July 17, 2024
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    Let’s Leave Individualism and Partisanship Aside: Moving Forward Together for the Country Featured

    June 30, 2024

    President Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed that, at present unity and prioritizing the nation, over individual interests or party affiliations are crucial for moving forward together.

    Addressing the first rally in the “Victory through Unity” (Ekwa Jayagamu) series organized by Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara and titled “Victory through Unity – Matara District (Ekwa Jayagamu – Api Matara),” at Matara Fort Ground today (30), the President highlighted his administration’s extensive efforts over the past two years and underscored the critical need for collective commitment to protect and propel the nation’s political journey for the benefit of all.

    The event saw a significant turnout from the Matara district, uniting people across party lines in support of national progress.

    Addressing the gathering, President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that today marks the start of a new political journey. He highlighted the unity of a coalition committed to the nation’s interests, regardless of political affiliations, stressing the importance of safeguarding and advancing this collective effort for the country’s success.

    President Wickremesinghe also extended an invitation to the opposition, urging them to prioritize national interests over partisan politics.

    He encouraged them to join this initiative, promising an opportunity to learn how to unite and build the country for the benefit of all.

    President Ranil Wickremesinghe further elaborated,

    “I have safely brought the Titanic, entrusted to me, to port. While other captains fled from the iceberg, we faced a critical decision: sink or navigate to safety. Now that we’ve reached port, the question is what to do next with this ship. We must decide whether to refurbish it for the next 50-100 years or hand it over in its current state to a fleeing captain.

    When I arrived here today, memories of the hardships faced by the Matara people flooded back. I vividly recall spending the Sinhala New Year 2022 in Kamburupitiya, where a filling station near my hotel was constantly crowded with long queues of vehicles. Witnessing the people’s suffering and frustration, I resolved that such scenes must not recur in our country. Prior discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and exchanges with the World Bank underscored the urgency. Despite multiple notifications to former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ultimately, I had to assume leadership of the country.

    I took charge of the country in an unprecedented manner in world history. When everyone else fled, I stepped up to lead. Constitutionally, when the President resigns and the ruling party fails to act, it falls upon the opposition to step in. Yet, everyone evaded responsibility. Our economic and political systems were shattered.

    Assuming the presidency, many doubted our ability to succeed. However, I maintained strong faith in the people of our country and myself. With aid from countries like India and Bangladesh, and by encouraging farmers to ensure a successful 2022-2023 Yala season, we achieved a bountiful harvest. This enabled our nation to celebrate the Sinhala New Year, Vesak Festival, and Poson Festival with great splendour.
    Additionally, the people of the south played a crucial role in boosting tourism and attracting visitors to our country, thereby securing vital foreign exchange. With the united support of these efforts, we propelled our country forward.

    We have partnered with the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the country’s economy, which means we cannot resort to printing money or taking loans from banks. This compelled us to explore new avenues for generating income, albeit making the tough decision to increase taxes. Today, as a result, our economy has stabilized, and we aim to relieve the common people from this tax burden in the future.

    In 2023, we launched the ‘Aswesuma’ program that significantly benefited the people, providing triple benefits compared to previous efforts like ‘Samurdhi.’ The number of beneficiaries increased from 1.6 million to 2.4 million. During the economic crisis, we achieved what was previously thought impossible. During the Sinhala New Year, each low-income family received 10 kilograms of rice monthly for two months, and government employees saw a Rs. 10,000 salary increase.

    Moreover, the ‘Urumaya’ program was initiated to grant freehold land deeds to all occupants of government lands. In the upcoming week, a program will begin to grant ownership of apartments in Colombo to low-income residents.

    We undertook these efforts quietly but with significant benefits for the people. Moving forward, we have successfully steered clear of bankruptcy and continue to manage our debt responsibly. Through negotiations, we have secured concessions where our total debt, currently at 108% of GDP, will be restructured. Countries that provided loans have agreed to extend our repayment deadline until 2042 and have reduced the amounts due.

    In addition to official loans, we have also borrowed from private individuals through bonds. Following the agreement, discussions with bondholders’ representatives are progressing well. Initially estimated to take about a month, these negotiations are proceeding smoothly, and we anticipate completing them successfully by next week. We plan to present both agreements to Parliament for approval.

