By Vishwamithra –
“Seagulls, as you know, never falter, never stall. To stall in the air is for them disgrace and it is dishonor. But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that trembling hard curve–slowing, slowing, and stalling once more–was no ordinary bird.” ~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Sajith Premadasa was never known for his steadfastness. His demeanor in the political arena has been transparently ineffective and fraught with indecision, indecision of the Hamletian proportion. And indecision is one quality no leader likes to be crowned with. But it is this trait in display at crucial times, for whatever reason, when leaders are summoned to national matters of judgment, they either excel in making decisions, one way or another, or fail miserably by procrastinating for lack of inner strength. Sajit once again displayed that he does not possess such leadership qualities to be decisive. To be decisive at the right time is a distinct characteristic great leaders have always demonstrated time and time again.
Sajith Premadasa today finds himself in a very unenviable position. He is the Leader of the Opposition. His Party, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and his fellow parliamentarians are wholly behind him. His leadership has not been questioned, as yet. The current chaotic status in the country lends a very inviting and encouraging opening for an astute political leader to dig in, exploit every opportunity, not only to further strengthen his position when set against such odds, it lends him a rare opportunity to offer himself as a clear and obvious alternative. Unfortunately for Sajit, firstly for himself, secondly for the country which is waiting for the appearance of a savior cum leader, Sajit failed to make the cut.
Failure of Sajith as a potential leader of the country is reflected in his preoccupation with defending his turf at all costs. He does not hesitate to betray his own men and women when the need is his own advance in a crowded field or, for that matter, his own survival. The cruelty of the context is the abysmal status of the country’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of protesters on the Aragalapitiya demand change; they demand fresh thinking; they demand a one hundred-eighty-degree-turn from the status quo. They are ready to expel the current parliamentarians from the field. They are more than willing to experiment with a brand new set of rules of governance and a brand new approach to solving the prevailing economic crisis.
Yet in this crisis-ridden context, instead of offering himself as a selfless, determined leader of men, Sajit Premadasa chose to play the traitor’s role. In such a thoroughly forgettable scenario, Sajit’s greatest act was one of betrayal. If what was reported in The Sunday Times May 15th edition is correct, Sajit Premadasa had made a call to Mayantha Dissanayake, the SJB-MP who was in Toronto, Canada and asked him not to come to Colombo. The writer does not have any personal knowledge of this alleged telephone call but would not hesitate to quote the said report as follows: ‘Initially, Premadasa had insisted that he would not serve as Prime Minister under President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. It has now come to light that he had gone a step further. In an evident move to thwart former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya from becoming Prime Minister for an interim period, he had indicated that Mayantha Dissanayake should not step down to make way for him as a National List MP. The Sunday Times learnt that he told the young MP, son of the late Gamini Dissanayake, now on a visit to Canada, not to rush back to Sri Lanka to resign. He asked him to take his time and return to Colombo’.
Within a matter of days, Sajith committed two major sins, two deplorable acts of betrayal: One, he hesitated and thereby facilitated the crowning of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and the second being, he thwarted the best available choice of the people, Karu Jayasuriya from becoming the Prime Minister. Not only did he let Karu and his own Party down; not only did he let the Aragalapitiya protesters down; he let the whole country down. What his father R Premadasa did to Mayantha’s father Gamini Dissanayake, he did unto the son. What a pitiful politician is this man Sajit? Along with Ranil Wickremasinghe and the corrupt and dishonest Rajapaksas, Sajit stands atop a heap of dirt, grime and political muck. Sri Lanka would be a much better place without them, period.
With a crumbling economy and in a frenzied political environment, men and women at the Aragalapitiya, who are being ably and willingly backed by the great majority of the masses, hoped for a much more consequential change. Instead, they were offered the same old wine in an older bottle. Ranil Wickremasinghe is not the alternative they asked for; continuation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his corrupt and incompetent regime is not what they would be contended with. When the prevailing system is being rejected, the people will not be happy with Band-Aid substitutions. The wound is deep and requires surgery; its degenerative progress must be blunted and halted altogether.
A surgical operation of immense scale was the need and it was the cry echoing in the barren skies over Ceylon. A conglomeration of top-class surgeons and fresh and competent assistants was the need of the hour. The protesters did not defy all odds against the weather-gods, they did not sacrifice their time, money and sweat to embrace Ranil Wickremesinghe. Their expectations are much more than a mere substitution of one corrupt set of rulers with another known political crook.
In the meantime, almost two full days of parliamentary sittings were wasted on the election of a Deputy Speaker. The circus was not only idiotic, it was funny in a very cruel sense. The shameless stance of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s in the voting on both occasions, election of the Deputy Speaker and the Censure Motion of the President was, as M A Sumanthiran, Member of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said in parliament, was shameless. Such a hypocritical and unabashedly deranged act inside the House of Parliament is unprecedented.
A nation that was appealing for real change, a nation whose children are semi-starved and enraged by this stupidity of their rulers has to take stocks once again; she might as well go back to her drawing board and craft another strategy to dig themselves up from this abyss. It’s not going to be easy nor is it going to be without demoralization. Greater nations have risen from greater perils and greater depressions. We, as one single family of men, women and children, are being tested and we must find what is left in our reserves and come what may, resolve to harden our determination and soften our exterior; we must rise up from this heap of distress and anxiety.
Opposed by mighty forces, ordinary men might give up and give in; facing cruelest of circumstances the average might fade away; battered by unprecedented occurrences the weak might not stand up again. But this is no common circumstance; it has offered hardly any chance for the weak and meek and frail to test oneself. Such opportunities in life are scarce and uncommon. When they come we must be ready and willing and poised. It’s time we thought afresh, yet again.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org