3 July, 2022


A Leap Of Courage 

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

Candidate Sajith Premadasa made a critically concise, piercingly persuasive statement on Thursday, just nine days before the final faceoff. 

“The common hope of the entire country is how to change this rotten, corrupt political and societal system”

He added “I will appoint a new, first-time Prime Minister who will be endorsed by the majority,” 

Why did he say what he said? This essay undertakes to comprehend what he said and to unravel the reasons why he said it.  

Having closed the gap between him and his main opponent he has no choice but to announce now what he must do anyhow if, and when, he wins. 

Clearly, he intends to make a quantum leap well past the 50% plus one by wooing the disenchanted segment that has gravitated to alternative candidates.

At age 52, he is a world minded candidate. He has in the last fortnight closed the gap between him and his septuagenarian opponent whose primary purpose is to regain the family fiefdom.

Sajith has recognized the compelling logic of the ascension of the alternative candidacy of Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the telling impact of two other candidates Mahesh Senanayaka and Ajantha Perera. 

Progressive voters are discerning voters. They now have a clear option of a second preference that appeases both ideology and the pragmatic imperative from which they have no escape unless saddled with some suicidal despair. 

It is startlingly straightforward statement. 

We have to change who holds power and how they hold power.  It has become clear to me that there is only one way for solving Sri Lanka’s problems. That is by clean up politics in this country while not sacrificing our cherished democracy and individual freedoms.”

“no Minister will be able to appoint family members to important positions.”

In his scathing sweep, the candidate propelled by an insurgency within the UNP,  has broken free from the dead weight of the anti-incumbency fatigue, ingrained  in the public psyche,  linked to the  dull as dishwater leadership  of his party that has meandered through the last four and half years with some noteworthy achievements eclipsed by scandal and cronyism.   

With disarming disdain, he pronounced “We have to change who holds power and how they hold power.” 

Politics rewards the liar, the coward and the egoistical. What politicians are good at is to put the past behind them and move on. 

There is a common denominator applicable to Mahinda Rajapaksa who ruled the country for a decade and Ranil Wickremesinghe who persistently tried to give his best shot at the job for a quarter century. It is their nonchalance and self-poise to put the past behind them and move on that keeps them going.   

The simplest and the easiest way to move on is to ignore the mistakes made and to convince yourself that you never made them. The younger brother of the affable tyrant is equally endowed with that spirit. 

Both Mahinda and Ranil are deliriously dexterous at obfuscation. They both excel in denial of any wrongdoing, even in the light of overwhelming evidence. 

The past four and half years is ample proof of how the two make believe adversaries played the system. 

It is a system that rewards duplicity and punishes decent behavior. 

Three decades of a horrendous conflict has had its toll on our politics. For too long, we have regarded blind self-confidence and boorish bluster as the single significant quality of leadership. 

We must consider Sajith’s statement in this context.  

At this point a confession is in order.

I was extremely skeptical of his candidacy in this looming battle against a neo fascist family kleptocracy. They would spare no effort in regaining their stranglehold of a people petrified in ancient consecrated tribal prejudice. 

Ranil Wickremesinghe cynically avoided reforming the system. He paved way for a neo fascist candidate in the belief that democratic forces would coalesce around him. 

Like many others. I was ready to vote for one of the two alternative candidates who correctly and accurately identified the sizable constituency of weary citizens. We could exercise our franchise together with the frustrated curse -a plague on both houses. 

Since his official nomination, Sajith Premadasa has displayed great stamina as an effective campaigner. With surprising ease, he has succeeded in ridiculing the bombast of his opponent who now seems frozen within his undoubtedly substantial tribal base. 

After imperiously acknowledging ‘hurrahs’ from the stage Gotabaya delivers his lecture. In contrast, Sajith has the remarkable ability to talk to people. While talking he gives the impression that he in fact is listening to them. He loves doing it and draws his energy from the people. 

Most politicians are trained to move through crowds smiling, holding hands. But the smile does not reach their eyes. Sajith Premadasa makes eye contact with the hoi polloi with genuine ease. 

As Victor Ivan has surmised, Sajith has wider nationwide coalition that transcends the usual political and ideological fault lines. 

Cutting across partisan politics, he commands a primary, structural relationship with the voiceless and the deprived. 