    I have informed the Chairman of the State Finance Committee Harsha De Silva about our intention to present all three agreements to Parliament for discussion. While I can’t detail all aspects here, I plan to provide a thorough explanation. I have informed him that following discussions and scrutiny by the State Finance Committee, we will prepare a report for a parliamentary vote. It is crucial for all parties in Parliament to participate in this vote.

    The international community awaits our decision on these agreements. If any party proposes an alternative approach, I am willing to facilitate discussions with the International Monetary Fund for them. The government is willing to make arrangements to fund necessary travel permits and accommodation for these discussions. They can proceed with their talks, and if deemed beneficial, we will bring the matter to Parliament for consideration.

    We can no longer afford to revert to old politics. The choices we make today profoundly impact our future. Moving away from this path begs the question: do we have an alternative future? Can we afford to return to the days of long queues and traditional politics? We must decisively choose our course.

    Looking ahead, how will we sustain future fuel payments? Will borrowing become inevitable once more? Without embracing a new program, we risk facing a more severe economic crisis within the next 15 years.

    Therefore, transitioning to an export-driven economy is imperative. These decisions are made with everyone’s interests in mind. We must determine whether our youth will inherit recurring economic crises or thrive in a developed nation.

    That is why I urge every political leader to unite for the country. People often ask which party this cabinet belongs to, but today we have individuals who have come together solely for the country. Many former members of the SLPP have lost their ministerial positions, and although I cannot accommodate them currently, they have set aside personal interests to unite for the nation. Representatives from various parties are present here today; this is not about one party but about everyone uniting for the country’s benefit. Thus, we embark on a new political journey with the motto: country first, party second.

    Regardless of their political affiliations, everyone here is part of a team capable of working for our nation. It’s crucial to sustain this political system and protect this journey together. I extend an invitation to the opposition to join us on this new path, where they can learn alongside us how to build our country.

    Today, our focus is not on individual interests or party politics; we prioritize the country’s interests as we move forward. I empathize deeply with the hardships faced by our people, and I request that everyone safeguard the strides we have made and continue advancing together.”

    Minister for Urban Development and Housing Prasanna Ranatunga,

    Two years ago, amid the country’s economic crisis, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, and we also left the cabinet, pledging our support as Podujana Peramuna to any leader who could tackle the crisis. Many leaders avoided taking responsibility, but President Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the challenge to rescue the nation. As the Podujana Peramuna, we offered him unconditional support.

    You might wonder why someone like Prasanna Ranatunga, who previously opposed Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe during the good governance period, is now speaking in his favour. Over the past two years, you’ve witnessed the significant role President Wickremesinghe has played in steering the country away from bankruptcy and implementing a sound economic strategy. Although economic challenges persist, a leader with experience in overcoming such obstacles is needed, and Ranil Wickremesinghe is the best candidate for that role. He hasn’t declared his candidacy for the presidential election yet, but I believe that through these rallies, the people will call for his leadership.

    Governor of the Southern Province Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena,

    For a government to function, it must prioritize the economy and the livelihood of its people. Without this focus, a government cannot sustain itself. Two years ago, our country faced severe shortages of oil, medicine, gas, and milk powder, with no foreign currency available to purchase them. To prevent such situations, effective economic management is essential.

    Throughout the past 75 years, every government has engaged in development activities. Despite 6.9 million votes for the previous government, the economy collapsed due to poor management, leading to protests against the former president. When he stepped down, he invited others to take responsibility, but only Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the leadership unconditionally.

    We need a leader who is dedicated to both the economy and the people. Regardless of opinions, if this economic program fails, another crisis could emerge within a year. Therefore, we must unite and move forward to avoid further setbacks. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the only experienced and visionary leader suited for this task.

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry,

    For the first time, I am addressing a public meeting alongside UNP representatives. In 2019, I set aside my legal career to support Gotabaya Rajapaksa in advancing the country. However, the COVID pandemic and economic crisis led to shortages of fuel and gas. During this time, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asked the opposition leader to take necessary measures to manage the country.

    After reviewing the Treasury records, the opposition leader and their economic experts predicted an economic collapse within six months. Despite this, Ranil Wickremesinghe stepped up to address the crisis. National security goes beyond borders; it involves building Sri Lanka’s economy to be self-reliant. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has effectively accomplished this.

