May Day should highlight unequal economic growth: Sajith

UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa addressing the gathering. Picture by Rukmal Gamage

May Day this year should highlight the unequal economic growth in the country, UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa said yesterday as he touched on the growing income equality in the country.

No matter what people say about economic growth, today 54 percent of the country’s wealth is shared among 20 percent of the richest, whilst the 20 percent of the poorest in the country only get 4 percent of the wealth, he added addressing UNPers gathered at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium to celebrate government declared May Day yesterday.

Premadasa insisted that economic growth should be felt both in the wallet and stomach of the common man for it to have an impact.

He said people gave them an important mandate in 2015, and we have to work to strengthen that trust further.

“As a government, we have no right to tell people to wait a bit more or have patience as today we wield the state machinery. I ask the Prime Minister to simply show the green light, and we will embark on a historic development plan which will be felt by the common man,” Premadasa said.

He said the mandate given to the government was to embark on clean politics to protect the common man and to strengthen him. Looking to the UNP crowd, Premadasa said he was no longer prepared to betray their supporters, those who would bleed green for the party.

“Having been in opposition for the past 20 years, people now want to speak to us, notice us, because of you. It is time for the rulers to respect the people.”

The Deputy Leader noted that many speakers had expressed their views openly and honestly and though the Prime Minister had said that he had “managed through difficult times, the word of the hour should be ‘relief’, ‘growth’, ‘jobs’, and ‘benefits to the common man’.

“I believe my party leader will deliver on that,” he said.

He said the Prime Minister had appointed a committee headed by him to look into development projects which can be fast tracked for the benefit of the people. Premadasa said they would act, so that the people could see for themselves the real situation of many of the projects,

“We now only have 18 months left, we have to do or die in this period,” he explained, stressing, “We need to reform, we need to be creative and deliver to the people if we are to stay in power for the next 20 years.”

Highlighting some of his committee’s recommendations, he said they had asked that fertiliser be given free to the people, school uniforms be given under the earlier system and to have two sets of uniforms and a pair of shoes added to it, to provide Rs. 300 million each to every MP so that they can undertake development work in their respective areas, to solve the issues of all UNPers who have suffered political victimisation (the number is estimated at 36,000), to appoint at least two UNPers to the government service at every Grama Sevaka division, repair lakes and canals and improve farmer livelihoods.

Responding to a request made by Minister Sarath Fonseka to build houses for low income groups in Kelaniya, the Housing and Construction Minister noted that his hands were tied as he only ran one sixth of the housing ministry started by his father.

“Ranasinghe Premadasa’s ministry was split into six parts and given to various other ministries from hill country to fisheries. If they are given to me I will deliver,”he said.

“We have suffered enough; in future we need our own government. It was at the Sugathadasa that Ranasinghe Premadasa was chosen as the next UNP Presidential candidate. He was nominated and seconded by Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, he remarked as he asked that for 2020, the party follow suit and bring in one million members to the Galle Face Green to elect their next Presidential candidate,” he said.

“But first we have to win the Provincial council elections, then only we can talk of the Presidential,” Premadasa said.

He appealed to all to unite under the new team with a common purpose and prepare for the provincial council elections.

“I promise you that I will protect the party and Sajith Premadasa will bow his head to any unanimous decision made by the party,” he said.

“My father too protected the party and its leadership, and was steadfast in his journey. Despite the hurdles put before him and the disappointments he faced under JR’s leadership, he stood by JR as his second in command. He never betrayed the party; I will follow him,” he said.

“I would like to say that if the demand of our party supporters are not met, God bless us all,” he said.

Premadasa said that he had full faith in the Prime Minister to deliver. 

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