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Ranil Wickremesinghe A True Leader

Seeds of National Leadership

When the new President, Ranasinghe Premadasa formed his Cabinet in February 1989, Ranil, a well-seasoned legislator by then, was appointed the Leader of the House in Parliament. He was also assigned the Ministry of Industries. Later, in March 1990, the functions of Science and Technology were added to his portfolio of Industries. Furthermore in recognition of his characteristic quick-wittedness he was also assigned the task of the Chief Media Spokesman for the Cabinet in March 1991.

As the Leader of the House in Parliament, Ranil managed the government’s legislative business during President Premadasa’s regime with remarkable efficiency and astuteness. Moreover, he was a member of both the Economic Development Committee and the Monetary Affairs Committee in Parliament. He was responsible for Sri Lanka’s second round of economic liberalisation that commenced in 1989. The strategy for industrialisation was to liberalise the financial sector, de-regularise many other quarters and privatise state enterprises. He did so, firstly, by legislating the Industry Promotion Act to establish an Industrialisation Commission and Regional Industrial Service Centres. These provided the requisite infrastructure to establish industries in the rural areas and paved the way for President Premadasa’s 200 garment factories that were taken to the villages. He helped to establish the two Investment Promotion Zones in Koggala and Pallakelle in order to make the Central and Southern provinces of the country into manufacturing centres and provide employment for the people. A number of Industrial Estates were created around the island including Pannala and Horana; the key one being the Seethawaka Industrial Estate. The fact that all this was achieved during a relatively short period of five years speaks of Ranil’s sheer dynamism and remarkable capacity for work.

Fully understanding the need to keep up with the fast pace and possibilities of global developments, Ranil actively promoted computer and information technology industries in Sri Lanka. In 1993 he signed an agreement with the USA so that Sri Lanka could have access to the Internet. Another significant development was INFOTEL LANKA, the first regional Information Technology Exhibition and Conference organised in the island. During this time, Ranil was also involved at the other end of the professional spectrum as the President of the Jathika Wathu Kamkaru Sangamaya, through which he organized the labouring workers in the plantations.

In 1991 Ranil visited the Vanni and the Jaffna Peninsular and advised President Premadasa to extend the development program in the Eastern Province to the North. He made arrangements to hold the first Presidential Mobile Secretariat in Vavunyia.

By this time, he had gained an impeccable reputation for honesty and his integrity was unquestionable. Even now his opponents consider him to be an incorruptible, principled, individual who will treat everyone equally and impartially; a statesman who will not yield to either external political influence or internal political pressure; from neither friends nor family. Of course this has led those with personal agendas and unscrupulous expectations to fall out with him. More than anything else, his reputation for loyalty and honour in an age of dirty politics has been exemplar. Ranil steadfastly supported President Premadasa through the crisis times of the impeachment motion.