Present government granted freedom of expression, eliminated white van culture – Prime Minister

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says the present government has given the people the freedom to express their views like no other government in the history and everyone should work for the victory of the Presidential candidate of the United National Front to take forward that freedom.

Addressing a gathering of civil society representatives at the Temple Trees today, the Prime Minister said the white van culture had disappeared with the establishment of democratic freedom by the current government.

A group of politicians representing the United National Front and Civil Society activists met the Prime Minister, yesterday.

He said the ruling United National Party will field Sajith Premadasa as the UNF candidate and emphasized the need to work for the victory of the party’s candidate at the forthcoming election and to win the parliamentary election to form a majority government.

“We will field Sajith Premadasa as our candidate. We hope to win the parliamentary election, to get the majority, to do the work that could not be done by the minority government.”

The Premier asked the civil society representatives to safeguard the democratic freedom granted by the government.

“We have been involved in many battles. We all work together so we can talk freely today. You can act freely. Today we have that democratic freedom in Sri Lanka. No one can be abused or influenced.”

“Protect this freedom. Remember to show that there is freedom no matter how much we are blamed or said we have flawed. There is freedom to criticize us. We didn’t take that right away. We accept everyone as Sri Lankans.”

He said the dreaded white van culture no longer exists in Sri Lanka. “There are no white vans in Sri Lanka today. The white van culture is over. The police are acting on the law. So we can live freely. Not only that. When we fully implement this amendment it will be strengthened. The Cabinet of Ministers will be fully responsible to the Parliament.”

The Premier pointed out that the parliamentary sessions are open to the media. “Parliamentary sessions are being broadcasted today. We’re not going to hide them. Today there is a free press. There is no impact on the media. We must safeguard that freedom. Freedom of access to information, human rights, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Judiciary are all independent today.”

“We were able to achieve this freedom, carry forward reconcilaition even though we were a minority government. The country needs to invest a lot in education, health and rural infrastructure and make progress. One example is the Suraksha Insurance for all school children. Another benefit is giving free stents. There is a free ambulance service today.”

He said a new constitution should be passed and that is why the next few years will be crucial to take the freedom, development forward. “If so, this government should be in power. This government has to win the presidential election.”

“What’s the alternative? Bring the white van back? To go back to racist bigotry? Let us all work together to win our candidate this time. Don’t think of this as a victory for a candidate or a front. I declare that this is the first step in our struggle to consolidate the democratic rights and finish what we set out to do,” said the Prime Minister.

Senior Lecturer of the Sri Jayewardenepura University venerable Dambara Amila Thera, Minister Rauff Hakeem and a group of Parliamentarians were present at the meeting.

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