Ranil sworn-in as PM, to form all party govt.

By Kesara Abeywardena
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe after taking oaths as the Prime Minister yesterday told a gathering at the Gangaramaya Temple that he would hold discussions with other parties represented in Parliament today and tomorrow with a view to forming an all party government, before submitting names for the new cabinet.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took oaths before President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the auspicious time of 2.22 pm in the President’s House yesterday afternoon. The simple function was attended by Mrs. Maithree Wickremesinghe and members of the Wickremesinghe family, UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya, assistant leader Gamini Atukorala, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and UNP chairman Charitha Ratwatta.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga arrived at the upper hall of the President’s House just after the retinue of Wickremesinghe arrived. Afterwards Wickremesinghe with a bright face full of smiles took seat before the President but waited for the auspicious time to take oaths. UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya had to walk to the table to remind the time as Wickremesinghe, President Kumaratunga and President’s Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi were engaged in friendly chatter.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn-in as the 12th Prime Minister of the country a post he held for a brief period before the UNP’s election defeat in 1994. After being sworn-in he was embraced by wife Maithree and other guests who rushed in to congratulate the new Prime Minister. Wickremesinghe also paid obeisance to his mother who was present to view the moment of pride.

Thereafter, the guests were led by the President to a reception where President Kumaratunga and the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Wickremesinghe were engaged in a lengthy discussion over refreshments.

Straight after the function at the President’s House Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe attended religious observances at the Hunupitiya Gangaramaya. The road to the Gangaramaya from Fort was decorated with national flags and green decor and people were gathered besides the road to greet the new Prime Minister.

A large gathering of party supporters, newly elected UNP MPs, candidates and other dignitaries were present at the temple to welcome the new Prime Minister. Premier Wickremesinghe and Maithree Wickremesinghe were led by Kandyan dancers to the intonation of "Magul Bera". Religious observances were led by the Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara Thera. The Mahanayake Theras of the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siyam Maha Nikaya and Ramanna Nikaya were also present. Other prominent bhikkhus included Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratane Thera who were openly critical of the UNP before 1994.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the gathering called on everyone to end the confrontationist politics and move towards a new political culture. "People have died and property belonging to a large number of people got destroyed to protect democracy in this country. Finally democracy has won," he said.

He said he would not tolerate any kind of violence and called on the police to act freely to safeguard the law and bring any person responsible for violating the law of the country to book. He pledged to work according to the words of the Buddha as preached to the Lichchavi princes on the conduct of state affairs.

He said that all parties represented in parliament will be called for discussions before naming the new cabinet. "It will be a small but important step in a new direction," he said.

The Chief Priest of the Gangaramaya Ven. Gnanissara Thera immediately collected a sum of Rs. 4 million from the benefactors of the temple to start a new programme for the youth of the country.