President elaborates on Indian visit with Ministers | Sunday Observer

President elaborates on Indian visit with Ministers

30 July, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cabinet Ministers and government officials with French President Emmanuel Macron and his team. Pic: Courtesy PMD
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cabinet Ministers and government officials with French President Emmanuel Macron and his team. Pic: Courtesy PMD

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who returned to Sri Lanka after his official visit to India, left for Anuradhapura on the same day to inquire about the development of the Sacred City.

During the visit to India, the fifth strongest economy in the world, the President received a warm welcome.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hosted a special lunch for President Wickremesinghe. Premier Modi had earlier served such a special lunch only to French President Emmanuel Macron.

The delegation including President Wickremesinghe, who signed a number of bilateral agreements, arrived in Sri Lanka last Saturday. As soon as the President arrived in Sri Lanka, he instructed officials to immediately convene an All Party Conference. The purpose was to call on the party leaders to take a decision on the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The President, who went to Anuradhapura, discussed the Mahaviharaya development plan but Government officials did not have answers to some of the questions he asked. Atamasthanadhipathi Thera and Maha Sangha appreciated the President’s Mahavihara development plan. President Wickremesinghe came to the Presidential Secretariat on Monday morning to attend to his routine duties. On that day, the President also met a group of Ministers to discuss the progress of his visit to India.

The President revealed a secret. “The French President is coming to Sri Lanka on Friday night.” When the President said this, everyone looked at each other with surprise and happiness.

“Let’s give this good publicity. Because a French President is coming to Sri Lanka for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka,” Director General of Government Information Dinith Chinthaka, who was in attendance said, looking at the President.

“No. We don’t need to talk about this right now. We will pick it up after the French media reports it.” was the idea of President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka.

When the President said, “There is something here that no one can see,” everyone looked at each other, unable to imagine what he was going to say.

“I met the Prime Minister of India and also the Indian President on Friday. I will meet the French President on Friday this week,” the President said.

“Yes, this is a historic moment. The President met Indian Prime Minister Modi on Friday. On Sunday, he met a Chinese Communist Party chief. The President also met the UN Resident Coordinator and the Secretary General of BIMSTEC. He met the French President on Friday and the Japanese Foreign Minister on Saturday. I don’t think any President in the history of Sri Lanka has had the opportunity to meet foreign Heads of State like this,” said Sagala Ratnayaka to which everyone present nodded in agreement.

The Cabinet meeting was held that evening and the All-Party Conference to be held on Wednesday was also discussed. The Ministers also inquired about the use of the Indian currency and how to connect India and Sri Lanka. The related explanation was given by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry.

“Though India talked about connecting the two countries, there was no talk of building a bridge. However, the international shipping route is located around Sri Lanka. The other thing is that there is no good port in the southern part of India. Because of this, India is working to build a sea route through the Palk Strait. SethuSamudram is the name of this project. If that happens, the ships going around Sri Lanka will pass through the Palk Strait. But if a bridge is built connecting the two countries, this waterway will not be built,” the President said, giving a long explanation.

President meets UNP management board

On Tuesday, the President met the Security Council as usual and that evening met the United National Party (UNP) Management Board.

UNP General Secretary Range Bandara presented a report on the progress of the party and the Bala Mandalas that have been held so far. “Sir, even though you asked us to conduct 80 Bala Mandalas, we have now completed 115 Bala Mandalas. All together we will complete 135 Bala Mandalas by the end of this weekend,” Range Bandara said. There was talk about holding the party convention after the Bala Mandalas meetings were over. It was decided to hold the UNP convention on September 10. It was suggested by a group of people that this year’s convention should be held at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium like the previous one.

Another group said that since the number of people who can gather at the Sugathadasa Stadium is only 5,000 and more party workers are expected to join it , a place that can gather more than 10,000 people should be chosen.

Former MP Ravi Karunanayake arrived at that time. He said that the party convention should be held in the open air at the Sugathadasa Stadium. He also suggested that it should be held before September 10 as the Bala Mandalas will end soon. Then President Wickremesinghe asked General Secretary Range Bandara whether the convention could be held before September 10.

“Sir, now we have set up the Bala Mandalas. Therefore, the party headquarters, Sirikotha, is ready to hold the party convention on any day,” was Range Bandara’s answer.

But the majority of the people present said that it is better to hold the party convention on September 10. They felt that it would be easier as the electoral organisers would then have time to prepare. Another group said that they should come to the party convention in a procession.

The President asked the Party General Secretary to take suitable measures. General Secretary Bandara said that an anniversary organising committee should be set up with the approval of the party Working Committee. Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe asked to set aside a day and hold the Working Committee meeting. Thereafter August 2 was reserved to hold the Working Committee meeting.

Water bills

Meanwhile, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake received a file regarding the electricity and water bills of former Presidents a few days ago.

On the President’s recommendation, he had sought advice from the Attorney General regarding the matter. The Attorney General’s instructions were received in this regard on Tuesday morning.

