United National Party Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa laid out a vision for the country centred on poverty alleviation and the development of an export-oriented economy powered by small and medium scale industry at a speech given at a party rally at the Wills Stadium in Badulla today 12 Aug.
The packed ground cheered enthusiastically as the young leader fired what was obviously the first salvo in a bid to garner the nomination of the UNP at the forthcoming Presidential Election.
The rally, organised by local MP Minister of Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando was attended by a number of UNP MPs and Ministers. They included Home Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Ministers Sujeewa Senasinghe, Eran Wickremeratne, Vadivel Suresh, Ananda Kumarasiri, Harsha De Silva, Ravindra Samaraweera, Ajith P Perera, among others.
Premadasa spoke of the poor and downtrodden who he said bore the brunt of poverty. He said the Middle class was “trapped in an economic and cultural situation they feel they cannot get out of.”
Both these groups, he said, need to be released from heavy taxation.
Premadasa pointed out that income distribution was unsatisfactory. “More than half of the wealth of this country is enjoyed by less than 20 percent of the population,” he said.
He attacked the definition of poverty which is set at two US dollars a day per person which he said was laughable. Still, he said twenty-three percent of the population was being given the poverty alleviation payments under the Samurdhi scheme.
“We need rapid development, but the stakeholders in this development and economic growth must be the general public. When there is development and only a few people benefit, then it is flawed,” he said.
This development cannot be entrusted to a clan or a cabal, but to an energetic, efficient and capable group selected according to merit. “We need to build a meritocracy in this country,” he said.
He said that Sri Lanka has to enter into a “revolutionary new way of thinking.” He proposed that computer literacy centers and foreign language learning centers be built at every Assistant Government agent level.
“We need to create an industrial revolution in this country based on the SMEs,” he added.
He said sustainable development was key while safeguarding the environment.
In this way everyone will be winners, he said.
He said National Security is of paramount importance but it is not only through the Military that we need strength. He said the country needs “social security, political stability and economic security so that we truly have national security.”
He said we need to be patriotic. “But patriotism does not mean going around breaking and burning other people’s homes and businesses.”
He said that this is a Buddhist country and the greatest teaching of Lord Buddha was that all beings must be happy.
So, therefore, creating ethnic tensions and linguistic or religious differences goes against that.
“A Sri Lanka where all people can live in peace harmony will be fulfilling the Buddha’s teaching,” he said.