With the conspicuous exception of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, all other major candidates have pointed to the unforgivable socio-economic disparities in our society. 

As pointed out in my earlier essay – a centrist social compact, Sajith Premadasa has presented a manifesto that advocates a centrist policy program. It has an Eagle’s eye focus on social equity.

It is natural that the Rajapaksa family would not approach the subject of social equity. Royals don’t do that sort of rubbish. They will offer handouts. In any event they would approach this sensitive subject with some trepidation.

The lavish nuptials of three offspring greeted with wild frenzy by adoring fans in the social media precludes them from an honest approach to the subject of opulence greeted with vague jealously or censored as downright vulgar.  

There are somethings that never change. Some sixty years ago, the influential economist JK Galbraith dealt with this hypersensitive social malaise. He was Kennedy’s hand-picked ambassador to Nehru’s India. 

His book ‘The Affluent Society’ excited my generation of progressives. We relished his catchy expression “private opulence amidst public squalor”. 

Galbraith was echoing the words of the Roman historian Sallust, who said it in Latin about five centuries after Buddhism that has supposedly impacted our collective conscience.  

Habemus publice egestatem, privatim, opulentiam – We have luxury and avarice, but as a people poverty, and in private, opulence.” 

As I said earlier somethings don’t change. What characterized the late stages of the Roman republic seems to be what ails our republic today. 

We are now the subject of a tug-of-war between the Rajapaksa family, their followers and the rest still clinging on to sanity.   

The idea that the state has an obligation to assist the less privileged in terms of opportunity has acquired the sanctity of releveled truth. That every citizen is entitled to the basic necessities of a modern society is guiding principle that is observed in breach even by despots who depend on elections.  

Even the most diehard champions of free marketeering as the means of creating wealth  concede that, market competition invariably leaves a segment of our society behind. 

This presidential election will tell us the size of that left behind segment. However, one has to make allowance for the devout percentage who would attribute their deprivation to ‘karmic influence’ . The clerical establishment cocooned in patronal politics has a vital role in politics of poverty.  

A free market has an embedded mechanism that constantly threatens the poor. Today poverty has become the focal point of our political discourse. Seventy-one years of politics of poverty has exposed the poverty of our politics. 

For too long the vulnerable and the marginal have been used as pawns in the chess game of the elite class. 

Those who evaluate candidates in the comfort of their self-satisfying world of schadenfreude will play the blame game. They will have difficulty in assigning the fault of being poor to the victims of an inherently imperfect system.  

We must remember that Sajith’s nomination was the result of a grassroots revolt against the elite leadership that has outlived its relevance and forfeited its integrity.   

Instead of playing the blame game, Sajith Premadasa has dived into the deep end to fight poverty, create jobs, increase wages and above all tackle income disparity. 

In his manifesto Sajith Premadasa, sums up his task in one simple line. He promises “A progressive country that leaves no one behind”. 

Political courage is the most admired, rarely displayed virtue in representative democracy. Sajith has made a leap of courage.  

It is a bold appeal to all progressive voters who have developed a bleak cynicism towards all politicians and the entire political process.  

With this unambiguous declaration of intent, he has earned the second preference of the progressive constituency whose first preference would be Anura Kumara or any other.  

Sajith has enabled them to be ideologically consistent and politically pragmatic. 

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Latest comments

  • 6

    WOW ,, New PM from Keselwatta Kid .. Could it be Pa Cha Ranawaka or Mangala Samanala Samaraweera?..

    I thought Ahimsa Wickrematunge’s last minute plea from Down Under to our poor great majority of the inhabitants made it 50 :50

    Now Dr Alwis seems to be confident that his plea will push it over 51% .

    .I am so thrilled just to see Keselwatta Kid sacking Dr Ranil and his Crooked Brigade in the Cabinet .
    Then appoint his brand new PM .
    And Eran , Harin, Ajith, Sujee, Marrickkar, Ranjan Daya, Buddhika,Thevere Ponny, Bathudeen, Rauf Hakeem and Hizbulla as the Cabinet Ministers

    • 6

      If this fellow Sumanasekera lives in Australia, he would never be allowed cyber space freedom to write such blasphemous drivel in that country.

