26 May, 2024


Inevitable Rise Of SJB As A People-Centered Movement – Reply To Shyamon Jayasinghe

By Mahim Mendis

Dr. Mahim Mendis

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” ~ George Orwell

Shyamon Jayasinghe (SJ)  in his article titled, The SJB should Never Have Happened”, published in  the Colombo Telegraph on 21st May, 2021, strives to  manufacture  endless untruths on behalf of  the anti SJB and anti-Premadasa Brigade. He is convinced that this is the best way  to resurrect the UNP. Being pre-occupied with this “dishonorable deal”-  a term he resents very much when used against the UNP leadership that remains paralyzed, SJ also forgets that he belongs to an age group where members should be far wiser and should contribute towards enlightened public opinion formation.

Ironically, his submission to the Colombo Telegraph, an honorable means to disseminate progressive views without malice, does not reflect a perspective with reasonable detachment and independence, since in his imagination, the largest opposition party in Sri Lanka, the SJB, is still some “faction”, a mere “breakaway group”, which is now a “Little Opposition Group in Parliament”.

I recall how Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha, in his Colombo Telegraph article of 1st January, 2018, described this very same Shyamon Jayasinghe, as “a jolly looking man who lives in Australia, emerging as the leading apologist for the UNP with intellectual pretensions”. Sadly, Dr. Wijesinha also stated that “Mr. Jayasinghe’s passion is not twinned with any regard for truth or facts”. Three years later, he reconfirms this position once again in his article dated 22, May, 2021.

As for Political Chemistry

Still living in a state of shock that he finds impossible to overcome since 2019, he says that “the implication of the tenor of my argumentation is that the SJB is a political error. Such a conclusion will be counter intuitive to many who tend to look at election results in the conventional way”.

The political shock that this Brigade has been subject to, makes its members continue with illogical reasoning. The SLFP which was formed by SWRD Bandaranaike, as a group breaking away from the UNP continues to be more pragmatic even today with a better performance as seen through the 2020, General Elections results, getting 12 members elected to parliament. When SWRD broke away from the UNP and contested as the SLFP,  he could only obtain 9 seats, out of forty-eight seats. On the other hand, the SJB emerged as the largest opposition in 2020, with 54 seats pushing the UNP to the fifth place behind the TNA and the JVP. That has to be rightly shocking for SJ.

Making White, Black; and the Black, White: SJ and His Political Chemistry

For SJ and his anti-Sajith Brigade spin doctoring is also a formidable challenge due to their poor grasp of political realities at the ground level as they thrive  on lies and deception. Hence, they engage in a shoddy job in constructing truths out of untruths, as though it is their hobby.

Maliciously oriented with jealousy, hatred, insanity, character assassination and even political murder, this anti-SJB Brigade considers almost daily parliamentary submissions of the Sajith Premadasa led group, in parliamentary question time, a nuisance, as much as it is a nuisance to the Pohottuwa led Government. In questioning the Government, SJ knows too well that SJB members have made their presence felt strongly in parliamentary debates, leading  to creation of  a wave of protests  at the grass roots level.

SJ says that “Echoes are heard sharply in empty spaces; but the space is empty”. He says, that every-time Sajith Premadasa and his men yell at the Government, even over serious misdemeanors, the volume one hears is similar to that emanating from an empty space.

Though it is not quite gentlemanly to talk about physical infirmities common to all of us, it is clear that SJ is severely deficient in hearing, as he admits, while being politically blind to what is in fact true.

Simplistic Comparison of SJB with JJB

While people in opposition ranks respect JJB and its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake for their commitment to a Socialist cause, SJ wishes to compare the numerically powerful SJB with the JJB, which is a meaningless comparison.

It is however logical to claim in good faith that the JJB has electorally and in the legislature, outperformed the UNP which has no national level representation at all. What SJ should in fact say is that the UNP should learn a lesson from the JJB in maximizing the potential of the single parliamentary bonus seat it has, without denying its few supporters a voice in parliament. This is at time the UNP under the leadership of RW could obtain only 2.15 % of the national level vote, with its total votes even in the stronghold of Colombo District reduced to 30,000. For the sole bonus seat that remains unfilled, they need to be thankful to President Ranasinghe Premadasa for bringing down the electoral cut off point for representation from 12.5% to 5%; a progressive gesture towards smaller parties that have an enormous role to play in a democracy

SJs View on Choices for Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka

Having tried to aimlessly boost the image of the JJB as against the SJB, it is also clear that SJ is praising Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka’s capacities, clearly driven by resentment about his loyalty to the SJB leadership.

Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka obviously knows best as to what party he should choose, having formed his own party previously. SJ has probably forgotten that Field Marshall Fonseka is currently the Chairman of the SJB led by Mr. Premadasa. Unlike anyone else, Sajith even made a public proclamation that he would make the Field Marshall the Defense Minister of the country as that is his extraordinary expertise. This is something that RW failed to do, leading the country to a new national security crisis towards the tail end of the Good Governance Regime.

