting it to Parliament. Responding to another query, Piyadasa pointed out why SLPP should do away with the practice of taking major decisions without consulting constituents. The academic cited the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct 2020 and the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill as two glaring examples.

Prof. Piyadasa pointed out how some sections of the Opposition exploited mishandling of the KNDU issue to such an extent that now trade unions affiliated to political parties brought dozens of groups under one banner. They had managed to cleverly mix teachers’ salary issue with the KNDU controversy, Prof. Piyadasa said, alleging the government allowed the situation to get out of hand. Tuesday’s violent protest on the road leading to Parliament highlighted the deterioration of the situation and the failure on the part of the government to address the issue at hand, prudently.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the government couldn’t ignore concerns expressed by the Government Medical Officers’ Association and the Association of Medical Specialists in that regard. Pointing out the government could easily resolve the issue by following the SLFP’s recommendations, Prof. Piyadasa said urging the government to respond to the developing situation swiftly and decisively.

Referring to a spate of statements issued by the Defence Ministry in that regard, Prof. Piyadasa said that the government should seek the backing of all political parties represented in parliament to expand capacity of State Universities.

He said that the SLFP recently discussed the matter with breakaway JVP faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). Except perhaps for some pursuing agendas of their own, vast majority of lawmakers wouldn’t back the proposed KNDU Bill in its present form, Prof. Piyadasa said.

Piyadasa emphasized unnecessary trouble caused by the government’s shortsighted strategy couldn’t be resolved by resorting to police crackdowns.

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Shouting match over arrest and detention of MP



By Saman Indrajith

Parliament was plunged into turmoil yesterday over the arrest and detention of MP Rishad Bathiudeen, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in the Chamber. 

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, raising a point of order, said that MP Bathiudeen had been detained for nearly 100 days without being charged. “MP Bathiudeen has not been given a charge sheet. The police have not even informed the Speaker of this arrest and detention of the MP. His case had been postponed four times. This is against British parliamentary traditions. This amounts to the breach of privileges of the MP. We demand that the MP should be set free.”

 Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: I have been informed of the arrest of MP Bathiudeen.

 Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: On what grounds? 

The Speaker: For an investigation.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: It cannot be accepted as a reason for the arrest. On what grounds the arrest has been made?

(MPs of government side shouts at the Chief Opposition Whip) 

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando: Time was when we too were taken into custody. No reasons were given. The then Speaker did not speak a word when we were taken into custody. Where had that tradition been then?

 Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: This is a matter of importance for each and every MP. This is applicable to all of us. This could happen to you one day. There have been several Presidents in the country, but no MP was detained under any of them in this manner. 

Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena: There is an investigation against MP Bathiudeen. Another probe has also been initiated by the police. Those investigations have to be conducted properly. There is no meaning in shouting here while there are investigations pending against MP Bathiudeen.

(SJB MPs shout against the government while the Speaker was trying to bring the House in order)

 MP Rishad Bathiudeen: Ninety-two days have lapsed since I was taken into custody. There were investigations only for five days. I am being detained in a dark room for 24 hours. There is no reason for my arrest. I am telling the President of this country, Sir, there is no reason for my arrest. There was an additional secretary by the name of Balasubramaniyam in my ministry. I am told that I was arrested over a telephone conversation that Balasubraniyam had with somebody.

Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: MP Bathiudeen mentioned one Balasubramaniyam. Balasubramaniyam has fled the country. You should know that.



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Several policemen injured as IUSF-led protesters topple police barricades



Maharagama OIC’s fingers badly mangled

By Saman Indrajith

Several policemen had been injured on Tuesday when undergraduates, led by the Inter-University Students Federation, toppled barricades set up to prevent them from marching on the road leading to Parliament.

Among the injured is OIC of the Maharagama police, Chief Inspector H.H. Janakantha, who was operated on at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. Three of his fingers in his hand were badly mangled. He was first taken to the Medical Centre in the parliamentary complex but later transferred to the Jayewardenepura hospital.

 The protesters wrested the barricade from policemen who were attempting to hold back the protesters.

The Maharagama OIC was among additional policemen summoned from nearby stations to strengthen the security of Parliament and the high security zone.

The protesters led by the IUSF started from several places to march towards Parliament around noon to protest against the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University Bill. The main march started from the Ayurveda Roundabout in Borella. The march created heavy traffic between the Ayurveda roundabout and Battaramulla during the lunch hour traffic.

The protesters could not be stopped at the Parliament Roundabout, and they proceeded up to the Jayanthipura entrance to the Parliament premises. They pulled down barricades but the police managed to stop them at that point. The IUSF activists set a coffin labelled ‘the death of free education’ on fire at the main entrance to Parliament. The protesters dispersed about one hour later after IUSF convener Wasantha Mudalige and Prof. Mahim Mendis of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations made speeches against the KNDU (Kotelawala National Defence Univeristy) Bill. 



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