Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga saluted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his 40 years of public service in front of a crowded audience at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall yesterday.
Speaking at the inauguration of “Encounter Ranil,” a photographic exhibition celebrating 40 years of public service by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Bandaranaike Kumaratunga noted that she and Wickremesinghe had a history of working together, even as members of opposing parties who often disagreed.
“Destiny threw us together twice in my political life to work together. Once was when the UNP defeated my party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, while I was President and then Ranil became the Prime Minister in 2001, and I was President. It was the first and only time until now that the two parties, or any two parties, were called upon to work together – the President from one party and the Prime Minister from the other.”
The second time, she said, was when “destiny brought us together again for the great movement of January 2015,” upon the election of the “Yahapalana” government.
Speaking of her relationship to the Prime Minister at that instant, Chandrika Bandaranaike said, “I still cannot understand or comprehend how two people, two leaders, who were so much in opposition against each other, aggressively opposing each other, two parties that were so much in opposition against each other, killing each other, bloodshed, and all these kinds of things, could suddenly in a very short period of time come together and decide to put an entire history of what happened for decades behind us, and decide to work together. I must salute Wickremesinghe for the extreme sacrifice he made during that exercise, for that exercise, for the success of that operation.”
She expressed admiration for the way he conducted and carried himself throughout.
“One thing I had noticed about the Prime Minister is that he was at all times, even at the most difficult times, when we were opposing each other – our two parties, not personally — he was most courteous, calm, and never lost his cool.”
She also commended the way he dealt in the face of hardship.
“He took all the setbacks and allegations thrown at him, even from within his own party, with great cool and calm…I have seen him from the sidelines, we have all watched him meet many challenges from within his own party, challenges to his leadership, challenges which were very serious at some times, with a lot of cool and understanding.”
She ended on a strong note, stressing that her respect for the Prime Minister is beyond the personal and the partisan and connected to her larger vision for Sri Lanka’s future.
“I have been accused by some members of my party of being a supporter of Ranil. I am not a supporter of any individual politician,” Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said.
“I am a supporter of what I believe is right. I am a supporter of the vision that brought together President Maithripala Sirisena, who made huge sacrifices on his part to make January 8 possible. I am a supporter of the vision initiated for us by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
I am a supporter of this Government. I am a supporter of good governance, of human freedoms, of democracy and democratic institutions, of truth, of reconciliation, of building a society which will have lasting peace, which will reject hatred against others,” she said.