SJ’s lack of  Discernment about RW Leadership Style and Sajith’s Behaviour

In-fighting within the UNP that SJ talks about, cannot be considered unnatural, in a party devoid of  inner party democracy from 1994-2020. The leader remains leader until he decides to resign or until his demise.

The Deputy Leader of the UNP, Sajith Premadasa is historically  proven as a leader who remained loyal to the UNP. Even when in recent times, President Maithripala Sirisena offered him the Prime Minister post nearly five times as claimed by President Sirisena himself, Sajith remained loyal to RW. He was loyal to RW. even when Karu Jayasuriya, Milinda Moragoda, Rohitha Bogollagama and Naveen Dissanayake joined the Rajapksa regime for reasons best known to themselves.

So, Sajith if at all is known for his sober and temperate behaviour as the Deputy Leader of the UNP, or as Presidential candidate, while all types of elements, including Ravi Karunanayake, as Assistant Leader, were set loose by Wickremesinghe to undermine Sajith in the public eye. Sajith hardly criticized them while he was undermined. As a legislator, he never earned a reputation as a dealer, schemer or a conspirator. That has nothing to do with his personality.

Can SJ substantiate rationally how Sajith becomes an intemperate leader? Looks like he is disappointed that Sajith wasn’t game enough to playing second fiddle to someone who lost all credibility in the public eye as reflected through national level election results from Point Pedro to Dondra Point.

Has this anti SJB Brigade forgotten that it is the UNP that made Sajith the undisputed Presidential candidate, without a contest? After the Presidential Elections, as the Prime Ministerial Candidate, Chairman of the Nominations Board etc. But finally, wasn’t it RW who deprived the UNP leadership to Sajith, as Sajith was no longer able to to work according to RWs wishes.

Won’t SJ admit as a Jolly looking gentleman, that at the Presidential Elections, the publicly held position of RW, that he would be the Prime Minister if Sajith became the President was unwarranted interference, against norms of democracy? Contextually, wasn’t it right that Sajith stated that the appointment of the Prime Minister is a matter for the President and the Parliamentary Group, and not anyone’s natural inheritance. Probably this is what SJ defines as Sajith’s intemperate behaviour.

Mobilizing People to Protect Democracy and Sovereignty of the Sri Lankan State: Most Urgent Need

SJ should take himself seriously before he writes without using cheap and immature political tactics. This is not the time to appease Rajapaksas or the politically decimated UNP by undermining the SJB. The highest priority is to form the broadest possible Civil and Political Society Coalition, to protect democracy, as well as the territorial integrity of the Sri Lankan state right now.

This is not the time to be an offshore agent for the present regime to undermine the opposition, as it is the highest priority for Rajapaksas to undermine the main parliamentary opposition. SJ has unwittingly opted to be an offshore agent of this regime, very well knowing the implications. Also, he is ignorant of the fact that the UNP got destroyed not only because of RW’s stale and bankrupt leadership with contempt for inner party democracy, but because of the public perception that RW helped to bail out the Rajapaksa Regime from unprecedented corruption and criminal charges.

Sajith’s credibility lies in the fact that the people did not hold him responsible for RWs apathy and indifference to all what he said to win elections in 2015 under Sirisena. 

Neo-Liberal Arrogance and Contempt for Pro-People National Development

SJs indifference to the plight of the majority of this country living under poverty line is understandable, as he has utter contempt for the pro-people concept of “Shelter for All”, with the Government providing leadership for this noble project. SJ believes that providing housing for weaker sections like the disabled and aged is all that should be done by state. According to him, like other living priorities, housing facilities should be self-generated in a prosperous economy. Till then, the implication is that the poor should suffer. This is his reactionary thinking, probably inspired by neo-liberalism or even probably neo-feudalism.

Sajith and the SJB as the Social Democratic Alternative to Rajapaksas

No one in Sri Lanka, as at present is unaware of the fact that Sajith has a Social Democratic Vision and a Mission. He, like his father, is a firm believer in a dynamic and modernized state sector competing  with the private sector, that wealth generated should be to uplift the majority and not for the pleasure of a microscopic minority, that public health, transport and education should be top priorities of the State. Also, that the Government cannot wash its hands off these sectors as done by reactionary regimes.

In the foreign policy sector, Sajith believes in positive alignment with all states and the determining factor in “alignments” will be the highest national interest. In other words, how will the people benefit finally? These are tried and tested policies even during the time of President Premadasa, with dignified collaboration with the Western World that firmly invested in Sri Lanka, even after the British High Commissioner was declared “persona non grata”, for interfering in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs during national elections.

Concocted Lie Relating to Ranil’s Influence with the Minorities

SJ should ask himself the question as to why Ranil and the UNP was rendered useless by the minorities with Tamils and Muslims expressing  faith in Sajith and the SJB at the General Elections. Sajith also won the Trincomalee District where the UNP was relegated to the seventh place. In the multi-ethnic Colombo District, The Ranil led UNP could poll only 30, 000 votes, as against 387, 000 votes polled by Sajith led SJB. Why should “SJ types” willfully live in a fool’s  paradise that Ranil is influential with the minorities, when he is not even influential anymore with the Sinhalese Buddhist electorate?

