By Ananda Jayawickrama –
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected President of Sri Lanka with an overwhelming support from majority of the Sinhalease community in November 2019 and the same Gotabaya Rajapaksa was overthrown form the presidency and forced to leave the country by massive crowds led again by the Sinhalease majority in July 2022. The reason for the outright rejection of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime was his arrogant dictator-type decision-making and undemocratic practices, such as nepotism, corruption, ad-hoc choices and appointment of cronies like Ranil Wickremesinge to vital posts. Simply, arrogant and undemocratic ruling practices of Gotabaya Rajapaksa plunged the country into the greatest economic and political turmoil in its’ known history. Striking the harder hit people again, Gotabaya Rajapaksa paved the way for Rajapaksa family close ally Ranil Wickremesinghe to become the President threatening further deterioration in democracy and downplaying the wills and aspirations of people.
As the entire country realized that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was an utter failure, the intensity of the peoples’ struggle took a new direction transforming it to a Galle Face based island-wide continuous struggle known later as the Aragalaya which by all means a peaceful struggle to free the country from corrupt and incompetent Rajapaksas. Massive demonstrations fuelled by economic hardships and political instability due mainly to mismanagement, corruption, waste, nepotism, subjugation of democratic rights and all other sorts of evil of Rajapaksa family led all Rajapaksas except Gotabaya to leave their portfolios and ranks at least officially. Yet, Rajapaksas continued to ploy the state mechanism in order to maintain their power grid for safety of their lives, property and political future. Gotabaya Rajapaksa started bending the power structure to protect his brothers and relatives by appointing Ranil Wickremesinghe, an unelected member of parliament, to the post of Prime Minister. The appointment was made in a non-consultative unilateral process and against the parliamentary norm and practices. If Gotabaya Rajapaksa paid at least a minuscule tribute to parliamentary democracy and aspirations of people, he could have not appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. Throwing all democratic practices and public opinion into the dustbin, Gotabaya and other Rajapaksas opted for their best crony, Ranil Wickremesinghe and used state media machinery to justify their unwarranted decision by propagating that the offer given to Sajith Premadasa was declined, thus they have no option other than Ranil Wickremesinghe. What actually happened after July 09 was implementing plan B of Rajapaksas for the protection of their political dynasty. Ranil Wickremesinghe has a proven record of sending Rajapaksa misdeeds under the carpet and protecting them from even legal pursuit and helping their political comeback.
We all know that the last thing that Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe would like to do is bearing a person like Sajith Premadasa in a responsible and powerful position of the state. Since March 2022 the time that public demonstration and agitation twisted to a new direction, Rajapaksas tried their best to keep Sajith Premadasa aside for obviously known reasons. When Gotabaya Rajapaksa briefly invited Sajith Premadasa to accept the Prime Minister post, he, Sajith Premadasa, acted with responsibility to ensure that any power transfer should target democracy and making aspirations of people a reality. Thus, Sajith Premadasa proposed a timeframe to deliver changes that people asking for and pushed for a workable mutual agreement. But Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intension was not genuine, as he actually wanted to deceive the country by taking time until things can be twisted towards Ranil Wickremesinghe. In this conspiracy, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinge joined hands against democratic norms and practices of the country and determined to work against the aspirations of people.
Though the opportunity was there to be the Prime Minister as a gift from Gotabaya and other Rajapaksas granted on the condition of their safety and protection, Sajith Premadasa declined that offer referring to his intention to protect democracy and deliver the aspirations of people. The decision clearly put his personal interests aside for national interests, which was viewed as a wasted opportunity by some of his own party men and others. But Sajith Premadasa had no regrets over the decision because his decision was purely on his moral consciousness to stand by the people and stand for the people. Even in present day politics where deceit, lies, conspiracies, games, underhand work, backstabbing, etc. are always playing a vital role in power hunger, Sajith Premadasa demonstrates an excellent example of exception and commitment towards people, true democracy and no deal politics.
Acid test for Democracy
The appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the acting president with the blessing of Rajapaksas led the country into another acid test of democracy. Knowing Ranil Wickremesinghe’s undemocratic, authoritarian and divide-and-rule approach of politics, public interest was to avert Ranil Wickemesinghe and push for a coordinated parliamentary effort by all opposition parties and Rajapaksa opponents even within the ranks of Pohottuwa.
