Former Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe with over 4 decades of parliamentary experience and expertise is considered to be one of the most proficient Sri Lankan politicians in the field of diplomatic affairs as well. Even though Mr. Wickremasinghe unexpectedly lost his parliamentary seat in the 2020 general elections, some of the party seniors suggest that he should be the most preferred candidate to represent UNP in the parliament.
On this backdrop, we noticed a series of recurring posts crediting former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe to various achievements right from his school days till his term as the Prime Minister of the country. However, Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka’s investigations found out that this data is false and baseless.
Viral Claims on Social Media:
The post, presented below with a picture of the former PM, makes several claims about his achievements from the time he was a schoolboy to his political career. The post has been shared close to seven thousand times and since August 2020.
Below are some of the recent version of the same posts.
The posts viral in Sinhala attribute 10 achievements to Ranil Wickremasinghe. The English translation of these points is seen below.
- Seventh in the country for his GCE O/Level results
- Achieved all-island 2nd place for his GCE A/Level results
- President of the Debate & Drama Club of Royal College
- First barrister to come out of Law College in Sri Lanka
- Law scholar from the University of Oxford
- First 15-year-old to address the United Nations
- First foreign leader to address the Japanese parliament in Japanese
- Youngest ever prime minister of Sri Lanka
- First Sri Lankan to be awarded the prestigious Ballon D’Or award twice and the most educated Prime Minister
- First Sri Lankan to be nominated for a Nobel prize in 1989
Considering the number of lofty achievements made in these claim, which have never been heard before, it was necessary to investigate these claims to ascertain the authenticity of the post itself. Let’s take a look at each claim and find out how many of these claims are facts.
Claim 1-3: O/L & A/L results and School Club presidency
While Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examination results are not available to the public, several other claims, especially with regard to Wickremesinghe’s professional career are available online. Furthermore, while the fact that he attended Royal College in Colombo is well-known, neither his Wikipedia page nor any online records about Mr. Wickremasinghe make any claims regarding his secondary examination results, nor his presidency of a school club. We inquired about this post with the Royal College Debate and Drama clubs and we were informed that while he was part of the College debate team he was never the president of the club.
Considering that, there are no official statements to back any of the above three claims; it is highly unlikely that the claims have any truth behind them.
Claim 4: First Barrister of the Law College
The fourth claim in the post about him being the first barrister of the Law College is verifiable. Since the college itself was established in the 1800’s as per the Law College website, it is ridiculous to assume that Wickremesinghe was the first barrister to have graduated from the college. In fact, it is not possible to take an oath as a barrister from SL Law College. The Law Portal
In addition, Sri Lankan Barristers – Wikipedia list suggests that there have been a number of barristers even before birth of Mr. Wickremasinghe in 1949 all of whom have studied in the UK.
What official channels do confirm is that Mr. Wickremasinghe was President of the Law Students Union and the Vice President of the University Students’ Council while at Law College.
Claim 5: Oxford University Scholar
The fifth claim states that he is an Oxford University law scholar. However, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Wikipedia page claims that he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Deakin University (Australia) in 2017 for his efforts to transform Sri Lanka into a stable democracy. A video of him receiving the doctorate was published on Ada Derana’s YouTube channel on 14 February 2017 as seen here
Onfurther search for Wickremesinghe’s association with the University of Oxford, we found that he was invited to speak at the Oxford Union on 8th October 2018. The Oxford Union (The Oxford Union Society) is a prestigious debate club located in the city of Oxford, which merely invited him as an honorary speaker. In his speech that time, PM Ranil Wickremasinghe states about two of the former Presidents of the Oxford Union namely Lalith Athulathmudali and Lakshman Kadirgamar. Full Speech is seen here
Video description of the former PMs speech at the Oxford Union published on their official YouTube does not make any claim to his association with the university either. Incidentally, the description states that Mr. Wickremasinghe was Sri Lanka’s youngest ever-cabinet minister, which is a fact not mentioned in the viral post.