      • 2

        Justice & Fairplay:
        I don’t think you are right. In any country using English as its language of communication, this unmentionable – Sumaney – would not be published because of the incomprehensibility of what he produces.
        In all fairness, though, language has little to do with what he writes because it is obviously the product of an addled brain.

    • 3

      Give it a break, man.
      No amount of cursing the Kesel watta kid will change the wrongs in your life.
      Change your priorities, stop living in delusion.
      Tell us more about your English speaking Monk and your anal escapades. You dirty rotten scumbag.

  • 24

    Sarath, whatever pundits’ say, Sajith is riding the waves.
    He is charismatic with full of energy and guts, and mesmerising the young and old, men and women- Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims – with his pro-poor stand. On the campaign trials people adore him, and all them know, that they are with the winner. On 17th, he is going to be the biggest winner. In – spite of his huge spending, the numbers are not adding up for Gota. Gota’s uninspiring campaign has already fizzled out, and Gota and MR camp is on their back foot, struggling for traction and lost direction for the rural poor, their primary voter base and the minorities are leaving then in draws. Sajith’s magnetic pull is massively drawing them towards him.

    • 2

      Amazing if true.
      Thank you, Nimal

  • 20

    sajith ,sajith ,sajith,sajith
    the battle cry of the poor and the marginalised

  • 3

    Sarath de Alwis writes
    It is startlingly straightforward statement”.
    Let us say it is a typo and so he has missed an article.

    But can we pardon a writer who cannot get his verbs to agree with the subjects of his sentences?
    For example, Monsier Sarath de Alwis a écrit:
    The past four and half years is ample ..
    The verb should be are and NOT is.
    Three decades of a horrendous conflict has
    The subject, “three decades” takes the verb have and not has.
    and so on.

    Besides, there is bad logic in many sentences.
    For instance, we have regarded blind self-confidence and boorish bluster as the single significant quality “
    Self-confidence and boorish bluster cannot be amalgamated to a “single significant quality”. These are two significant and non-inclusive qualities. The author was more interested in alliteration than in making good sense.

    The authors misuses the word patronal in “patronal politics”. It is used in Spanish but not in English except in the context of liturgy (e.g., patronal feast = Fiesta).

    Well, one gets tired of correcting all the mistakes in an essay riddled with so may transgressions of grammar and good usage.

    Sarath de Alwis should get his writing corrected by a person with good English writing skills before rushing to publish.

    • 19

      So, you understood what Sarath de Alwis wanted to say. That’s the purpose of having a language. It is not a grammar lesson.

      • 1

        Sam de Silva:
        You are right and I would add that these “language experts” are very selective in their targets because they seem to be totally blind to the gobbldegook produced by pro-Rajapaksa contributors who can’t string together a single sentence of comprehensible, leave along grammatical, English.
        So much for objectivity from those supporting Fascism in SL!

        • 0

          To Mr. van der Poorten

          There is no word in English, French, Dutch or German which is written as gobbldegook

          The correct word, as used in English, when broken down to syllables is gob·ble·dy·gook

          I suppose Mr. van der Pooten ( man of the gate or doorkeeper or Porter in Dutch) prides in his proletarian right to ignore the rules of grammar invented by the Capitalist-Fascists, and wishes to lead a workers revolution against grammar itself.

          My critique was provoked by Sarath de Alwis’s essay which had a title in French, Premadasa, Pere et Fils, but then, even the very first English sentence in that essay was grammatically incorrect. So I looked though his writings, and was very disappointed to see that, leave aside French, he doesn’t even write good English.

    • 16

      Dumbokritist – Are you trying to give English Language lessons in this column?

      • 0

        To meer
        I thank the Sanskritist for displaying these grammar mistakes of these columnists who don’t even take the trouble to correct what they write before they post it to the public..
        These are helpful to every one of us. What makes you upset about it?

    • 6

      Sanskrit: if you were driven by self- doubt in doing your post, banish the thought – you are sexually very attractive.

    • 2

      Hey Sanskritist,
      Here is a complaint of yours:
      ‘The past four and half years is ample ..
      The verb should be are and NOT is.’
      WRONG. When a period of time, ‘the duration’, is considered, it is a single UNIT. The correct verb is IS, and is absolutely correct.
      I have no more time to educate you. Sayonara!