Though Sajith Premadasa as the leader of the Opposition first announced his intent for the presidency, the decision was later revoked in an agreement with his party heavyweights, intellectuals, religious community and fractions of the Aragalaya paving the way for a candidate who could entice a good number of parliamentarians from Pohottuwa. Though rupees and cents, portfolios, hidden perks which were aspired by parliamentarians above their duty towards people and the country helped Ranil Wickremesighe to secure a clear majority in the crippled parliament, Sajith Premadasa’s intention and effort for democracy and aspirations of the people is remarkably admirable. While Ranil Wickremesinghe, a fantasy champion of democracy, found all sorts of misdeeds and ugly and sneaky deals to grab the power unconstitutionally and undemocratically, Sajith Premadasa, the opposition leader and the leader with a massive ground level support at present demonstrated spirits of a true champion of democracy and a real leader who left his own interest behind the interests of people. Sajith Premadasa’s decision to support Dulles Alahapperuma to block Rajapaksas backed Ranil Wickremesinghe illumines over JVP leader Anura Dissanayake’s self-motive and selfish decision to contest alone. Knowing that his contest will cement Ranil Wickremesinghe’s victory in a close contest, Anura Kumara Dissanayake deliberately ignored timely need of the country and proved again the historical hypocritic nature of JVP politics, ‘if not me, no one from the progressive front’.
Another incident that shines Sajith Premadasa’s compassion and concern on masses and their struggle is as follows: When a group of thus belong to a political party assaulted him at Galle Face in May 9, Sajith Premadasa received legal advice to follow lawsuits. But he considered it as a conspiracy attempt of a small group and flatly rejected legal action citing such move will jeopardize and harm the genuine struggle of people. Given Ranil Wickremesinghe’s and Rajapaksas’ conspiracy against the aspirations and desires of people and hypocritic politics of some party leaders, Sajith Premadasa’s commitment towards democracy and delivering due meaning for sacrifices of the youth and masses warrants special courtesy as political leaders of this nature are infrequent in present day politics. Political party leadership are bestowed with the role of protecting democratic institutions and rights of people thus known as gatekeepers of democracy. Leaders who fail to respect for democratic principles and rights of people are destined to be politically defunct and isolated. A leader like Sajith Premadasa, on the other hand, who pays great honour and respect for democracy and stands for rights and aspirations of people at any personal political cost will and should be the hope of people and thus only the masses, not deceit, corrupt, money hunting politicians, can and could promote the political career of such leader to the highest level.
*Prof. Ananda Jayawickrama is a Professor in Economics at the Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Peradeniya. Currently, he serves as the President of the Intellectual Forum for People (Janathavadi Buddhi Mandapaya), a forum of university academics, researchers and experts. He is available for any clarification via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ajith / August 15, 2022
I still have the doubts of Sajith Premadasa as a talented leader who can lead this country and his party. He has to prove that he is an honest and hardworking president who can unite the people the people, not the politicians from all the communities and deliver the wanted system change by the people. I fully agree this is another political coup jointly planned and implemented both Ranil and Rajapaksas. All the important ministries are filled by Rajapaksas trustworthy servants including Gotas lawyer Ali Sabry as his foregin Minister. If Sajith believes that Gota and Mahinda brought this Economic and Political Crisis, he should publicly and openly ask Ranil to take or put the pressure to take immediate action against Mahinda and Gota. Can he do it?
leelagemalli / August 15, 2022
I don’t see any difference between Rajaksha and Premadasa. Both go to the temple and lick the Bodhisattva to convey the message that they are strong Buddhists. They know very well that if they lick the paws of yellow pets, their message about their future will go viral. If someone licks the feet of Sangha (rogue monks) then they (rogue monks) should be the leader of this country. This is very corrupt.
A few days ago, I felt compelled to explain this to my European colleagues in light of their respective question. They cross-examined whether we really practice Buddhism in this naturally beautiful country. I approved of them, but I explained them as “Sinhalese Buddhism” miles away from the real Buddhism the Buddha spoke of, not true Buddhism.
