President’s Japan visit, a success | Sunday Observer

President’s Japan visit, a success

4 June, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe with IMF representatives.  Pic: Courtesy PMD
President Ranil Wickremesinghe with IMF representatives. Pic: Courtesy PMD

President Ranil Wickremesinghe went to the Mahiyangana sacred site soon after arriving from Japan to present a momentous proclamation to the Chief Incumbent designating the historic Mahiyangana sacred site as an officially recognised place of worship.

Despite fatigue due to the journey from Japan, the President arrived at the Mahiyangana sacred site on time as he is always punctual.

President Wickremesinghe, who stayed there that night, left for Colombo early the next morning as he had a lot of official duties. When he came to the President’s Office, a group of Ministers were present and many of them asked the President about the progress of his visit to Japan.

President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka said that the Japanese Government was pleased with the President’s statement regarding the resumption of the Japanese projects, including the Light Rail Transit Project, and if any investment project needs to be stopped, Parliament approval should be obtained for it.

There was also appreciation for meeting five former Prime Ministers of Japan. The proposal by the President that Japan should join the Commonwealth was appreciated by the Japanese Government.

“For the first time since President J.R. Jayewardene in 1977, the current President has given an assurance to the world about Sri Lanka’s foreign policy,” MP Wajira Abeywardena said.

Following meetings with the Japanese Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Finance Minister, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also met the Japanese Digital Minister.

Generally, during a foreign visit, a Head of State meets only the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Foreign Minister. But President Wickremesinghe met the Japanese Digital Minister as well. At that meeting, it is common opinion that a good trend can arise regarding the future digitisation of Sri Lanka and Artificial Intelligence.

President Wickremesinghe and his team met the leaders of the parties represented in the Japanese Parliament. This paved the way to rebuild Japan’s trust on Sri Lanka.

While the Japanese talks were going on the President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser Sagala Ratnayaka told a different story. That is about a situation that affects religious harmony. President Wickremesinghe instructed Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka to look into this immediately and take necessary measures.

The President in the presence of Education Ministry officials said that the examinations should be conducted in a manner that is convenient for students and not in a manner that is convenient for the Examinations Department.

That evening, the President met party representatives to discuss the current economic and political situation. It was a successful discussion.

The next day, the President met a group of members of the Security Forces at the Ministry of Defence. There, the President sternly said that activities that disrupt religious harmony should not be permitted in any way. The President also said that all the law enforcement agencies should work together for this.

“In 2015, when I was the Minister of Law and Order, a separate Police unit was set up to investigate those who work against religious harmony. I don’t know if it exists now. But the law should be enforced against the crime,” National Security Adviser Sagala Ratnayaka said.

“Not only the Police, the Tri Forces should also intervene in this. Find out about the parties behind this. Find out about any incident before it happens and take necessary steps,” the President advised. Following the President’s instructions, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement saying that they are working to preserve religious harmony.

UNP Management Committee meets

That evening, the United National Party (UNP) Management Committee representatives met to discuss the party’s future activities.

The report prepared by General Secretary Range Bandara about the future activities and goals of the party was presented to the President by Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena. General Secretary Range Bandara requested the President to correct the report if there are any deficiencies.

Appreciating the report, the President took steps to discuss future plans. General Secretary Range Bandara said that 21 ‘Balamandalas’ have been held so far. He said that even in Mullaitivu, the people came forward to extend their support to the UNP.

The General Secretary also made a complaint to the President about the work of the party District Leaders. It was about several leaders who said that it is not possible to hold ‘Balamandalas’ in several districts. Several District Leaders mentioned by the General Secretary were also in the Management Committee at that time. The General Secretary also disclosed about those who held the Balamandala meetings and several people who said that they could not be held. Responding to that, the President said that if they cannot work with confidence, Balamandala meetings should be held by using other groups.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Government, Sun Weidong met the President on Wednesday.

