Former President R. Premadasa’s 98th birth anniversary today


Garment industry became Sri Lanka’s largest industrial export due to the vision of late President R. Premadasa.
Garment industry became Sri Lanka’s largest industrial export due to the vision of late President R. Premadasa.

Today June 23rd is the 98th birth anniversary of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister and President Ranasinghe Premadasa. He served as Prime Minister from 1978 to 1988 and as President from 1989 to 1993. He was assassinated by a LTTE suicide bomber on 1st May 1993.

President Premadasa was born on 23rd June 1924 at Dias Place in the area of Keselwatte in Colombo Central. He was the eldest of five children. President Premadasa had his primary education at Harvard Methodist Girl’s School and St. Lorenz’s College. His secondary education at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo.

President Premadasa had been a long-time friend of my father late E. P. De Silva, who was a well-informed political reporter before he became the Editor of Daily Mirror and

Former President  Ranasinghe Premadasa

Times. President Premadasa started his political career in 1946 joining the Labour Party as a full time member. He was elected as the President of the youth league of the same party in 1949. In 1950 he contested the Colombo Municipal Council ward San Sebastian and won the seat and became a Member of the Colombo Municipal Council. He was again re-elected in 1954 and in 1955 he became the Deputy Mayor.

He faced many challenges without fear. The biggest challenge he faced after he joined the United National Party somewhere in 1956 and contesting Dr. N. M. Perera, the Ruwanwella electorate in 1956 elections been born and bred in Colombo and had no link in that area. He was defeated by 6,228 votes. In 1977 July, when United National Party won 141 seats out of 168, President Premadasa was re-elected as the first MP for Colombo Central with a 94,128 votes. He was appointed as the Minister of Local Government, Housing and Construction as well as the Leader of the House.

After the Executive Presidency was ushered J. R. Jayawardene became President in 1978. Then Premadasa, the man of the masses was appointed as the Prime Minister which he held such position from 1978 to 1988. After more than four decades of active politics, at the age of 65 years, Premadasa became the Executive President of Sri Lanka in 1999. He was a dedicated man with a positive vision and a mission for Sri Lanka.

President Premadasa was one who had the feeling for the common man and reached out to uplift their living conditions.

Whenever, he visited me when I was planting, he was very concerned about the living conditions of the workers such as the housing, drinking water, electricity etc. He has told me, whatever the development we may bring about, it should be to the benefit of the poor people whether they are in the village or in the estate sector. What he meant was to remove the distinction between the have and the have –not’s altogether.

• Whatever said and done, the country lost a dynamic leader who was action and result oriented. He launched many programmes on uplifting of the rural economy. The Janasaviya or the poverty alleviation programme and the 200 garment factories programmes are some of the major programmes he introduced. The garment industry became the largest industrial export from Sri Lanka due to the vision of the late President. I have been in the plantation sector, some workers specially the young girls left their estate line rooms searching employments in the garment sector and came to Colombo and Katunayake and stay in boarding houses. Both these programmes made a significant contribution to the economic emancipation of the rural people which comprised nearly 75% of the population of this country.

• Today our people are facing untold hardships. The efforts of our youths at Galle Face fighting to obtain economic progress and social security have been unsuccessful. We can solve our problems. Scarcity of foreign exchange is no obstacle. To earn foreign exchange, we must increase production. To increase production, we must develop our national resources. The late President had the common touch. That’s why he always believed the common people should be made to share the responsibility of finding solutions to their problems.

The late President wanted men who could perform and those with the “Must Do” attitude and did not worry about whether they were Red, Blue or Green. He made it a point to monitor and evaluate by sending his staff to visit the sights and give him a report. When the inspection reports were received, he proceeded with comparing same with the statistics maintained by the Ministries. This enable him to track which officials worked tirelessly to achieve results as well and took remedial action against those who have bluffed him.



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