19 July, 2024

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Anura & Sajith: Sri Lanka’s Tweedledum And Tweedledee Or Hero And Jester 

By Vishwamithra

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the National People’s Power (Jathika Jana Balavegaya-NPP) and Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) have emerged today as the two most sought-after national leaders by the media. Especially in the context of the current sociopolitical status of the country, people at large tend to compare the two in terms of leadership quality, messaging skills, personal conduct, public appeal and the substance of what they represent and what they deliver on the political platform and within the walls of parliament.

In other words, they are the two politicians the country’s inquisitive pundits and the feeling public are constantly engaged in in their casual or serious conversation. Since Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party (UNP) assumed Presidency, the rhetoric of both AKD’s and Sajith’s, has taken a new and drastic intensity in its critique of the current regime and the appeal for elections, local or parliamentary. Attendance at their respective meetings has increased, especially the ones organized by the NPP. Numbers do matter but it is not the sole or most significant barometer of a political party’s popularity or electability. If such were the case, massive crowds and their visible enthusiasm would have delivered the Presidential election to Sarath Fonseka in 2009.

On the other end of the spectrum are Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Pohottuwa group of politicians. In the most unlikely circumstances, a most incredible political marriage has been sanctified- between the United National Party (UNP) and the Rajapaksa-led Pohottuwa. Pohottuwa today allegedly consists of the most corrupt politicians Sri Lanka has ever seen. The political debris that is left after the Sajith Premadasa-led group departed from the UNP too is no second in the same elements of core demands of all politicians, irrespective of the party they belong to. A marriage of convenience rather than one of love and care has brought about a strange reconciliation between mutually antagonistic political entities. A conspiracy of circumstances has produced a collection of political thugs on the one side and a lamenting set of apathetic and unfeeling UNPers to come together and plunder what is left of the national coffers and national assets. With hardly any feeling for the poor and underprivileged, these swindlers are continuing to pay no attention to the most vulnerable segments of our population, indulging in the repugnant acts of corruption and cavernous feasting of national wealth. The tragic end of national trauma the country is facing today is due to these ungodly guys engaging in their usual and regular pastime of thievery and larceny. 

Speaking about crowds at meetings organized by the current government, there is hardly anything to write home about. They simply don’t do such things now. They have decided to refrain from embarrassing themselves; they are not holding public gatherings exclusively because there aren’t any to attend such gatherings of people, period.

In the midst of all this chaos and confusion, a strangest of ironies has occurred. Whereas In a democracy, representation of the people is expressed by way of elections held periodically as prescribed by the provisions in the constitution to which all those who assume power swear allegiance, a gross violation of the fundamental rights of the people has been effected by a President who has not been elected. One can understand is such an action was taken by an elected politician, to be subjected to such humiliating deprivation is unheard of in the annals of history and it is even unlikely that such a violation would be performed by any future leader of a democratic country.

In such a setup, both AKD and Sajith have an enormous task at hand; they are not only responsible to educate and inform the public of the ill-effects of such abuses of power by the sitting President and his parliamentary troops, it is incumbent upon them to lead the people to a finish line insofar as the results of a country’s struggle to achieve a balanced sense of governance are concerned. Failure of the incumbency aside, it is the inherent duty of the democratically elected Opposition to lead an apathetic mass of people to the proverbial oasis of fair and balanced principles of governance. However, Sajith and his Samagi Jana Balavegaya have failed in this fundamental venture. AKD and his coalition of the NPP have been affianced in a strategically driven campaign to educate and inform the public and they have intensified their efforts as soon as the date for the local government elections was announced. AKD’s challenging speeches have captured the imagination of the hundreds of thousands of those who cared to listen to him either live or via social media and television. In fact, AKD has changed his delivery style in that he is no more making speeches; he is having a conversation or a dialogue with the audience, the collective results of which could be exceptionally effective on the short and mid-term basis. Sajith, on the contrary, is pontificating from the platform. 

Moreover, the slavish fashion Sajith’s fellow speakers address him take us to the senior Premadasa years wherein the Master was deified and flattered beyond sufferable constraints. Also when one compares the substance of the deliveries, while AKD tends to live in the present moment and time and offers a very palliative solution to the burning issues of the day, Sajith’s approach takes one to the Premadasa era and that fake-success of the Premadasa days is being highlighted by all others and the very promise that they will bring forth another Premadasa era sounds utterly empty and forgettable. No living person wants to go back and live in an ear gone by. It is completely inadequate bordering on insanity. There is absolutely no chance that the present day voter is hallucinating about a utopian dream. Today’s voter, hugely owing to the presence of the social media and realization of the invalidity and ill-legitimateness of identity politics, has come a long way. 

