Ranil speaks of his lifestyle and much more | Sunday Observer
Exclusive interview to Sunday Observer

Ranil speaks of his lifestyle and much more

9 January, 2022

Sri Lanka’s four-time Prime Minister and long standing leader of the United National Party (UNP) Ranil Wickremesinghe had a light lifestyle and exclusive interview with well-known radio and television commentator Bhashini Samarasinghe, our guest writer.

During the exclusive interview, the former Premier went down memory lane from his school days at the adjoining Royal College, Colombo to achievements in life as one of the leading figures in politics and the leader of one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and a leading political party.

He spoke of a wide range of topics ranging from a schoolboy to debating team member, young politician, support he gets from his wife Prof Maithree to Constitutional reforms and social media to arts and culture and media freedom to leisure time.

Q: Ever had a future hope of getting involved in politics from a little age?

A: There was no such special hope. It was only later that I decided which way to go.

Q: What did you particularly like when you were a child?

A: In addition to studies, I was particularly fond of cricket. I also participated in societies like the School History Association and the Debate Association as I wished.

Q: How did you get involved in politics?

A: It was the late President J.R. Jayewardene who first invited me to join politics from the Kelaniya electorate. I initially rejected it. Only later I did agree.

Q: Don’t you think that you could not enjoy life as a young man, because you entered politics at a very young age?

A: No, It was a better experience. I gained more experience than others. It is a pleasure to give the country a new methodology.

Q: What do you think about the steps to be taken with regard to the youth of the country?

A: We need a policy framework for the youth that is planned for another 20 years. We made a program through the Youth Services Council. Later, prefects’ conventions were held at school level. Third is the program for the youth through the Youth Parliament.

Q: How is the support from your wife?

A: I get the support I deserve, and continue her work. Part of the work is being done at the university level, especially with regard to women’s rights.

Q: What do you think about the future of the UNP?

A: No party now has the vote base it had in 2019. Our party is coming forward with new conditions, new groups and also with updated ideas.

Q: Does that mean that a plan has already been made to take the party forward?

A: Obviously, we have to move forward with a program that is suitable for the 21st century. Without that the country cannot be built only through criticism.

Q: Why are these are allegations that theft has ruined our politics?

A: The voter has not rejected it because the voter itself selects those involved in corruption. This situation cannot be eliminated overnight. We need to rethink what to do with it.

Q: During your tenure, certain sections of the administration were also accused of corruption. What about that?

A: We established independent commissions to reduce this situation. To some extent such situations were under control. But the 20th Amendment deprived us of that independence. Now there is only a political council.

Q: We have been hearing about the standing voters of the UNP from the past. What has happened to those green voters today?

A: Since 1946 there has been a tradition of having a fixed number of voters for such a party. But now the situation is different. With new ideas and social media, today’s youth are less likely to be followers of one party.

Q: What do you think about social media behaviour today?

A: It has two sides. Terrorist ideologies should be controlled if they are propagated through social media or when extremist situations arise in different countries.

International or regional, social media must be managed in a way that is not harmful to society.

Although the United States has made economic gains through social media, the US Senate is still investigating relevant matters.

Q: What do you think about the field of art in Sri Lanka?

A: We first need to have a reading of where our art is. We cannot move forward without an idea of where art in Sri Lanka has fallen. There is a big problem about the place of art in the international arena and the place of art in Sri Lanka. Art in Sri Lanka should be more up to date. We have to face the world better.

We have to go through art to a more commercially advanced place.

Q: One of the accusations levelled at you by society is that you are not friendly and distant from people. What do you think about that?

A: Without policies, everyone today is suffering the consequences of their lies.

Q: There is a big crisis in our country regarding the economic situation. Your reading about it?

A: Now the economy of this country is in complete disarray. The Government has no revenue. The Central Bank has no foreign reserves. People have no way to live. In 2017, we strengthened the rupee and came up with a primary budget surplus. But what happened after that?

Q: How do you enjoy your leisure time?

A: Movies can now be watched from home. You can watch Netflix and watch other movies. Now, like the rest of the world, the tendency to watch from home rather than go to the theatre has increased under the Covid situation.

Q: What kind of songs do you like to enjoy?

A: Regardless of race or language, I prefer to listen to any song that can be relaxing and enjoyable.

Q: What are the fresh ideas that came to mind during this period?

A: The politics of the country should be re-created. The governance and economic situation of the country should be planned to suit the next 30 years. Because the Covid-19 caused problems, but the countries of the world did not fall. Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives developed during this period. Therefore, our country too must move forward without stagnation.

Q: What is your favourite biography to read often?

A: There are significant things to take from different characters. Now the library here has books with opinions from different people. For example, there is Lee Kuan Yew in one place, Trotsky in another, Lloyd George in another, and Mao Zedong on the other.

In this way there is a collection of outstanding ideas of different characters.

Q: Finally, what do you have to say?

A: We need to think anew. You can’t move forward without thinking anew. We have to make decisions without fear. We need to change the politics we do according to the aspirations of the people and the social-economic conditions.