New Delhi: Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is not known at home—reportedly—for his communication skills. The joke is that his jokes are often misunderstood and used against him. But at the inaugural session of the India Economic Summit organized by the World Economic Forum last week, he was a man transformed—from the word go.
“They told me I have three minutes. So stick to the three minutes. So I have put on my politician’s watch. At three minutes, there will be a big signal," Wickremesinghe said immediately flashing his left wrist to show off his non-existent watch.
His remark was met with peals of laughter from an audience comprising Indians and expatriates. He eventually went on to speak for 19 minutes. Of course by the normal standards of a politician, that was an incredibly short speech.
Those bettering the performance include Prime Minister Narendra Modi who spoke for 90 minutes on Independence Day last year. The record of delivering the longest speech in history rests with an Indian, former finance minister V. K. Krishna Menon. He took over seven hours at the UN in 1957 to explain India’s position on Kashmir and the speech is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest speech delivered at the United Nations (UN). The record of delivering the second longest speech at an international forum goes to former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who spoke for four hours and 29 minutes. Castro, later, bettered his own record in 1986 when he spoke for seven hours in Cuba.
Wickremasinghe, who was in New Delhi last week, was on his second visit to India in two years. The 67-year-old lawyer-turned-politician’s previous trip to India was in September last year.
Another instance of his wit connecting with the audience at the India Economic Summit came towards the end of his speech. Talking about increasing trade ties with the US, Wickremesinghe said, “We are also planning to negotiate with the US after the Presidential elections."
“In preparation for it, we have also set aside about 500 acres for a golf course and a Trump building," he said in a lighter vein.