President Ranil Wickremesinghe left for a Cuban visit on Wednesday. The President left for Cuba to address the “G.77 Group and China” Head of State Summit. Education Minister Susil Premajayantha also joined this trip because a dialogue on “The role of science, technology and innovation in the face of current development challenges” was also included in this conference. The delegation including the President arrived in Havana, Cuba on Thursday morning local time.
Bilateral talks between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cuban President were held on Thursday, September 14 with the aim of further developing bilateral cooperation between Sri Lanka and Cuba.
According to the United Nations, the G77 summit is the largest intergovernmental grouping comprising 134 developing countries. President Wickremesinghe and his team went to Cuba following the invitation of the current chairman of the conference, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez. The conference was held on September 15 and 16. The President and delegation was due to leave for New York on September 17 (today).
Before leaving the country, President Wickremesinghe handed over his duties to four State Ministers. The President spent last weekend in Colombo and some selected meetings were held that day. He returned to his office on Sunday to attend more meetings.
The discussion was first held about the national policy being prepared in relation to the development of the agriculture sector. Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was accompanied by many experts in the field of agriculture. The contribution of the lecturers of the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Peradeniya was also included.
President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake also participated in the discussion and the improvement of the agricultural sector by getting support from the private sector and the international community was discussed. Since agriculture is divided into provincial and national level, President Wickremesinghe advised the officials to prepare new laws and policies in accordance with the Constitution while preparing state policy.
The President, who also met officials of the Ministry of Lands, discussed the new national policy for land. The President was also asked about the laws and ordinances related to it, recalling the problems regarding land. The President had also invited its top officials to talk about the tourism industry. The President asked the officials about the upcoming program in the tourism sector.
The President went to Kotte Rajamaha Vihara that night to place the casket on the elephant during the Kotte Dalada Perahera. However, the building that was used for the storage of the casket was demolished during the tenure of the former President for repairs, but it has not been repaired as yet.
Therefore, a temporary platform was prepared to place the casket and the security forces were reluctant to allow the President to climb up to the platform. It was decided to take President Wickremesinghe along with the casket near the platform and from there for Sagala Ratnayaka to climb up to the platform and place the casket on the elephant.
When the President came near the platform with the casket, he saw that it was a strong platform and changed the plan because he also understood what Chief of Staff Ratnayaka said. “Sir, this temporary platform has been built like a permanent building. There is nothing to fear. Let’s go up.”
The President accepted what Sagala said and climbed the platform, dispelling the fear of his security personnel. Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and other Ministers and Chief of Staff Ratnayaka were invited to offer flowers to the casket. Minister Wijeyadasa, who offered flowers, first pulled Sagala’s hand, who was going to offer flowers. The Minister after pulling Sagala’s hand several times and taking him back and forth, finally Sagala ended by offering flowers to the casket. However, Sagala could not fathom why Minister Wijeyadasa had done so and he had told several people about this.
Minister Wijeyadasa called Sagala early on Monday morning. Answering the phone, Sagala asked the Minister, “Why did you pull me back yesterday, not permitting me to offer flowers to the casket?”
“Do you know what happened to me?,” the Minister asked. Sagala was surprised, wondering if there was any mistake on his part, and asked “Why, what happened, Minister?” Sagala questioned in return.
“No, when I put my hand on the fence of the platform and offered flowers, the elephant leaned on my hand.” When Minister Wijeyadasa said, Sagala understood what had happened and exchanged pleasantries with him. Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka also informed President Wickremesinghe about the predicament of the Minister.
After the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, the President met the heads of Parliament, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha and Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga and prepared plans for the affairs of the Parliament and the Government during his absence from the country.
President Wickremesinghe participated in the Security Council meeting on Tuesday morning and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, National Security Adviser Sagala Ratnayaka and many security chiefs were present. After the review of upcoming security measures, the Channel 4 issue was also discussed. The President said that if any accusation is levelled against a security chief or an officer, the concerned officer should not deal with it alone.
That evening, President Wickremesinghe met the students who excelled in the GCE Advanced Level Examination at the Presidential Secretariat and congratulated them. Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Chief of Staff Ratnayaka and President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake were also present.The President and other leaders gave the opportunity to the students to present their views.
The students put forward their problems before the President. The story told by one of the students caused a big response in social media. It is about the people who get free education and go abroad.
A girl said, “While talking with my friends, I felt that I am the only one who will be left in this country. All my friends are talking about going abroad after university education.”
The President said that they study with the tax money of the public.
The question that the majority of students had was that according to the results of the GCE Advanced Level Examination, they will be selected for university according to a certain subject stream chosen by the university.