It is no more the twentieth century and the strategies and tactics adopted during those years are simply not applicable. Leave alone R Premadasa, even UNP giants such as Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali are not remembered by today’s citizenry. All of them belong to an era dead and gone. And AKD and the leaders of the Aragalaya have successfully managed to erase those leaders from the memory of our voters. Besides, leaders of the past have all been identified with a failed system and a failed set of principles and policies. Sajith and his SJB cohorts do not realize that praising of their leader over and above the general public, over and above the average Appuhamy, Natarajah and Mohamed is insulting to their intelligence. In such a case, it is even easier to classify Sajith and his followers with the status quo which needs to be replaced.

Although in some instances of the grueling journey both AKD and Sajith have undertaken to travel, they could be called Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but on more occasions, they fall into the duo of hero and villain, Sajith being the villain and AKD the hero. Their respective approaches may be diametrically opposed to the other’s, in that pontification vs. conversation; their collective objective remains the same: snatching power from the current holders. Similarities end there. Their appeal, albeit to the same class of people, the methodologies differ drastically in the sense that Sajith’s fear of and reluctance to lead from the front stifles him while AKD’s daring of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s water cannons and tear gas puts him on a pedestal. Sajith being subjected to sheer humiliation on the Aragalapitiya during April/May heyday of the Aragalaya where both Eran Wickremaratne and Sajith himself were chased out by the youth on that fateful day must be still vivid in their memory.               

Both AKD and Sajith need to learn to be more modest and fundamentally humble. The people of the country are not waiting to hand power to them on a platter for no reason. The masses are acutely aware of the problems; but they are more deeply embedded in the value of the solutions they offer. Sajith and AKD are willing to offer help to the poor and comfort to the undernourished and underprivileged. But, as far as the masses are concerned, that help has to be attached to a set of principles which cannot be compromised at any cost. Help is not a reward; it’s not a prize to be won; it’s just help. AKD and Sajith must understand that fundamental quality of help. That elementary human quality of extension of one’s help to another has no boundaries; it has no price; it doesn’t contain within itself any payback value or payback time. 

Torn between colliding ideologies and competing political philosophies, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa are now intertwined in a battle of their lives. AKD is fifty four years old and Sajith is fifty six. Having reached their peak years in life, these two men can do wonders if they are rightly motivated and intelligently composed. Ambition can be a very inspiring characteristic of man. Yet if its very achievement is held over and above everything else, it could be a devastatingly destructive quality that can kill not only the leader who is ambitious, but also the followers who choose the ultimate leader. 

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com            

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    “NPP candidate responsible for Chinese fertilizer import: Amaraweera”. Daily Mirror 7/3/23 news item. The lurking danger.

  • 8
    0

    I am getting confused. Samagi Jana, Podu Jana, Jathika Jana, all seem to be denoting ‘power to the people’ but how can they be differentiated? Historically, UNP was capitalist, SLFP had socialist leanings & JVP undisputedly communist, judging by the hammer & sickle sign in their website, therefore, does the NPP alliance with JVP indicate their socialist ideals, the breakaway SJB somewhere between socialism & capitalism & PPP having no ideology, the objective being getting back to power to bleed the country for its last drop of blood?
    Whatever the ideals of the NPP/JVP alliance, they seem to be the only party with solutions, which makes their leader AKD, the man of the hour & certainly the hero in the context of Vishvermitra but are they squeaky clean with no skeletons in their cupboard? Premadasa jnr is portrayed as sophisticated & educated, unlike his gutter mouth old man but has yet to show his contribution in all these years in politics, therefore, the joker.
    Seems its a one horse race, the rest being lame but even the winning horse can’t be considered perfect. What a dilemma.

    • 1
      1

      I think the force of no compromise nature will not succeed even if their speeches work like x-rays. I consider this as a real big shortcoming of JVP/NPP. If they interact with genetically modified Sri Lankans, things will work fine with their current views, however, the ground reality is that current and past MPs are a reflection of the people (majority of the population).
      Why am I saying this, the mirror of this nation is the composition of the parliament. That means there are not only NPP supporters but also other different opinion holders. That is why the alternative must be good and young politicians with corrupt or less corrupt resumes must come together and form a common opposition against the traditional political hegemony of looters and cheats.

    • 1
      1

      Dear Raj-UK,
      .
      PART ONE
      .
      Let me give you my first-hand assessment from Bandarawela. The NPP has organised itself in such a way that it will not be easy for them to be controlled by the corrupt. “Squeaky-clean” – your very wording implies that nothing is that! But they are clean!
      .
      I’ve been moving about with the JVP-types who abound here , attended their local meetings, etc. Yes, they remain rough-hewn, with some class prejudices, but they are honest, and wouldn’t tolerate corrupt middle-class fellows to climb in. And with them having little truck with discredited politicians from other parties joining, I think that they will be able to resist corruption. I think that you know my background and record; there are guys like us who will guard against the entry of the corrupt.
      .
      I’m not part of the command structure even in this little town, and never will be, but it is clear that those old politicians will not be allowed in.
      .
      I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours listening to AKD. Observing him carefully on a large close-up monitor. You’ve probably been doing the same, but couldn’t have been for as long, and my interspersing that with walking around the neighborhood here, interacting with simpler folks here, helps.

