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84th Birth Anniversary: Remembering President Premadasa


We commemorate President Premadasa twice a year, on his Birth and Death Anniversaries. But I think the people of this country remember him every day and remember him with nostalgia with each passing day. They remember him when there are broken roads and unmade bridges; they remember him when they suffer from indiscipline and delay; they remember him when promises are not kept and standards drop. They remember him because during his time he did his best to minimise delays and indiscipline. They remember him because they miss his hard work, his attention to details and his commitment.
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by B Sirisena Cooray


(June 23, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) During the days of President Premadasa this was the Gam Udawa time. It was a time of hard work and worry but also a time of excitement and fulfilment. With each Gam Udawa we had a huge target to be met — building houses, bridges and roads, ensuring water and electricity supply, taking care of other infrastructure facilities. The days and weeks before Gam Udawa we would be in a fever of excitement wondering whether we will be able to complete all the work on time. Each year somehow we did. It was a rewarding experience because we were able to serve the people and win the appreciation of our leader.

President Premadasa valued discipline more than anything else. He believed that a given task should be fulfilled within the stipulated time. He did not tolerate delays and postponements; he did not like excuses either. And when he has allotted a task he would always check back, not once or twice but many times; often he would get me to do the checking for him. He knew the value of follow up and feed back, That is why he was so successful in Gam Udawa and other development programmes.

In my parliamentary condolence speech on President Premadasa I referred to how the people will remember ‘the extraordinary adventures of an extraordinary man”. Of those extraordinary adventures Gam Udawa was the first and I think the most important to us and to him. It was not for nothing he referred to Gam Udawa as his child,

Young people today regard building a house as a normal thing. They do not know that this habit was inculcated by President Premadasa through his Housing Programme. Before that most people did not build houses; they rented them. Through his Housing Programme he not only built houses for the poor; he also made it easy for the middle class to get housing loans and build their own houses. Organisations like the Building Materials Corporation made other facilities easily available. Thanks to all this, building a house became a normal thing for most people. That psychological change was one of his greatest achievements,

Discipline and Hard Work

We commemorate President Premadasa twice a year, on his Birth and Death Anniversaries. But I think the people of this country remember him every day and remember him with nostalgia with each passing day. They remember him when there are broken roads and unmade bridges; they remember him when they suffer from indiscipline and delay; they remember him when promises are not kept and standards drop. They remember him because during his time he did his best to minimise delays and indiscipline. They remember him because they miss his hard work, his attention to details and his commitment.

Hard work was nothing new to him. No one had to try harder to get to the top, He had no family to back him, no money and no powerful backers. But he had other things — his extraordinary qualities and character and the backing of the poor people of Colombo Central. No challenge would be too big to a man like that. That is why he did not hesitate to undertake gigantic development programmes and finish them on time too,With his work and his commitment he gave a sense of hope to this country. Even when times were hard there was a belief that things would improve. And the time of the Second JVP Insurgency was such a hard time. But even during that time people had hope of a better tomorrow. That was why he was elected. And even during that time of violence he built houses, had the Gam Udawa, gave Janasaviya and had Presidential Mobiles. This was despite the violence. No wonder people had hope. And once the Insurgency was defeated no time was lost; all development programmes were implemented at full speed and new ones were introduced and implemented at full speed.

Think of the 200 Garment Factories Programme. Once the initial idea was given to him he developed it into a viable programme and implemented it in a very short time. Factories were opened all over the country, even in the North and the East. Infrastructure facilities were built and loans were made available. When you think that all that was done in just a year or so, then you begin to understand how extraordinary it was. He would have faced the food crisis in the same way. He would have shown the same commitment and ensured that there were results. The way he worked is an example to all political leaders.

There were those who said he tried to do too much. He tried to do such a lot because so much needed to be done. So much was left undone that needed to be completed and so many new challenges were cropping up. That was why he had to undertake so much. It was also because he was completely committed to this country and to its people. Therefore he found poverty and homelessness, lack of development and lack of progress intolerable. He wanted to face up to those challenges and overcome them. That was why he tried to do so much. The people appreciated that commitment. They appreciate it even more now. During the years without him we all had enough time and opportunity to realise how valuable, how rare his commitment was. You can appreciate something properly only after you have lost it. When President Premadasa was around the people took him for granted. But now that he is no more, they realise his worth far more completely than they did when he was alive. That is why I was correct when I told during the parliamentary condolence vote, “The history of our time would record how the common people valued Mr. Premadasa. The verdict of history would grant him the special place that is reserved only for those innovative and courageous leaders who dedicate their lives to serve the people amidst innumerable obstacles. In time even those who failed to recognise him would agree that he had a remarkable ability to guide our country along a difficult road”.

I think history has proven him –and me- right.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

3 comments

Hermann said...

This article is insane. Premadasa should take the blame for helping JRJ to mastermind devaluation of emocratic traditions in Sri Lanka. The infamous resignation letters from MPs, the very JRJ constitution, Press freedoms, Human rights violations were plenty during his time. But the press did fear him, and only garlanded his meager achievements. The deals with LTTE, and a leader to get rid of the Indian Army he has been a disaster for Sri Lankan security. At the time of his death there were stories spreading about over 35 million US dollars found in his Sucharitha premises. There are some Security Personal who was close to this man who will tell some nice sotries about his abilities. This is a sham, and there is no record Mr. Premadasa has ever sacrifieced his personal might or wealth for common course.

Damien said...

Hermann you idiot, biggest export in Sri Lanka now is Garments! which was the brainchild of the late President. Hermann go to a college..get some education before commenting.

modaya said...

Garments export was JRJ's idea,what premadasa did was to open 250 factories without thinking available quota at the time & kill the industry

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