By Grusha Andrews –
In the year 2018, when France has a Macron, Croatia has a Kolinda Grabar and even Pakistan, a country with an estimated literacy rate of just 58%, elected an Imran Khan backed by its army in a moment of dangerous hope, the editor of Colombo Telegraph, Uvindu Kurukulasuriya has shown poor taste in sharing a two year old post from 2017 proposing Kumar Sangakkara for the Presidency of Sri Lanka. This post suggests that Sangakkara is of presidential material based on the fact that he ‘renounced’ the captaincy of the Sri Lanka cricket team. I translate his 2017 Facebook post: “what is needed are leaders who can renounce power. What Sri Lanka lacks is just that. What would happen if someone like Kumar Sangakkara emerges for 2020?”
Dangerous Memes Inflate Dangerous Men
Little does the editor Colombo Telegraph realize the danger of being an originator of a dangerous meme. It is irresponsible for a senior journalist of his political and professional maturity to propagate the myth that Kumar Sangakkara, ex cricket captain of Sri Lanka merits presidential hopes for an array of reasons. This meme has resurfaced with the election of Imran Khan to the premiership of Pakistan after two decades of tireless political activism and investment. The conversation in the media suggests that the presidency of Sri Lanka should be offered on a golden platter to Sangakkara, cricketer and once national icon perhaps the only traits Sangakkara shares with Imran Khan.
Sangakkara is a human embodying the very concepts of sharp and cunning strategy. His fluent ‘accented’ English and pageantry brand of western sophistication that can be aspired to by the common man only in his dreams making him a ‘can-do –no –wrong” gentleman in the eyes of the gullible Sri Lankans. In a country tragically devoid of heroes, even a cricketer playing for millions of rupees as a salary is a savior prince; a messiah; a resurrected Jesus; an unearthed prophet. The pathetic extent of Sri Lankan tradition of persona worship and western sophistication worship is such.
Love, Sex, Accountability and Transparency
Sangakkara delivered the 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lords, popularly considered “the most important speech in cricket history”. During this hall mark speech he stated “accountability and transparency in administration and credibility of conduct were lost in a mad power struggle that would leave Sri Lankan cricket with no clear, consistent administration”.
How sweet? It appears that Sangakkara is a big fan of yahapalana jigsaw pieces such as accountability and transparency. In 2015, an event organizing business called Live Events ‘pretended’ to organize a musical concert titled Love and Sex where Enrique Iglesias was to perform. Live Events, a company formed in the aftermath of Sangakkara’s retirement by himself, Mahela Jayawardena and others executed this event in a fashion amounting to daylight robbery and blatant disregard to any business ethic where the show did not start for over 3 hours and there was gross mismanagement of crowds, ripping off those who paid high prices for tickets .The company owned by Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena was reportedly involved in an estimated 30 million Sri Lankan rupees ($288,123) tax fraud in the form of evaded municipal tax due for this concert to the government. Sangakkara and Jayawardena who command great social and power clout due to their celebrity status wriggled out of this unprecedented entertainment cum business fraud with the following words: “although we know an apology or refund cannot fully satiate your disappointment, we wish to reiterate that we remain fully committed to all of you and our country,” Yeah. Some commitment to the people and the country. Transparency and accountability, anyone? Pity these Sri Lankan who think that such day light fraudsters will take us to a better place.
Consistent Spokesperson For Cancer Causing Food Industry
From cement, telephone connections, shirts, substandard cars, three wheelers to supermarkets, Sangakkara has been a rampant endorser of goods putting his mouth where money is.
Claiming to be a fan of accountability and transparency, Sangakkara has been a consistent endorser of cancer causing (carcinogenic) food and beverages over the decades. His most noted TV commercial “Brrr!” to endorse Coca Cola is the most notorious to date.
According to literature published in high impact scientific journals, a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer of the pancreas is associated with the consumption of coca cola. Cola consumption is also associated enamel decay and excessive consumption of regular soft‐drinks is highly discouraged for all ages, in particular for children and adolescents1.
Further, epidemiological studies have demonstrated the association between increased cancer mortality and high concentrations of trihalomethanes, a compound similar to surface cleaners found in Coca Cola2.
The 500ml ‘buddy’ bottle that Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and others are holding in their hands in this commercial affecting the minds of viewers, especially the young, has 53 grams of sugar. You can imagine the collective national sugar consumption that such advertisement would have ensured. Currently the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in Sri Lanka ranges between 10.3% to 15% of the population depending on location. This prevalence is estimated to escalate causing premature death, heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and stroke attributed to diabetes. Mahela Jayawardena the self-proclaimed crusader walking tearfully for cancer should also take a good look at himself for his pretentious crusade while filling his pockets promoting cancer causing, diabetes promoting beverages. A well suited ‘bromance ‘between Sangakkara and Jayawardena, certainly. One must ask Sangakkara whether he feeds Coca Cola to his children before aspiring to make him the future president of our children.
Sangakkara’s second most salient carcinogenic food endorsement is the Prima Instant Chicken Noodles commercial.
