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Lalith, a pragmatic leader and visionary - President

President Maithripala Sirisena said the late Lalith Athulathmudali will be remembered as one of the most distinguished Sri Lankan politicians, a pragmatic leader, a visionary thinker and an exemplary human being.

In a message on the 25th death anniversary of Lalith Athulathmudali, the President said the late politician is still remembered as a colossus in politics and his contribution which is diverse will be remembered in the annals of history.

The Message:

“The late Lalith Athulathmudali who left us 25 years ago was an intelligent, erudite, visionary and a rare politician whom the country was fortunate to have had.

“Athulathmudali came from a political family and this helped him to sharpen his political acumen at an early age.

“His deep interest in education and the quality of education he had, later helped him to be Sri Lanka’s most visionary Education Minister. “After studying at Royal College he chose one of the world’s most prestigious universities, Oxford, to pursue his higher studies.

Athulathmudali’s father passed away when he was studying at Oxford. “After that the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike offered a Scholarship to Athulathmudali to continue his studies at Oxford. At an early age Bandaranaike identified Lalith’s talent and his capacity.

“At that time he had told his Cabinet of Ministers that Athulathmudali will one day become the country’s Prime Minister.

“If not for his untimely demise, Athulathmudali certainly could have become the leader of the country.

“The late Athulathmudali is a politician who never failed.

“Whatever task given he did it to perfection without allowing room for criticism. In all the Ministries he worked he left lasting impressions and a trail of achievements which are unmatched.

“When given a ministerial portfolio, first he used to deeply study the subject area and as such those who worked under him could not challenge his knowledge and the understanding of the subject.

“I don’t have big concepts, I only have small ideas. When these ideas merge with people’s thinking it creates something new” he used to say often. This showed that he was a pragmatic politician who always felt the people’s pulse. He always thought large and productive innovations can be created with small ideas and concepts.

“I was elected as a Member of Parliament on March 15, 1989. I took oaths as a MP on March 19, 1989.

"At the time, Lalith Athulathmudali served as Minsiter of Education in President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s Government. At the time there were several ministers who were outstanding leaders in the Government, including Lalith, Gamini Dissanayake, Ranjan Wijeratne and several others.

"These ministers interacted more closely with opposition MPs than with Government members. Lalith was special even among them. They were great orators who imparted knowlege and proved to be brilliant examples for new MPs. Lalith served his country in a multitude of ways.

"His legacy includes the Mahapola Scholarship Scheme for university students, the establishment of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and a vision for the expansion of the Colombo Port and the strengthening of national security mechanisms. In all of these things, Lalith proved to be a visionary. He will always be one of Sri Lanka’s immortal leaders. “It is said that many times, then Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yu begged Lalith to take citizenship in Singapore and serve that country. But to Lalith, there was no higher calling than serving his own nation.

"That he was not allowed to live out his full potential for national leadership is not just his loss. It is the greatest misfortune of this country”.