If the media mafia continues like this, people will be deceived again and again. So the dream of capturing Parliament with truly talented legislators will remain a distant dream. Also, when I look at the way Mr. Sajith Premadasa acted as a youth leader in the past, I do not see any maturity in him alone. However, it is a thousand times better than Namal. The Rajapaksa’s should come back to power and cut all restrictions to destroy this nation again.
leelagemalli / August 15, 2022
Their ultimate aim is to distort the mindset of the people and grab their votes. Sorry for the people. Recently, I happened to watch a “Invisible Forces” program on SLRC and realized how deeply deluded people are. I thought the number was low, but it wasn’t. Their weaknesses are targeted by SCHIZOPNATIC formulators. It makes us realize how weak minded people are about anything and everything. Just imagine that more than 70% of voters in this country are like that. They will fall for the easiest tricks like never before. This is the South Asian fragile mentality. Because of this, extreme poverty in South Asia is at a record high. More than any other global region on Earth, people are bound to myth.
We have to overcome this nature of people by hook or by crook by changing attitude and attitude. We must all stand up against the evil media giants if the extremely corrupt media will not come to power.
If they are elected by traditional means, it does not do justice to their constituents and does no good to the public good.
Democracy in Sri Lanka is ridiculous and they don’t go beyond getting elected. Once appointed, they become complete ignoramuses. They are not capable of fulfilling what they promised during the election campaign.
chiv / August 15, 2022
Writer after writer is finding politicians and parties at fault, Rajapaksas corrupt and if not all majority of our politicians immoral. Except LJ the last so called righteous man in Lanka standing, who accused Aragalaya immoral just because they got rid of some. In retrospective regardless of his political abilities Sajith and if true SF were right in refusing PM under Gotha.
Ajith / August 15, 2022
I understand from a news item in a Tamil website that is pro Rajapaksas have reported that the hotel expenditure for Gotabaya Rajapaksa was 67 million rupees which was paid by Avan Guard Director Nisanka Senathipathi. Still there is no investigation about the money (more tha a million rupees). President Ranil doesn’t talk about it and why he arrested Aragalaya and captured President office using military.
chiv / August 16, 2022
Ajith, today’s news, S&P downgrades Lankan Bonds, further below junk due to defaults. What is below junk ?? point of no return. To that we can add what you mentioned here, Gotha’s alleged expenditure of more than 65 million LKR , staying in a Singapore resort for weeks.
Ahmad Nadvi / August 15, 2022
The writer’s take on JVP’s decision to contest in the process of electing President in the Parliament was wrong. What the JVP has had in mind at the process;
1. to show the people that they cannot be bought by ministerial positions and money etc.
2.that they know neither RW nor DAP would fulfil the demand of the Aragayala, that is to say dissolving the Parliament and making the country to face new election.
SJ / August 15, 2022
“But Sajith Premadasa had no regrets over the decision because his decision was purely on his moral consciousness to stand by the people and stand for the people.”
Are we to believe this?
Even Dayan J will have some doubts.
old codger / August 15, 2022
““But Sajith Premadasa had no regrets over the decision because his decision was purely on his moral consciousness to stand by the people and stand for the people”
Some Professors , like W.D.Lakshman, tend to believe their own sunshine stories.
SJ / August 15, 2022
“What actually happened after July 09 was implementing plan B of Rajapaksas…”
I do not know what Plan A was.
Nevertheless, between Plans A & B there is an important subtext of the story. Why did not any of the wise people who could foresee the dangers of RW persuade GR’s preferences 1 or 2 to accept his offer?
Nobody there would risk his/her career by accepting the post at a time that everything looked gloomy.
RW had little to lose, and jumped at the opportunity. Why blame him for not preventing his appointment.
It is time now for a depersonalised approach to defending democratic norms and saving the economy from global predators.
Ajith / August 17, 2022
“RW had little to lose, and jumped at the opportunity. Why blame him for not preventing his appointment.”
Why President Gotabaya asked his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cabinet to resign in May 2022 instead of him resigning. How many people he asked for before appointing Prime Minister? Did he ask former President Sirisena or any one from his party to PM? What was the response from others? What was the Ranils advice to the Gota to resign the President before his resignation? Do we know what was the deal between Gota and Ranil? So, if blame him is wrong, blame others is also wrong unless we know the truths behind the wall. So, rather than blaming global predators, we have to remove the internal predators to defend the democratic norms and economy.
SJ / August 18, 2022
Read the text and the response with some care before shooting in the dark.
Nathan / August 16, 2022
Gotabaya’s offer to Sajith was not genuine. It became obvious when Sarath Fonseka too received it. (Sarath Fonseka would be the last one a Rajapaksa would offer that post!)