Claim 6: First 15-year-old to address the United Nations Assembly
There is no substantial evidence, which suggests that Mr Wickremasinghe was the only person to address the UN General Assembly when he was 15 years old. Even though United Nations General Assembly was originated in 1945, UN Youth Delegate Programme started at much later stage in 1980s by this time Mr Wickremasinghe was in his 30s. Here is the speech from PM Ranil Wickremasinghe in June 2017 when he addressed the UN general Assembly.
Accordingly, the statement that he addressed the UN General Assembly at the age of 15 is also untrue
Claim 7: Addresses Japanese Parliament in Japanese
Yet another claim made in the post is that Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the parliament of Japan, speaking Japanese and that he was the first foreign head of state to do so. What we do know is that he did in fact address the parliament as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in October 2015, but the video of his address confirms that he did so in English. The video, published on Ada Derana’s official YouTube channel can be seen here
Claim 8: Youngest prime minister of Sri Lanka
We checked the list of Sri Lankan Prime Ministers list from Wikipedia and from Sri Lanka parliament as seen below.
From this data, it is clear that Sri Lanka’s second PM Dudley Senanayake was 41 years at the time when he assumed duties as the Prime Minister, after the sudden death of his father, Sri Lanka’s first PM after Independence.
Whereas Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe who was 43 years when he was appointed as the PM in 1993, in a similar manner after the assassination of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
Claim 9: Only Sri Lankan to be awarded the Ballon D’Or twice and the most educated PM
The penultimate claim in the post tells us that Wickremasinghe was the only Sri Lankan to be awarded the Ballon D’Or twice. However, the Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by French news magazine France Football and is regarded as the most prestigious individual award for football players. As Wickremesinghe is not a football player, the claim seems ridiculous.
Another claim in the post is that he was the most educated Prime Minister in the world. Mr. Wickremasinghe is a graduate in law from University of Colombo and after passing his law exams at Sri Lanka Law College he took oath as an advocate. As we mentioned earlier, he was also conferred an honorary doctorate by Deakin University in Australia. However, claiming that he is the most educated PM ever will be not true. For instance, the former PM of India Dr. Manmohan Singh was MA and BA in Economics from Punjab University and did his Economics Tripos from Cambridge University. On the top of that he also completed his D. Phil from Oxford University. Some websites such as Times of Election also make similar claims and Sri Lanka’s former PM is not mentioned in any of these listicles. Further, since Wickremesinghe’s doctorate was merely an honorary one, it cannot be used as a claim of educational achievement. However, Mr. Wickremasinghe is generally regarded as one of the more educated politicians with a wealth of experience in Sri Lankan political circles.
Claim 10: First Sri Lankan to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1989
The final claim tells us that he was the first Sri Lankan to be nominated for a Nobel peace prize in 1989. While we know that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Dalai Lama that year, there is no mention of the former PM as a nominee in 1989 or any subsequent years. The reference to Wickremesinghe and Nobel Laureates is that he worked with Economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stieglitz when he organized the Sri Lanka Economic Forum in 2016.
Literature on Ranil Wickremasinghe
As these many claims have been refuted, it is necessary to take a look at Ranil Wickremesinghe’s biographical information available on his Facebook page as well as his official parliamentary bio, which never mentions of such achievements either.
Sampath Bandara speaks about Mr. Wickremasinghe and his special and lesser known talents and achievements in his book titled “Ranil Wickremasinghe – A Political Biography”. Yet there is no mention about the facts mentioned in viral social media posts in the interviews made with the author as seen here ,here and here.
In this biography published in 2015, it is noted that Mr. Wickremasinghe was only the third person ever to hold the office as the Prime Minister of a country on four different occasions. However, in 2018 after the Constitutional Crisis, Mr Wickremasinghe was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the 5th time as well.
Here is another post in Sinhala published about Ranil Wickremasinghe
Furthermore, in order to ascertain the above claims we contacted the UNP Colombo District Organizer Lasantha Gunawardena as well, who is a close associate of Mr Wickremasinghe. He also confirmed the data published in the social media posts are false.
Based on our evidence found against the claims made in the viral post, we found the post false and misleading. Further, the official biographies available online already detail a large list of factual achievements which could have been used to promote Wickremesinghe instead.
Title:Are these actual achievements of the former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe? Find out the Truth…Fact Check By: Shanaya Seneviratne