Mangala belongs to a rare breed of politicians – Chandrika

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga while congratulating Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on completing three decades in the political battlefield during the most difficult period, said he belongs to a rare breed of politicians fast becoming extinct in Sri Lanka.

“A man with a vision for this country and not for his personal gain, a man with a skill to translate that vision into action with a steadfast commitment to honesty, courage and principles to stand up for what is right, said Kumaratunga, adding that people should appreciate the goodness in our political leaders as we seek out the bad if we are to make this country a progressive and prosperous nation,” former President Kumaratunga said.

Speaking at the celebrations in honour of Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s completion of 30 years in politics, held at the BMICH on Thursday, former President Kumaratunga said, “Mangala and I have shared the same vision and fought many battles for it. We have disagreed and argued many a time, but through it all shared a million moments of fun and laughter laced with sincere affection. Sincerity and honesty have proved to be the bedrock of our friendship. Thank you Mangala for being my friend in good times and bad.”

The foremr President reminisced that as the youngest minister in her Cabinet of Ministers, Mangala was called upon to bear the responsibility of transforming the telecommunication sector of the country. In fact, Mangala was instrumental in transforming the telecommunication sector from a bankrupt and inefficient state owned enterprise to a dynamic high performing and profitable public private venture for the first time in this country.

“For the first time in this country the telecommunications department delivered 100,000 fixed telephone lines and in five years we were able to increase the fixed line phone by six folds and mobile phones by over 20 times,” she said.

Pointing out to the opinion poll conducted around 1995 for the first time in the country’s history, 23% of the people agreed to a peaceful settlement, but the majority did not believe in a peaceful settlement, the former President said. “The problem was that political leaders had not dared speak of the necessity of an inclusive society. A society in which the richness of diversity would be appreciated and celebrated rather than rejected. Therefore, I created the Sudu Nelum movement to carry out an extensive dialogue and awareness campaigns throughout the country about the necessity in building a lasting peace. It was not difficult to find that person to lead that programme from amongst my younger Parliamentarians. The programme was handed over to Mangala and a group of around 20 MPs who carried out an excellent programme. Two years after the first survey the second one was conducted and it demonstrated that the 23% had increased to over 68% stating that they would support a Constitution that would guarantee all the rights of the minority communities as well as the unconditional abolishing of the Executive Presidency which was proposed in my Constitutional draft,” former President Kumaratunga said, adding that the subsequent fate of this project would be recorded as one of the most tragic chapters of our history, not wanting to elaborate further.

The former President noted with appreciation Minister Samaraweera’s commitment when handed the Sudu Nelum Movement. “The Sudu Nelum programme would not have been successful if not for the courage and commitment of Mangala, sometimes even at the cost of personal abuse even from within the ranks of our own government. Mangala has dared to dream and dared to fight for those dreams,” noting that Mangala’s courage to stand up for his dreams is aptly demonstrated by his invitation card where his undying love for his mother has been stated without any embarrassment.