The majority of them said that they do not get a chance to choose their preferred stream. Responding to the issue of not being able to choose the stream of their choice after entering university, President Wickremesinghe said that they are discussing a system where children will be able to choose a stream of their choice like American universities. The students presented many proposals for educational reforms and the President and the group did not try to express their opinions and the children were given the opportunity to present their ideas.
That evening, the President and a group of Ambassadors met to discuss the political affairs of the region. The Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Japan, India, China and France were present. Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Chief of Staff Ratnayaka also participated and the President arrived during the discussion.
A few hours before the President was to go abroad, he also attended the opening of the new building at Durdans Hospital. Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was present, but they did not get a chance to talk to each other.
President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka went to Jaffna Nallur Temple to take part in the pooja on the last day of the ‘Ther’ festival. Though the pooja started at 6.00 am, Sagala went to the temple at 3.30 am to grab a place to participate in the pooja like an ordinary citizen. Everybody was surprised that he stayed till the start of the pooja, behaving like an ordinary citizen and interacting with the people.
After the pooja and came to the Mavitta Puram Kovil near Kiramale Pond to take part in the last day of the ‘Ther’ festival there. There he met an Indian priest and in the course of the conversation came to know that he is a priest of a temple where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worships. Gnanasambanta Paramacharya Swami of Tamil Nadu invited Sagala to visit his temple if he came to Tamil Nadu.
On Thursday, Sagala met the IMF representatives as the President’s representative.
A discussion between the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), which is a major constituent party was held on Wednesday night in Colombo. The discussion was held under the patronage of MEP Leader Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa.
The political situation in the country, the contributions of coalition politics, public welfare facilities, burden of life and providing relief to distressed people, dialogue to be held with trade unions and employees in making decisions in public institutions, issues of restructuring institutions, employee rights, issues regarding Aswesuma and Samurdhi subsidies, the problems in the health service including the medicine crisis, election system and various laws that need further discussion, were discussed at length.
Since even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed to provide more relief to the people affected by the economic crisis and to people with low income, it was decided to request the President as the Finance Minister to allocate more funds for people’s welfare and to provide relief to people in the upcoming budget.
The representatives of the two parties stressed that the Samurdhi subsidy should be continued since it is decided by law that the number of beneficiaries of Aswesuma be gradually decreased.
SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam and Members of Parliament Namal Rajapaksa, Gamini Lokuge, Johnston Fernando, S.M. Chandrasena and Sanjeeva Edirimanna and MEP General Secretary Tissa Jayawardena Yapa, Deputy Secretary MP Yadamini Gunawardena and political committee members Vijaya Rathnayake and Mahanama Samaranayake were present.
British HC meets Sajith
The new British High Commissioner (HC) to Sri Lanka, Andrew Patrick met Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa after assuming duties. The two sides exchanged views on many social, economic and political issues in the country. Sajith emphasised the necessity of elections for the democratic existence of a country and the High Commissioner agreed. Secretary of Political Affairs of the British High Commission Daniel Sherry was also present.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa presented a bus worth Rs.5 million to Kalutara Muslim Madhya Maha Vidyalaya under the 77th phase of the ‘Sakwala’ school bus distribution program.
There he revealed many facts about the Easter Sunday attacks and related events. The Opposition Leader said that confidential and sensitive matters are being concealed and that even the Opposition Leader does not know about it and a great injustice has been caused to the people affected by the attack.
The Opposition Leader said that his parliamentary privileges have been violated and that he wants to know the truth not to assassinate characters but to reveal it to the people and that he will not approve of the mudslinging political culture under any circumstance.
He said if the truth continues to be concealed like this it may cause disunity between religions and races, so it should be exposed. Under a Samagi Jana Balawegaya Government, all the issues that led to the Easter Sunday attacks will be revealed to the people without mudslinging politics.
The Opposition Leader said that many people remembered the despicable Easter Sunday attacks these days and various opinions have been expressed in this regard locally and abroad.
Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has been a controversial figure in recent days. Many people were spreading various rumours that he will join the Government but suddenly Rajitha attacked the Government recently.
“Ranil has a brain but no heart! No program! The Government has no plan and no way forward! Two gangs are side by side! Joining it is a delusion!,” said Rajitha launching a strong attack on the President and the Government. “Sajith is a very people-friendly leader! Sajith also has his father’s qualities,” he added.
When the Opposition Leader drew the Government’s attention to the problems of the people in various fields under Article 27/2, some members of the Government made fun of it in the recent past. The Parliamentarians of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna had even taken steps to complain to the President saying that it was a nuisance that the Opposition Leader was wasting Parliament’s time.
However, a group of teacher advisors who met the Opposition Leader said that the struggle of the Opposition Leader in Parliament to solve the problems of the people of the country is a cause for respect and pride.