A group of activists from the Bill Gates Foundation, which is offering to digitise the data of the agricultural sector, also came to the Presidential Secretariat to meet the President. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed to the work of this country before. While carrying out the work, they had requested that the coordination of Government agencies be done by the Presidential Secretariat. Fulfilling their request, President Wickremesinghe instructed to set up an Advisory Council headed by Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka and President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake to coordinate matters.

They said that to develop the agriculture sector, it needs to be digitised and new software will be prepared and data will be collected for that purpose. Apart from this, this group also expressed their desire to digitise the social security program.

In the meantime, the President met the Deputy Management Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kenji Okamura. Several matters such as financial management and debt restructuring of the country were discussed.

Sagala Ratnayaka, who became the President of the Ceylon National Plantation Workers’ Union, met the President last Wednesday to discuss this matter for the first time. Its Secretary Vadivel Suresh and former President, Minister Harin Fernando were also present.

“I heard that you have been subjected to a disciplinary investigation. I don’t know what will happen if they find out that you came here,” the President said looking at Vadivel Suresh. Everyone burst out laughing.

“I am not afraid of anyone. I am doing the right thing,” Vadivel Suresh replied.

The group discussed with the President about a number of problems of plantation workers and the President agreed to provide solutions to them.

Discussions on the economic situation

As usual, President Wickremesinghe came to the Ministry of Finance on Thursday to discuss the economic situation. A group of Ministers were also present.

“It can be seen that a large number of people are trying to take the country backwards by disrupting religious and national unity,” State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

“It is not relevant to the President whether it is anti-Muslim, anti-Buddhist or anti-Catholic-Hindu who attempt to disrupt the harmony. The President has instructed the Security Forces to take action against those who resort to such acts, Wajira Abeywardena said seriously.

“Religion cannot permit extremism. The law should be enforced against those who work against civil society,” State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said joining the conversation.

“The Chief Incumbent of Mihintale temple said that the Government did not give money, but it is good that Government officials told the country regarding the money given by the Government along with facts and figures,” said Minister Prasanna Ranatunga laying emphasis on a different aspect.

“Civil activists say there is another force behind this. The people of Anuradhapura tell us a different story,” MP Sahan Pradeep said joining the conversation.

“Media organisations are worried that the Broadcasting Authority Act is going to be brought to destroy media freedom,” MP Wajira Abeywardena said.

“The President doesn’t want to put journalists in jail. But if media organisations do not intervene and burn down people’s houses, there is no need to fear anything,” said Minister Manusha Nanayakkara.

“After Bill Gates’ team met the President, they also met the Opposition Leader, didn’t they?” That question was from MP Madhura Vithanage.

“Yes, the group did not have to talk about anything because the Opposition Leader has spoken for the longest time,” Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said.

Wajira Abeywardena said, “While India is trying to kick out their Opposition, our President is working to protect the Opposition Leader.” Those present made a fuss, but the President just smiled and said nothing.

The Parliamentarians present started talking about the fact that the price of goods did not decrease even though the value of the dollar decreased.

“Anyway, inflation that was 70 percent a year ago has now reduced to 25 percent. In a few days, this will be reduced to 20 percent. We are trying to change all the existing conditions and bring inflation to a single digit by the end of this year. However, inflation has come down by two-thirds more than it was,” the President said, making a long explanation.

Address to the Nation

The President addressing the nation that evening outlined the economic situation in the country. He showed how to build the country along four main pillars.

Aiming to create a developed country in the year 2048, President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the nation on Thursday night.

Although the President had addressed the nation several times in the past, they did not receive the same response as this time. But after the statement this time, many people from the Government and Opposition called the President to appreciate the speech and the President’s personal phone was ringing nonstop.

A few people from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, Tamil National Alliance and National People’s Power spoke to the President and said that there is no alternative to build the country apart from the program presented in the special statement.

Many well-established businessmen also called the President and when the President could not be reached, they tried to contact President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake. The general consensus of all of them was that they should support the program presented by the President.