As such, Sajith played it smart in not accepting it.
Sajith declining the offer demonstrates only his political instinct, not any democratic leadership credential.
leelagemalli / August 16, 2022
You may be right. I wonder how Gota can see Sarath Fonseka’s eyes in that discussion. May I remind you, they are archenemies, aren’t they?
The United Nations should raise the question from Sri Lankan courts today, why on earth the Rajapaksas were not convicted of a great crime? So how can the Sri Lankan judiciary be independent?
Not a single member of the Rajapaksa family was jailed despite committing serious crimes, but SF was jailed for 3 years despite committing no provable crime.
Their greatest crimes are money laundering and murder: all the evidence is that Rajapaksa’s progeny committed only Thadjudeen’s murder, yet why did the Sri Lankan judiciary wait until alleged criminals were dead ?
It is only for formalities, Bastard Gota negotiated with SF. I have no respect for Gota, so I use the term “bastard” here on purpose. I personally don’t see why such idiots should be president if they can’t deal with even small problems like “exploding cooking gas cylinders” and eventually find a good country to take refuge in. , not becoming a burden to this nation again.
Mahila / August 16, 2022
1. “Gotabaya’s offer to Sajith was not genuine.
2. Sajith played it smart in not accepting it
3. Sajith declining the offer demonstrates only his political instinct, not any democratic leadership credential”
My take is,
A. Whether offer to Sajith was genuine or not is a moot point!! Answer may never be found?
B. It would have been smarter if he accepted and gave it up if not workable with reasons??!! Malicious intent of the then president would have been exposed and genuine intentions of Sajith in those circumstances would have prevailed, boosting his political/moral esteem!
C. Sadly my estimation of Sajith’s ‘political astuteness and acumen’ has fast declined since 2019/20, when he had accommodated Miss gamage, for good reasons or bad in his inner circle of advisors, not realising her as a “Political Mole”, of the enemy – MR and SLPP?!! He needs lot more exposure and experience to achieve that astuteness to political leadership, which is ‘remarkably wanting’!!??
Nathan / August 16, 2022
I seldom debate opinions. After all, opinions are opinions.
You are assuming a lot here.
Look at, ‘ if he accepted and gave it up if not workable with reasons’.
What was the guarantee that IF HE HAD ACCEPTED the offer, the deal would have been sealed. If you don’t see that the offer was fake, that that was a trap, you are not even as much smart as Sajith. And, Sajith is not smart!
Mahila / August 18, 2022
Thanks for your response.
“After all, opinions are opinions.
You are ASSUMING a lot here.”
You may have a point in that assertion.
However, would not assume anything as Valid including the assumption the offer of PM to Sajith was ‘Fake’ in the absence of any proof to substantiate such claim?
Validation ‘venture’ of the offer of PM post by Gota in May 2019, is only possible in the “Never, Never”, because of lost opportunity by an individual’s assumption, as truth!!??
Sajith being ‘great’, decided it was ‘great’ to assume and view the offer of PM with a ‘Tarnished Eye’, so to say, without validation – Sacrosanct!!??
The single opportunity squandered!!! Nothing much to elaborate on leadership ability?!!
Not amused by the thought of being in that ‘boat’, full of “assumers”
‘Doers’, aren’t evolved from assumers, who do not validate such assumptions!!??
Mahila / August 18, 2022
Apologies for error, it should read as “MAY 2022 and not May 2019” as stated.
SJ / August 18, 2022
“Sajith played it smart in not accepting it.”
Did his subsequent behaviour suggest any smartness?
The only smart bit I saw was that he was smarting that Ranil brat him to it.
Naman / August 18, 2022
“ A leader like Sajith Premadasa, on the other hand, who pays great honour and respect for democracy and stands for rights and aspirations of people at any personal political cost will and should be the hope of people“
The people you refer to, I will take it to refer to the Singhalese only. Tamils never felt that they were treated fairly by various GoSL over the 7 decades. Sinhala intelligentsia kept silent when the Tamils were regularly being tortured/raped and killed. Tamils want a new constitution that will allow them as equal to the majority race without discrimination in finding places in the Universities and Government jobs. Sajith Premadasa is not seeking justice for the parents who lost their sons and daughters. We need to get rid of dirty apples in the Ministry of Defence