An elderly statesman, evergreen politician, polished gentleman, and a graceful opponent. A man born with a silver spoon, nephew of the greatest Sri Lankan statesman JR Jayawardene, a man of breeding who may not be in touch with the common man and understand his turbulences and plight. But a veteran politician who entered politics in the mid seventy’s and became the youngest cabinet minister in Sri Lanka. A deal maker who crossed party lines to form a formidable alliance including with members of the SLFP. A survivor of many internal and external battles.
He oversaw the economic boom of the early nineties in Sri Lanka with the heavy backing of the business community. Even when his party lost power in the parliament to Chandrika Kumaratunga, he worked with the new leader in a bipartisan manner to develop Sri Lanka. In 2003 as the prime minister of Sri Lanka during a ceasefire with the LTTE, he organized the Tokyo Donor Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka and was able to secure 4.5 billion dollars in reconstruction and aid.
Mr. Wickremasinghe was quite earnest in his approach with Velupillai Prabhakaran about the peace process (CFA). Even though Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) reported in 2007 that during the ceasefire LTTE had violated the CFA on 3830 occasions while the government of Sri Lanka had violated the CFA on only 351 occasions, he was in favor of putting a proposal for an Interim Self Governing Authority by LTTE against the wishes of the Sinhala hardliners in both parties. Chandrika Kumaratunga seized this opportunity to sack three cabinet ministers and dissolved the parliament stating it was national security.
Mr. Wickremasinghe was instrumental in the USA aligning with Sri Lanka against the war on terrorism. During the ceasefire period, he brought in the United States assessment team and conducted a study from Sept 12–2002 to Oct 24, 2002, which made several recommendations to strengthen the capabilities of the Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy , and Sri Lanka Air Force in case of the peace process fails. After studying the weakness of the military the study recommended the use of cluster bombs (Which weren’t banned until 2010 when the Cluster Munitions Convention came into effect)to destroy unarmored area targets and recommended arming Kfirs and Mi-24 gunships with guided weapons in case of fighting close to enemy forces. The US also donated the SLNS Samudra during this time
Under the leadership of the Rajapakse government, LTTE was completely decimated and defeated but Ranil played a key role in the architecture of the defat. Even before Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse was elected as the leader of the nation, Mr. Wickremasinghe had successfully managed to create a wedge between LTTE supremo Prabhakaran and his Eastern Commander Karuna. That breakup made it a little easier for Mr. Gotabaya’s forces to destroy the LTTE
As they say, Mr. Wickremesinghe knows how to play ball, he is a skilled negotiator, knows when to give in, but also knows how to play hardball when the need arises. Being Mr. Rajapakse’s deputy, he can now help him with the maneuvering of international relations, especially with the west and bring in desperately needed aid and negotiate better credit terms and leniency pertaining to the payment terms. This will allow Mr. Rajapakse to unify the country and restart growth.
The journey is long, but the guides are excellent, and there sure is a light at the end.