Utterances by President Premadasa

A lengthy excerpt from Premadasa’s crucial April ’73 text is needed to comprehend the core of his thought:

“Political power has been diffused among the people through the exercise of the franchise. In like manner the economic wealth of the country should also be diffused among the people. We should evolve a scheme under which the public sector, the co-operative sector, the private sector and a combination of all these three sectors – a joint sector – could function in competition with each other. Such competition will bring the maximum benefit to the people who need not become slaves of either a public or private monopoly. The government should ensure through its legislative and planning processes that the people participate in all aspects of development without allowing monopolies – state or individual.

The people’s participation should be enlisted in all matters relating to policy decisions and their implementation. The common people should be made to share the responsibility of finding solutions to their problems. That burden must not be presumed to be monopolised by a few. The common people should have a voice in making decisions and share in their implementation. It should be possible for employees and the people to own shares in any venture thus enabling them to participate in the management and even in profits. What is necessary to retrieve the economy of the country is a nationalisation of this nature.

If the problems of foreign exchange, development and unemployment are to be satisfactorily tackled, a massive development venture has to be launched to provide the necessary infra-structure such as a network of roads, a network of electricity, a network of irrigation and a network of domestic water supply. With the launching of such a scheme large numbers of people could be gainfully employed. Together with development of the infrastructure the country?s agricultural and industrial ventures will automatically improve. As a result foreign exchange could be conserved. People will get more money into their hands thus enabling them to purchase their requirements. The question of subsidies will eventually be eliminated. We can solve our problems. Scarcity of foreign exchange is no obstacle. To earn foreign exchange we must increase production; to increase production we must develop our national resources, and if we are to develop our national resources, we must harness the human potential that we have in abundance. It is futile to go on bended knees to foreign countries begging for assistance.

We must trust our people who have placed their confidence in us. Going to them for the vote alone is not sufficient. In order to formulate and implement policies from the village level to the national level we must get the active participation of our people including the new generation. The root cause of unrest among our people is that we have reduced them to mere voting machines operating once in five years. This system must change; and change completely to make the people the real masters”. (People’s Participation in Government- CDN Nov. 21, 1991.)