    • 1
      1

      Raj-UK
      .
      PART TWO

      .
      Even on this one website, it is difficult to keep track of all that is relevant. You may have seen my report of interacting one-to-one with AKD on February 21st. That was good fortune, and we should not set much store by it. However, what I must report is his consistency, simplicity, and good-humour.
      .
      For the actual substance of his policies, I’ve been relying much more on what I’ve gathered from those hours of YouTubes. That hammer and sickle he explained in terms of their not denying their history. But that has changed, he assured, and I believe it. The world has changed so much in forty years – his observation.
      .
      Aren’t you guided rather too much by the concepts of the past yourself? I don’t know Marxism the way that a guy like Kumar David does, but wasn’t “communism” just a phase of it, which has now passed?
      .
      I’ve checked just now, for responses to this article:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/
      .
      Yours had come in early; you may not have noticed that I delayed until Prof. ANI responded to my email, and, with his permission, I’ve reproduced representative bits of his letter.

    • 1
      1

      Raj,
      .
      PART THREE
      .
      I was right.
      We hadn’t interacted at all at Peradeniya. but my daughters remembered. They were at Hillwood, Kandy, Ani’s daughter in Girls’ High School.
      .
      https://www.tanyaekanayaka.com/biography
      .
      These are good people, may be, but you may notice, how extremely right-wing? See if you don’t sense agenda. Not all is immediately revealed. He’s written many good articles, condemning ragging, etc. We also want it ended, but will it ever get done in his way?
      .
      Those things from the JVP website were “sent viral” soon after. Our family received them. They struck a note; typically, there’s no reading, just lots of right-wing invective.
      .
      Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn extreme socialist without being Communist?
      .
      I think that the NPP has arrived just at the right time. A one horse race? Don’t discount the SJB. There are good people in it, albeit badly led by Sajith. Another factor is the unleashing of unreasoning horror stories; “leelagemalli” harbours deep-seated dread of the JVP, for what it was about forty years ago, although my memory of them (1983 to 1987) was not so bad. Demonised by JRJ they, too, became terrorist-like.

  • 2
    1

    This is especially for new readers:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5m6usIOUkw
    .

    One year ago

    *
    I hadn’t commented then; I’ve just said this:
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe
    20 seconds ago
    *
    Seven hundred and seven comments visible after 33 months. Despite this brilliant summing up by Minindu Ekanayake,
    *

    “The look on the journalist’s face is priceless”
    *
    it is matter for serious worry that two thirds of the comments, solemnly congratulate Sajith Premadasa for providing commendable responses.
    .

    • 5
      0

      SM,
      So, you’ve finally provided a video which isn’t a paean to your JVP pantheon.
      Yes, Palki seems never to have encountered such an indecisive waffler as Sajit.

      • 3
        1

        OC
        She should have tried asking for his name.
        I promise you that she would not have got an answer because SP would have waffled for an hour, wondering what was in her mind in asking that question.

    • 2
      3

      Thanks, oc,
      .
      Here’s Sajith Premadasa speaking in Parliament for 29 minutes, just today, I think.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hApJJjXptM8
      .
      I have no time to listen to it now. However, it looks as though (this is after 5 minutes) he speaks reasonably well in Sinhalese, but it looks as though he tries to show off his English.
      .
      His English in terms of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc., has to be described as “perfect”! Malaprop? No, not really.
      .
      “He is inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity.”
      .
      Why not discuss his psychological build up at letter? It may be an interesting subject.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

      • 1
        2

        Sorry about this: “at letter?” I meant “at length”, of course.
        .
        Anxiety gnaws us, in Lanka; sleepy, but slumber doesn’t come.

  • 3
    1

    The comparison misses a key point.
    If it is Sajith or Amura is not an issue of personalities.
    One represents just himself the other a party with some kind of ideology, however flawed.
    No Sajith, the SJB will be plunged into chaos by personal clashes in the open.
    No Anura, the JVP will box on regardless.

  • 1
    2

    I’ve told Raj-UK, above, what it feels like to be a guy now strongly supporting the NPP. The views of others can also be authentic, but those are their views. I’ve received this:
    .
    https://www.ft.lk/opinion/Election-manoeuvring-is-a-blessing-in-disguise/14-746086
    .
    I think the observations are sound; but let me not present them as identical with mine. I had lost touch with the author until I saw a remarkable article five years ago:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ashley-and-me/
    .
    If you have the time, there are two pages of authentic comments, which show what the University was like form 1982 to 1985. There was the anti-Tamil pogrom, but also Helasingha (that’s a pseudonym) and me, working like mad at our studies. Two very different accounts by guys who arrived at Pera a dozen years later than they should have.
    .

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