    For example, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh recently mentioned she never expected Sri Lanka to repay the USD 200 million loan. Today, the country has avoided bankruptcy, and even instalments on Iran’s debt are being paid. All of this is due to President Wickremesinghe’s economic vision. I firmly believe that only President Ranil Wickremesinghe can create a resilient economy.

    Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka,

    In the past, the rupee depreciated uncontrollably, leading to a higher cost of living and widespread queues for gas and oil, bringing the country to a standstill. In response, Ranil Wickremesinghe took on the challenge of moving the country forward, making difficult but necessary decisions for its future. Tax system reforms were initiated, and a program to revive the economy began with the support of the International Monetary Fund.

    The current government has been working to provide required service for the people. However, the country needs consistent policies that endure beyond changes in government. Strong leadership is essential for this. Under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, efforts to stabilize the economy are underway. Supporting these initiatives should be appreciated by everyone in the country.

    Minister of Tourism, Lands, Sports and Youth Affairs Harin Fernando,

    When no captain stepped forward to rescue the ship of Sri Lanka during a storm, Ranil Wickremesinghe took the helm and brought it safely to port. Now it’s time to set sail again for the next five years, and you have the power to return him to the captain’s position. Your support is crucial.

    If you vote with the mind-set of giving the next five years to this cause, the country can avoid future destruction. Only the people can choose the leader who can either save or harm the nation. It’s vital to make the right decisions at the right time. While other parties like Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) offer alternatives, there is truly no substitute for Ranil Wickremesinghe. Therefore, it’s up to you to entrust him with the country for the next five years. Let’s conclude the rally that started in Matara today with a victory.

    Minister of Industries and Health Ramesh Pathirana,

    You may remember when we were unable to pay our national debts and became destitute. Today, the economy has significantly improved. If Ranil Wickremesinghe had not taken over during that challenging time, the current state of the country would be unimaginable.

    Fortunately, he did not shy away from the challenge, providing the right leadership. That’s why we no longer see queues across the country.

    Remember those hours spent in lines for fuel, medicine, and gas. We should not forget who resolved that situation. Without President Ranil Wickremesinghe, we would not have recovered as we have today.

    Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara,

    Ranil Wickremesinghe worked tirelessly to rescue the country from economic bankruptcy within two years, despite critics doubting it was possible. He dedicated himself unconditionally to alleviating the suffering of the people.

    Back then, remittances from expatriate workers amounted to USD 220 million annually, but now they have increased to about USD 700 million per month. Inflation, which was at 73%, has been reduced to single digits. The price of a gas cylinder has decreased from Rs.4500.00 to Rs.2982.00, and a kilo of dhal from Rs.660.00 to Rs.360.00.

    This reflects the government’s achievements over the last two years. People no longer die in queues. Though the country was once bankrupt, it has now been saved. Additionally, President Wickremesinghe has provided relief to those in need and secured land rights for the people, greatly improving their well-being.

    People once rallied to support Mahinda Rajapaksa in winning the war. Similarly, Ranil Wickremesinghe will receive support to fight the economic challenges facing Sri Lanka today. Previous elections focused on saving religion or the country, but this time, it’s about saving yourself. If a wrong decision is made, no one will come to your rescue. Let’s entrust the country to Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has guided the economy in the right direction.

    Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera,

    First, we extend our gratitude to the people of Matara district for their support. Matara is known for making historic decisions.

    Over the past two years, we faced many challenges. Instead of engaging in politics, we joined forces with President Ranil Wickremesinghe to move the country forward. Despite scepticism, he accepted the challenge and advanced the nation within two years.

    In the upcoming elections, we need leaders who can strengthen our future, not just deliver speeches. Without our support, the country’s situation could have been different. Looking ahead, we will continue to implement programs that provide relief to the people. Consider whether to continue on this path or risk losing these benefits in the next election.

    This country requires leaders who unite rather than divide, who prioritize making sound decisions for the people. Today, we have such leadership. Therefore, following the announcement of the presidential election, a significant group of Podu Jana Peramuna stands prepared to support President Ranil Wickramasinghe.

    The event was attended by Maha Sangha, other religious leaders, Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapakse, Minister Douglas Devananda, State Ministers Rohana Dissanayake, Kanaka Herath, Wijitha Berugoda, Members of Parliament Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Vajira Abeywardena, Premanath C. Dolawatte, Director General of Trade Unions to the President Saman Ratnapriya, President’s Counsel Jayantha Weerasinghe along with number of representatives from local government bodies and members of the public.

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