by Zacki Jabbar
Prime Minister Ranil Wickrememesinghe said yesterday that even though the current UNP led National Unity government had achieved a great deal in terms of freedom and economic development, it was he who was unreasonably criticised the most by a section of the media.
Speaking at an event held at SriKotha, to release the performance report of the government over the last two and a half years, Wickremesinghe said the media had so soon forgotten how they had been harassed, assaulted and in some instances killed during the reign of terror under the Rajapaksa government.
“Is it because we gave journalists the freedom to criticise and write that they are constantly attacking us, especially me?”
The Prime Minister said the media should not harbour any fears because his responses were only verbal. He said the present government had eliminated the white van syndrome once and for all, ensuring that para military groups would no longer come to pick up journalists at midnight.
Wickremesinghe said that the new found freedom had also resulted in some trade unions who had been shivering in their pants while Mahinda was in power, boldly engaged in politically motivated demonstrations aimed at toppling the government instead of sticking to issues pertaining to their professions.
“Mahinda Rajapaksa left a mountain of debt and a fear-stricken society on Jan. 8, 2015. The media, the judiciary, and Parliament were not allowed to function freely while human rights were violated with impunity. It was under these circumstances that we set about repairing the damage that had been done. We have provided economic freedom by increasing salaries, reducing fuel prices and the prices of essential goods and services, medicinal drugs etc., financial assistance for pregnant women, housing schemes and allocated more funds for the education and health sectors among other measures.”
The Prime Minister said various measures had been introduced to clear the huge debt burden and fast track development. “The economy took over was like patient on the deathbed. The situation has somewhat improved during the last two and a half years, but more needs to be done to ensure that the people have better standards of living. I am criticised even for this.”
The foundation had been laid for economic development and the benefits could be reaped over the next few years, he added.