      • 0

        To unreal who says,
        The past four and half years is ample ..
        The verb should be are and NOT is WRONG. When a period of time, ‘the duration’, is considered, it is a single UNIT.

        To claim that the subject/verb number matching should be determined by the context holds exceptionally, and only if a very strong contextualization is used to override the subject. Good English writing should not normally need such constraining.

        A singular number usage with IS would have been perhaps acceptable if it were a clearly implied DURATION, as in “four years is a long period of time to be alone“, where the phrase “a long time” fixes a period.

        But even here, since the intention is to emphasize the longevity, the use of IS is not suitable, and it is an example of bad English.

        If the sentence indicating the “period measured ” has words like “ample”, as is the case with Sarath de Alwis’s usage, you are definitely in the plural, and there is NO WAY that a singular verb can be justified.

        If Sarath de Alwis has said, A period of four and half years is ample time”, that would have been perfectly good English.

        That there is a debate on this issue, and that Sarath de Alwis wrote it is symptomatic of what has happened to English writing in Sri Lanka.

        Read Eric Partridge, and see it even more clearly in Gervais, Le Bon usage.

        • 0

          This is to cancel the inadvertent bold front.
          Apologize for the error.

  • 7

    Sajith is somebody today because of his father. Sajith’s lack of principles and readiness to betray fundamental decencies was revealed when he invited Victor Ivan, the man who celebrated his father’s death to deliver his betrayal of the nation in the notorious Raavaya article.
    Why was Victor Ivan the main speaker at the launch of Sajith’s Manifesto? Isn’t it Sajith who should have explained the manifesto? Instead, Victor Ivan went off on his own tangent.

  • 13

    I wonder how many predicted the defeat of MR in January 2015, inspite of big crowds at his meetings? Although enthusiastic crowds at meetings can be an indicator of the mood of the People, it needs to translate into votes on the ‘Day’. It does appear SP has the momentum behind him but let’s wait and see the outcome on the 17th.

    SP has run an effective, smart and disciplined campaign. He does appear to be a young man on a’mission’.

    The chemistry is somewhat different in 2019 in that:

    1) In 2015 all anti Rajapaksa forces were united
    2) A new force within the SLFP led by CBK (Api Sri Lanka) supporting the UNF candidate in order to defeat the SLPP.
    3) There are candidates from minority communities (e.g. Tamils, Muslims) that are attempting to dilute the vote bank of the UNF candidate
    4) MR is not in the fray although he has nominated a proxy (who may not be as effective as him)
    5) The UNF candidate is an immensely popular young candidate with a proven track record who appeals to the poor and the downtrodden
    6) SLPP / SLFP are not controlling the Government machinery as they did in 2015. Thus the misuse of Government Property for electioneering purposes is minimised.
    7) There is an Independent EC in place in 2019
    8) The battle is between a baby boomer (BB – NGR) vs Gen X (SP) (In 2015 it was between a Silent Generation (MR) vs BB (MS))
    9) The election is mostly ‘free and fair’ in 2019 vs fraught with malpractices and abuse in 2015

    As there are no credible polls in SL, the final outcome cannot be predicted with certainty, although one has a ‘gut feeling’ & instinct which way the wind is blowing.

  • 4

    Thank you Sarath de Alwis.
    The more you write your convoluted gibberish with hundreds of quotes from unknown European heroes of yours, the more voters will turn to Gota!

  • 2

    Most politicians are trained Speak but he can speak in sinhala and english this man is modest in his speech, but not exceeds in his actions. courageous his heart smile through his eyes, that may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.

  • 3

    Sajith must manage new PM statement while RW insists he will be the PM. Well the word “new” is the key. Can RW be the newly appointed PM?

    • 7

      Saman – If Ranilpaksha is appointed the PM, all court cases against the Mafiapaksha’s will be thrown out!

  • 3

    Say NO to federalism.
    Vote for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.


    • 10

      soma – No SomASS, vote for Sajith!

  • 2

    Sajith says no to Nepotism. What was the known record in the decade of MR rule?

