Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Premadasa’s bold statement

By: Isuru Parakrama

Colombo, Sri Lanka – May 18, 2024 (LNW): Opposition leader and presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa made a bold statement today on the 15th anniversary of the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Premadasa criticised the 1956 “Sinhala Only” policy implemented by former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, asserting it paved the way for deep societal divisions culminating in the 26-year civil war.

Premadasa’s statement comes at a crucial time, with the presidential election just four months away. As one of the leading candidates, his remarks are expected to resonate deeply across the political spectrum. The 1956 policy, which made Sinhala the sole official language, remains a contentious issue in Sri Lankan politics, with debates continuing about its long-term impacts on national unity.

Notably, Bandaranaike’s daughters, Sunethra Bandaranaike and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, have both disagreed with the “Sinhala Only” policy. Kumaratunga, who became executive president in 1994, sought to reverse many policies, advocating for peace and national reconciliation. Despite being severely wounded in a 1999 suicide attack, she persisted in her efforts to unify the nation throughout her presidency.

Premadasa’s connection to the country’s violent history adds weight to his statement. His father, President Ranasinghe Premadasa, was assassinated by a suicide bomber during a May Day rally in 1993, an event that underscored the deep divisions and ongoing strife within the nation.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has pledged to unite the country by providing solutions to the national issue of power devolution, advocating for the full enactment of the 13th Amendment. This amendment aims to devolve power to provincial councils, a critical aspect of the ongoing peace process.

Another critical presidential contender, Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), has traditionally supported power devolution. However, recently, Dissanayake and the JVP have not clearly articulated their stance on this issue or the enforcement of the 13th Amendment.

Independent political and social analysts have broadly welcomed Premadasa’s statement, viewing it as a significant and necessary step towards acknowledging and addressing the historical roots of Sri Lanka’s prolonged conflict. As the presidential race intensifies, these discussions will likely play a pivotal role in shaping the political discourse and the country’s future direction.

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