The wedding of the son of Mass Media Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita was held at the Water’s Edge, Battaramulla on June 1. The bride’s father Dr. K. A. S. Keeragala is also a senior officer in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service.

Many people from the political and administrative fields participated in the event. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa also attended the wedding during the poruwa ceremony.

“Did you come early in the morning,” asked a nearby journalist.

“It’s almost eleven o’clock. Is it still morning for you...? I get up at five in the morning and start work. I also attend a party meeting,” the Opposition Leader told veteran photographer Prasanna Hennayake.

The Opposition Leader asked, “What is the camera you are using now...” and inquired about the cameras of the photographers covering the wedding. Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi and Parliamentarians Wajira Abeywardena, Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Tissa Attanayake were present.

As many Opposition MPs arrived early and left early, another journalist who was there asked them, “Are you also going to the wedding of MP Champika Ranawaka’s daughter?” None of them knew about such a wedding. “I met Champika yesterday evening too. He didn’t even talk about such a thing,” said MP Dullas Alahapperuma.

Anusha Palpita had also served as the Director General of Government Information and current Secretary to the Ministry of Media. Therefore, a lot of media heads were invited to the wedding.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe entered the wedding hall saying “I should go to where the couple is there.” All the Government Opposition Parliamentarians there talk with the president. Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake was also among the group. The President spoke to the group in a friendly manner but did not talk politics.

As the President was due to address the nation that evening, all those present wanted to know in advance what the President would say. The President, who also talked to relatives from both sides, told Director General of Government Information Dinith Chinthaka Karunaratne, “I have to go to Nuwara Eliya, you all are here so I will go then.”

Former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa joined the wedding along with his wife Ioma Rajapaksa. The former President was well received by the assembly. Wasantha Karnagoda, Daya Ratnayake and other senior military officers also attended the wedding. Almost all the Ministers present there were chatting with former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as they had not seen him for a long time.

After attending another wedding in Anuradhapura, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the wedding. Former Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga was also present at that event. “Both the President and the Secretary are here,” another Secretary said. Former President Maithripala Sirisena’s Secretary Udaya R. Seneviratne had also attended the wedding.

Minister of Mass Media Dr.Bandula Gunawardena was present at the wedding with his wife and son. Minister Bandula’s son Sahan Gunawardena performed two songs to entertain the crowd. At the wedding Dr.Charitha Herath asked a few questions from Minister Gunawardena about the proposed Broadcasting Authority Act. “Minister, if 17 members are appointed to this committee, its composition would increase further. Then its transparency will also be high,” Dr.Herath said. Dullas Alahaperuma and Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe attended the wedding a little bit late as both of them had to attend a few weddings.

When Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe arrived, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was talking to the group. Meanwhile, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe spoke to the head of Dalada Maligawa media Krishantha Hissella. “Do you know the Dalada Waruna newspaper is printed by the Lake House free?”

“No, Minister, I didn’t know,” he answered.

“It was due to a court decision that came when I was at Lake House. That’s why Lake House is still printing it free,” the Minister said.

Many who spoke to Foreign Minister Ali Sabry praised him for standing firm on the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement. Director Legal, Lake House Janaka Ranatunga and many journalists asked Minister Sabry about Sri Lanka’s new journey with the world.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe is moving forward with a good understanding. He cannot be misled by anyone. He doesn’t favour any individual country. Look at the Japanese visit. It is very successful. Now the President wants to increase our investments. Now I work hard for it.

People’s Bank Chairman Sujeewa Rajapaksa and Education Ministry Secretary Nihal Ranasinghe were also very much in demand. As a joke, everyone asked the People’s Bank Chairman if they can’t give a loan while some others asked the Education Ministry Secretary on the admission of children to schools. Some people asked Buddhasasana Ministry Secretary Somaratne Vidanapathirana, ‘Why are you not giving money to Mihintale?

This wedding where politicians, Government officials, media heads and journalists gathered for a long time was a special occasion in the political arena last week.