    Mahinda Rajapakse – Minister of Defence, Finance, Ports Development. Urban Development.
    Basil Rajapakse (Brother) Minister of Economic Development (Former Presidential Adviser)
    Chamal Rajapakse (Brother) Speaker, Former Minister of Ports & Aviation.
    Gotabaya Rajapakse (Brother) D.S. & Chairman of Appollo Hospitals (State-owned)
    Shasheendra Rajapakse (Nephew) C.M. Uva, Director SLT, SL Airlines, PS to Finance Minister (Uncle)
    Namal Rajapakse (Son) MP Hambantota, C`man TH, Co-owner Carlton Sports
    Yoshitha Rajapakse (son) Sub-Lieutenant (Navy) Co-owner Carlton Sports
    Nishantha Wickremasinghe (B-i-L) Chairman SL Airlines, Mahin Airlines
    Jaliya Wickramasuriya (Cousin) Ambassador to U.S.A
    Udayanga Weeratunga (Cousin) Ambassador to Russia
    Prasanna Wickramasooriya (Cousin) C`man Govt.owned Aviation Services Group
    Nimal L Hettiarachchi (Nephew) CEO Sky Networks SLT
    Lalith Chandradasa (B.i.L) Director D.F.C.C. Bank
    Asantha de Mel (Relation of Shirani) C`man C.P.C., C` man/Secy. SL Cricket
    Sumanadasa Abeyyagunawardena (Friend) Director NSB, Advisor ITN, J.P.,
    Family Astrologer, Director of Galle Hospital. Group of 15 only.

  • 3

    If and when Sajith is elected president, the first thing he must do is advise Ranil to retire from politics permanently and then appoint someone with a backbone as the prime minister. Ranil’s worst trait is that he is always making deals with criminals and protecting them by willfully obstructing justice. I find that truly appalling!

    As for the other rotter, he must be sent back to Polonnaruwa in a bullock cart.

  • 1

    Thanks Sarath!
    I sincerely hope Sajith, if he wins, will have the courage to clean up the UNP starting with Ranil.

    • 0

      Sunil Abeyratne – ….. and ensure that ALL pending court cases against
      Rajaballa’s are expedited and incarcerated if proven guilty as charged.

  • 1

    What few egocentric racist among Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslim must realise is that the mass who are poor and poverty stricken does not need your gibberish mindset which is causing immense suffering since independence. There is too much negativity and too much blood shed over the blessed land. Enough is Enough.

  • 3

    When you talk about Sajith , we have to mention his father .Everyone who can remember 89-93 then R Premadasa is a must. How much money he wasted. how many youth were killed. How much weapons given to LTTE.so much money R Premadsa robbed. Sajith is the same as his father. Sajith will do any thing come to power. what is doing now is taking innocent poor people a ride. Just like his father did.

  • 1

    Ranil will continue to be the PM. Sajith his salesmen like Sarath cannot hoodwink masses. Sajith NEVER presented a viable politico economic programme other than some populist promises. It generated comic value of course. Some might be tempted to vote for the comedian. But many would have been further alienated. Now Rajitha Senaratna with his fake white van driver (with a fake beard that everyone could note) and bogus fasting monk would be further damaging SP’s vote prospects. SP’s main political rival doesn’t need to worry or work hard. SP’s campaigners themselves are making his campaign a mockery. Sajith’s backers know his inflated ego. So they sent him on a pony cart! Sometimes I wonder whether they are intentionally pulling Sajith down while pretending to be supporting him. Of course opposition leader’s position is a coveted role for the defeated. Ranil has been playing his game very smart.

  • 1

    People in the Mullaitivu district, where I am now, speak about SAjith with admiration. Many have said that during the past 2 years he opened many houses his Ministry built for the displaced in many villages. He walked to every house and opened it and spoke to the owners. They said it is for his human touch that they are voting for Sajith. Not because their political representatives want them to. If Sajith have so touched the people in the South, his victory is assured.

  • 1

    if this clown is a leap of faith. it must be a leap to a hell hole

    • 1

      Gobhaya Premawardena – Gobhaya also
      means “clown”.

      • 0

        meer you uneducated chimp . What else can we expect from you

  • 0

    In desperation the writer would like us to believe that a barely known, unproven man, whose utterings signify phantasmagoria of a low IQ retard is eminently qualified for leading a country that is in dire straits. Meanwhile, he would like us to believe that another man, who has proven himself as a selfless fighter for the country and as strict disciplinarian with a clear track record is utterly unqualified for the position.

    [edited out]

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