The Attorney General had said that there is a Supreme Court decision regarding former Presidents and according to that decision, they can only be given an official house, an official car, fuel and security subject to a limit. The President’s Secretary proceeded to convey the advice to the President and forward it to the former Presidents.


On Wednesday evening, the President held the All-Party Conference and other party leaders except the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna came to the President’s Secretariat to participate in the event.

The President announced his position and asked the position of the party leaders about the 13th Amendment. But since the party leaders did not express a consistent opinion on the subject, the President asked the Tamil parties to come to a one particular stance.

While one group is talking about the 13th Amendment another group is saying that the Provincial Council elections should be held before the 13th Amendment, the President requested the party leaders to come to a common position. The President asked the leaders of the leading Tamil parties to come to a consensus and give an opinion on 13A. The All-Party Conference ended by giving room for that decision.

As usual, the President visited the Ministry of Finance on Thursday morning to discuss the current economic situation.

Since a group of Ministers were also present, the political matters of the country were also discussed.

“When you look at Sumanthiran’s speeches in the past six months and the speech he made at the All-Party Conference, they contradict each other. It seems that there is no consensus among them,” Minister Prasanna Ranatunga began the conversation.

“Although the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) did not say anything big, Sajith Premadasa made a statement. But no one understood what he was talking about. People like Mano Ganesan did not speak. Among the left parties, the Communist Party presented a good idea,” Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

“Some say that this is a game played by the President to deceive India and the international community,” Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said looking at the President.

“If I can do that, what can’t I do?” the President said with a loud laugh.

Wajira Abeywardena making another point said, “But we have faith that the President will do what seven Presidents could not do. If it was said no one in the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was speaking but since Sagara Kariyawasam spoke about it, it became clear to everyone that there was a crisis within the SLPP. Because earlier they were at the point where they should only give the opportunity to Sarath Weerasekera to speak.”

In the meantime, there was a discussion about the increase in the value of the dollar and Chief of Staff, Sagala Ratnayaka responded to it saying, “The easing of import restrictions is the main thing. As foreign exchange comes along with investment, this will be diminished.”

They discussed the President’s visit to India and the President meeting two foreign leaders and four members of foreign missions in a week.

On Friday evening, President Wickremesinghe met French President Emmanuel Macron at the elite terminal of the airport and held talks.

“Threat to democracy”

A discussion was held in Colombo with a group of Ambassadors representing 12 countries and a group of representatives including Opposition party leaders.

It was headed by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

Attention was paid to many special issues and the situation in Sri Lanka was discussed at length.

“There are serious threats to democracy through the deliberate postponement of elections, because elections are very essential for a democratic country,” Sajith Premadasa said.

MP Dullas Alahapperuma said, “Especially, the Local Government election has been postponed indefinitely and this is a very serious situation.”

Prof. G.L.Peiris said, “It is very important to consolidate democracy in Sri Lanka, protect the Constitution and hold local government elections.”

Gayanta Karunathileka and Lakshman Kiriella said, “The Government is blatantly violating democratic principles. It is very regrettable the inefficiency of the Government shown towards the problems faced by the people. There are many problems that have arisen in the field of legislation and non-implementation of the anti-corruption process.”

US Ambassador Julie J Chung, Netherlands Ambassador Bonnie Horbach, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay, New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Appleton, Australian High Commissioner Paul Wesley Stephens, French High Commissioner Jean Francois Pactet, Canadian High Commissioner Eric Walsh, Acting British High Commissioner Lisa Whanstall, Romanian Ambassador Dr. Victor Chiujdea, Japanese Deputy Head of Mission Katsuki Kotaro, Italian Deputy Head of Mission, Dr. Francesco Perale, Anne Vaugier Chatterjee of the EU Political Department were present.

“Even though many laws have been passed to fight corruption, scams are still not over. Not only that, there is no proper way to recover the money stolen from the country but we have a plan for it,” Premadasa said.

PC elections

It is the position of Samagi Jana Balawegaya that there is no purpose in the All-Party Conference called by the President on Wednesday and they are ready to give power without holding elections but all the parties participating in the APC have requested to hold elections.

However, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa brought three things to the attention of the Government.

The first of which was the President and the Government being honest on this issue and building credibility. The Opposition Leader said that the Government should work honestly to solve the North and the East problem.

Second, the Government should present its own solution to the problem. Third, the Government should hold the Provincial Council election immediately.

He pointed out that the Provincial Council elections, which have been postponed for many years, should first be held and the people should be given an opportunity to elect their representatives.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said, “We remember that the President called an All-Party Conference seven months ago, and I don’t know the reason for calling it again after seven months.

There is a question whether it was called in good faith with an honest intention, or whether it was called for short-term political gains or with the aim of the next Presidential Election.”

Lakshman Kiriella said, “We have a question as to whether the President is trying to decentralise power, or is it a ploy to get votes in other areas with the aim of the next election. Before asking the Opposition, he should keep the ruling party team together.”