Posted on May 26th, 2023


Premadasa set up the Koggala Free Trade Zone.The National Housing Development Authority, Urban Development Authority, Central Environmental Authority and the Institute for Construction Training and Development,  (ICTAD).  He started the Housing Development Finance Corporation in 1984.(Daily News./2023/05/01).  This later became HDFC Bank .

Premadasa  secured British funding for the construction of the Victoria Dam.    Premadasa set up Sevana fund which started as a fund to help build a new house for a poor family in Wellawaya. There arose the Sevana Lottery.He managed to secure support for Sevana Sarana Foster parents scheme when he was abroad, added Bradman Weerakoon. Premadasa role in these projects is  forgotten today.

In 1978, R. Premadasa, who was then the Minister of Local Government, ordered recruitment of GCE A.L. qualified youth as Health Wardens (at present called Health Instructors) to mainly uplift the public health of the people, living in marginalized lands in Colombo, said Pradeep Kariyawasam

150 Health Wardens were recruited and their task was to organize the communities and form Community Development societies, create children’s societies, improve hygiene practices and sanitation, provide basic amenities, look into the nutritional aspects and train the women in preparing nutritious, safe but cheaper food items, etc.

 During my period as the Colombo MOH, they helped me to control cholera and dengue and chikungunya epidemics, and eradicate polio from the city. They were the link to the poorer marginalized people in the flats and slums, continued Pradeep.

This service was only available at the Colombo Municipal Council and it suffered once the CMC came under provincial rule. Provincial Council said recruitment should be done by the CMC and CMC said it should be done by the PC. During the last 40 years, officers were recruited only twice, and with the retirement of officers, their numbers dwindled to around 25.

 Knowing the value of this service, I got the cadre increased to 185 before I left the service of the CMC, but on my return to the CMC, as a Councilor, to my utter dismay, I found that the cadre has been reduced to 75,said Pradeep Kariyawasam in 2020.

In 1990, Mrs. Moir was requested by President Premadasa to run a multimedia English language programme on television and radio to give the rural people an equal opportunity to learn the English language. She invited Barbara Goldsmith, a former Head of BBC English, to work with her. This team bought the hugely successful English language programme ‘Follow Me’ from the BBC and used this with introductions in Sinhala and Tamil on the state radio and television at prime time..

 They   had 80 language centers across the country from Jaffna in the North to Matara in the South, and held written and spoken English examinations set by the University of Warwick.The cost of sitting the exam was only Rs 100. Several teachers were sent abroad for training for Follow Me programme under Moir’s watchful eye. Almost all who got the Follow me certificate from Warwick, were able to get good jobs.

Follow me programme became so popular that the Department of Education found that more students were sitting for Follow Me than for their exams. It was a huge success. Premadasa was very satisfied, said Goolbhai Gunasekera. Truly what a president we lost when Mr. Premadasa was assassinated, she concluded.

Premadasa built the cricket stadium on Khettarama Road, MaligawattaColombo .It was built on swamp land previously used by monks ferrying across to the Khettarama temple. It is the largest stadium in Sri Lanka with a capacity of 35,000 spectators. It was Opened on 2 February 1986 with a match between a Sri Lanka ‘B’ side and an England ‘B’ team, and is today one of the main venues where the Sri Lankan cricket team play, having hosted more than 100 one day international matches.

Premadasa resuscitated the Tower Hall Foundation for drama and music, and rescued the old and now feeble artists who had performed there in the 1920s. He brought them on to the stage where they belted out songs. His father had loved Tower hall plays. Premadasa initiated a pension scheme for the senior Tower Hall artistes.

Jinadasa Vijayatunga who wrote Grass for my feet” was specially flown down from England in 1989 on the invitation of President Premadasa. He moved to his new home in Nugegoda that had been set up for him by President Premadasa – with two attendants to look after him since he had a heart ailment.Vijayatunga was to live in his new house for only a few weeks he passed away and was cremated at the General Cemetery, Kanatte, after which his ashes were interred in his beloved village of Urala where the grass had caressed his feet in his childhood. ( CONTINUED)

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