Published on: December 16, 2022

President invites Rotary Club to join with Government in its projects to restore Sri Lanka’s economy

President Ranil Wickremesinghe invited the Rotary Club to join Sri Lanka’s National Food Security programme to ensure a self-sufficient country by next year. He said that Sri Lanka has established a combined mechanism which is working together with the government and the private sector to organize growing of food for the supply chain, storing and delivering of food into the cities. It is also concerned with malnutrition, people without food and how to feed them.

He also acknowledged the Rotary, for the effort that was taken at a time when Sri Lanka was in difficulty, and how the Rotary came along to provide medicine to Sri Lanka.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while addressing the gathering to mark the Rotary International President Jennifer Jones’s visit to Sri Lanka organized by the Rotary District 3220 at the Shangri La Hotel Colombo, yesterday evening (14).

The President also said, “I have seen your campaign to plant a million trees, well next year is also going to be the year when we go full out on mitigating climate change. A number of laws will be passed but we want to start urban forests and many other projects. I am sure you in the Rotary, will be taking part in some of the projects. So this is another area in which I feel I have to ask the Rotary to help me.”

He further said that a government has to be innovative in a crisis situation. The government has to restore the economy as well as be bold to see how it can also get the country on the top of the world, which he said is not a difficult and impossible task. He also pointed out that the government needs the commitment of the public for the next 25 years to make this country, a good beautiful country and a strong country.

Rotary International President Mrs. Jennifer Jones, presented a memento, a painting, ‘Imagine one’s Dream’ especially designed and painted for President Wickremesinghe.

Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe, Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukkwella, District Governor Pubudu De Zoysa, College of Governors Ajith Weerasinghe, Krish Rajendran, and other officials also participated in this occasion.

Following is the full speech made by the President;

I am here to repay a debt. When things were pretty bad when I became the Prime Minister and I was under fire, one of the biggest issues was the shortage of medicine. So Keheliya came along to me and said kindly find me some money to buy medicines. At that time we were dead broke. What do I do? I thought it best to turn to Ravi and the Rotary. So they came along and they started this lifeline. And as he said, work with FAO we got to get everyone together and we got the medicine too. So thank you Rotary, thank you, Ravi.

Now, why don’t you join us in the next programme, the National Food Security programme? To ensure we are self-sufficient next year, despite not having fertilizer and the consequences of the Ukrainian war. We have already taken over, we started the campaign to ensure that we have sufficient food in our country, indeed ourselves and we have got a combined mechanism which is working together with the government sector and the private sector. At the basic level of the Divisional Secretary’s Division, we are handing it over to people to give leadership.

Work with the Divisional Secretary’s combined mechanism, we are bringing together all the government departments, and provincial institutions in the divisions and we want them to work with the local organizations. There are different people who have come and taken over divisions, some have been members of Parliament, and some are government servants in that region. Many in the social service organizations and many in the private sector have also joined.

So I would like you all to take over a few divisions and organize the growing of food for the supply chain, storing of food and how we get the food here into the cities. On the other hand, we have other area divisions like in Colombo, we are just looking at malnutrition, people without food and how we can feed them.

Throughout the country, we are growing food, identifying the people without food, looking at malnutrition, and trying to certainly help them to get along. Community kitchens have been started and there are many more to be done.

If there are some of you who are willing I must say, this is the time and I have no doubt that you will all get together and join us in the food security campaign. We have to ensure that no one goes hungry.

Some of the people are going through a very tough time and if all of us get together I think we have sufficient resources to look after them.

So this is my request now, thank you for the lifeline, keep the lifeline going and then get into this campaign.

The Rotary is a force for the good. The Rotary brings together the humane aspects of society in a world whether it be political, social or economic, marked by divisions and more so by hate. The level of hate in the world is increasing. It is alarming. Nevertheless, there have to be forces of good and that is what the Rotary has turned out to be. You spread across the world, from Chicago now you are covering virtually every country other than North Korea. There may be some secret Rotarians there too. But you brought together people who are committed to helping in their society in their own community. People who are helping anonymously, as a community, as a group. Now, this is what we admire. One of the most successful campaigns has been the eradication of polio. I remembered the effort that Ravi and others took back in the days when the war was on and we went into the territory, which was under the control of LTTE. That was a difficult task. Firstly, you could have been attacked by the LTTE, secondly, you could have been attacked by those in the South who didn’t want anyone to go to the controlled areas, but the job was done. That was part of the greater programme of the Rotary to eradicate polio.

As seen in your campaign to plant a million trees, well next year is also going to be the year when we go full out on mitigating climate change. A number of laws will be passed but we want to start urban forests and many other projects. I am sure you in the Rotary, will be taking part in some of the projects. So this is another area in which I feel I have to ask Rotary to help me.

Because you asked me how I keep this ticking, I don’t know if you want to put some sticking plaster. It’s holding so far, and from time to time I reach out to people and organizations and say help us to keep this together. In a crisis, we have to be innovative. Which is what my friends from the other school have not learned. Nevertheless, we know the duty we have. We not only have to restore our economy, but we got to be bold and see how we can also get to the top of the world. It is not difficult. It is not impossible. Just commit ourselves for the next 25 years. Some of us won’t be there. The rest of you will be. But let us commit ourselves to making this country, a good country, a beautiful country and a strong country.

To do so, we need all your commitment and that is the spirit of the Rotary. I wish many other parts of our community would have that spirit. A sense of commitment, that sense of commitment has to be spread. A country in peril like Sri Lanka requires that and this is the work that you have to spread throughout the world. We have here Rotarians not only from Sri Lanka, from India, Maldives, and Canada, you forget your differences and get together. There is one goal and that is the goal which all of us have to achieve if this world is to be a better place. That is our commitment to humanity. Jennifer made her own personal commitment leaving aside the media business, I have been at both ends of the media, the hitting end and the receiving end. But, you made your commitment to the Rotary. You made your commitment to the community. And you come up and you are here as the first female President of the Rotary. And then you have the female District Governor in Sri Lanka. This is what my wife calls a Dream Team, all headed by women. Why not, after all 52% of Sri Lanka is women and you may say there are not enough females in the Rotary. So one of their jobs is to increase the number. In any case, I am happy that she came here and I am happy that she was able to spend two days here. But we hope Jennifer will have time to come here and spend a longer time in Sri Lanka working among the most disadvantaged in our country. So I must say thank you to the Rotary. Thank you for what you are doing throughout the world. So let me raise a toast both to the Rotary International and to its first female President Jennifer Jones. Cheers.



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