Large prospective cohort studies have conclusively proven the association between consumption of instant noodles and bile duct cancer and gall bladder cancer3. In 2015 Indian superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta were sued by the FDA of India for “endorsing a harmful product (Maggie Noodles which is a product of global giant Nestle for its carcinogenic concentrations of lead and MSG) and misleading the public”. The global instant food industry is known to be responsible for the loss of significant disability adjusted life years where instant noodles constitute a large contributor of cancer and cardio metabolic disease including premature death by heart disease.
One must ask Sangakkara whether he feeds Prima Instant Chicken Noodles to his wife and children before aspiring to make him the future president of our children.
And think about it. He has done all this for money, while earning millions as a national team player, county cricket player and a 20-20 player. Does he sound like a certain group of people we know so well, who will not let go of any opportunity, ethical or unethical to earn a buck like a local Shylock? Yes. He sounds very much like our 225 friends down Diyawanna.
Mascot Of The Milk Food Mafia
In addition to his role as an endorser of the carcinogenic food industry, both Sangakkara and his wife have been the most known duo for the endorsement of unethically marketed milk products of Fonterra Milk Food Company. In the past Rosy Senanayake has also been an endorser of Anlene, a product that proclaims to prevent osteoporosis in a country full of foods with natural vitamin D and sunlight. The manufacturer of this product, priced at USD 5.80 and Sangakkara himself have been pressurized by public health professionals and consumer groups on misleading advertising which Sangakkara has completely evaded through legal loop holes and pure celebrity arrogance. In a country where a tablet of calcium supplement is available for far less, starting from under 50 cents SLR, Sangakkara and his wife Yehali have been engaging in unethical marketing attributing their active lifestyle to drinking Anlene. The manufacturer of this product has come under severe fire from cognitive scientists, pediatricians and public for their unethical marketing of Anchor Pedia Pro proclaiming unscientific benefits of brain development in children with the use of the said product. Clearly, Sangakkara and his wife, parents to twins themselves shamelessly advocate products of a company which is a player at the global milk food mafia well known for discouraging breast feeding and promotion of healthy lifestyle, instead using celebrities to endorse their dubious products.
Doing un to others as you would not do unto yourself or your children? Sangakkara still sounds like he is already a member of the Diyawanna.
The Cunning Response of Sangakkara
Sangakkara, 41 years of age, by the estimated life expectancy of a Sri Lankan male has nearly a good 40 years left to live. It would be imbecility to imagine that a self-promoting, self-enhancing person of his cunning , self-serving intellect would have retired from cricket to simply sit and spend the money earned by promoting carcinogens etc. till his last days. A master schemer of the highest order, it is quite possible that Sangakkara harbors political dreams that may send shivers down the collective spines of Sajith Premadasa, Naveen Dissanayake and lately Patali Champika Ranawaka. With the election of Imran Khan his possible long term strategic entry to politics has taken an accelerated manifestation.
Sangakkara has artfully evaded response when Ceylon Today published the above news article pointing towards a semi-denial by Sangakkara about entering politics. He quickly distanced himself from this news item neither denying, nor accepting with the following twitter: “I wonder who gave them that quote? Certainly wasn’t my words”. Apart from the slight error in grammar, he is spot-on on political cunning.
However considering the uncontested service he has done to Sri Lankan cricket and to global cricket as a superb player , and in spite of all his manifestation of deplorable avarice and pitiful greed, it is sad that man of his intellectual caliber is joined in the list of Presidential Hopefuls of 2020 that borders on fearsome, uncertain, dubious, impractical and sometimes hilarious: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Nagananda Kodituwakku, Rohan Pallewatte, Malinda Seneviratne and of late the self-proclaimed “quintessential dream boy of Sri Lanka” Madhu Roxz (the highest trending Sri Lankan video artist on YouTube in the last week who has proclaimed his presidential intentions)!
It is high time that Sri Lankan electorate woke up from their misplaced adulations to face hard facts. Regardless of our personal level of attachment to cricket, we have all admired Kumar Sangakkara’s immense ability as a cricketer. But before suspending our ability to reason in the face of celebrity we should all take a hard look at what we want from a leader.
Sangakkara’s fact based track record shows one thing. He is more of the same. It is sad when a fan has to be the iconoclast. But sometimes it is the burden of the one who sees the truth to speak it. Or write it.
Sanga, thanks, but no thanks.
1. Navneet Singh and Kuruswamy Thurai Prasad, A Cola to Improve My EGFR TKI Absorption in Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer? No, Thank You, I Prefer Lemonade or Orange Juice Instead, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 34, 33, (4053), (2016).
2. K.O. Ajanaku, C.O. Ajanaku., A. Edobor-Osoh . and O.C. Nwinyi ., Nutritive Value of Sorghum Ogi Fortified with Groundnut Seed (Arachis hypogaea L.), American Journal of Food Technology, 7, 2, (82), (2012).
3. Takeshi Makiuchi, Tomotaka Sobue, Tetsuhisa Kitamura, Junko Ishihara, Norie Sawada, Motoki Iwasaki, Shizuka Sasazuki, Taiki Yamaji, Taichi Shimazu and Shoichiro Tsugane, The relationship between vegetable/fruit consumption and gallbladder/bile duct cancer: A population‐based cohort study in Japan, International Journal of Cancer, 140, 5, (1009-1019), (2016).