Legitimate Mandate to Challenge and Question the Government

A responsible opposition inspired by a democratic ethos is obligated to challenge the Government with questions. Hence, we see the Leader of the Opposition maximizing  the potential of Standing Orders 27 (2) as an instrument to raise issues of urgent public importance. In each sitting of parliament. The Government, to the utter dismay of our democratic citizenry has failed to answer these questions. 

For instance, when on 18, May, the Opposition Leader, Premadasa, raised a series of questions over the spread of the Coronavirus, the questions led to aggressive comments from the ruling party. The Health Minister said such questions obstruct her from carrying out the necessary duties relating to the pandemic. Supporting this position was the Ruling Party MP. S. B. Dissanayake, who said that there is a tradition in the Sri Lanka Parliament where a Minister can decide NOT to answer a question, if he or she is placed in an uncomfortable position by those questions.

Protection of Parliamentary System by a Strong Opposition

Today the Government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa stands accused and ridiculed by the people, not because of a weak opposition as claimed by SJ. The opposition struggle is waged in the context where most of  the mass media institutions are well manipulated by the Government unlike in the past. Opposition MPs have been threatened with death and physical intimidation and imprisonment in harsh and brutal conditions. This is the pathetic  plight of popular SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who spoke against corruption in highest places. That he did for the people.

Let us be reasonable, and not be political assassins to appease utterly contemptuous forces that are essentially anti-people. I am sure SJ as a patriotic son of Sri Lanka living overseas will be  progressively insightful hereafter.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Martin Luther King Jr.

*Dr Mahim Mendis is a senior university academic with a Ph.D in Media Sociology from the National University of Singapore. He is the former Spokesman of the Federation of University Teachers Association of Sri Lanka (FUTA)

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Latest comments

  • 15

    Dr. Mahim Mendis, You sound an angry man.
    Defend Sajith Premadasa to your liking. Let us accept that SJ is equally entitled to his different opinion.
    Ranil made a mess of UNP; Sajith accentuated it. Who pays the price. You, me and our country.

    • 8

      Dr. Mendis , as an avowed liberal academic, may be excused for:
      “He, like his father, is a firm believer in a dynamic and modernized state sector competing with the private sector, that wealth generated should be to uplift the majority “
      It may be possible to have a “modernized competitive state sector”. But in THIS country??? Really??
      Does Dr. Mahim really think that Sajith, or the people around him, will not stuff these corporations with useless bodies in the name of employment? Perhaps Dr. Mahim is not old enough to remember that it has happened before?
      Dr. Mahim, please do come out of your ivory tower. How can a government enterprise be profitable when even private ones are struggling? Why are a million able-bodied men driving three-wheelers, while their women slave away in garment factories. The economy has been badly distorted by populist policies aka voodoo economics. This is my main objection to Sajith. Yes, that sort of policy will get him elected, but is that the purpose of elections, not achieving progress for the country?

      • 6

        In my opinion, ( I am aware some will condemn me for lack of empathy) a country needs a bank of poor people. Look at Bangladesh. Or India, where people do things our people wouldn’t dream of doing. But their currency has appreciated 6 times against ours, while we are busy taking loans to build extravagances that have to be pawned off later.
        Do we want more of the same? I don’t think Sajith has some magical formula. If he does, he should reveal it instead of hiding behind outdated semantics.

        • 7

          You are spot on, another point I observed was, in the run up to the 2019 Presidential elections, culture of freebies touched a new high when Sajith announced many free items including sanitary pads. Sajith’s ritual of giving away free stuff just before the elections is nothing but bribing the ingenuous voters and making them corrupt. Even the rivals never questioned the economic viability of such “welfare schemes” but they also came up with similar schemes knowing very well that it is not viable to fund the massive list of freebies.
          When a leader of a political party comes out just before the country goes to polls and announce a list of freebies, it reeks more of a guilty politician trying to clear his conscience of any moral obligation than a leader who has the welfare of the country in his mind. Unlike his father who was a charismatic leader, Sajith does not have any leadership qualities. He is as theoretical as Dr. Mahim Mendis and should not be compared with Ranil (even though he had an unfortunate fate).

          • 1

            Comparing Ranil and Sajith, both lack leadership qualities and their organisational skills are questionable. On political performance Ranil fared better in his first attempt than the miserable failure of Sajith at his first attempt. Ranil lost the second attempt because of his double game with LTTE of negotiating on one hand and breaking the group on the other. If not for LTTE enforced boycott he would have won. I can assure that Sajith will fare worse in his second attempt, though he is toying with Sinhala nationalism. Sajith will do exactly same as Ranil of preventing any other capable person from taking over the leadership and ruin the party. At present Sarath Fonseka and Champika Ranawake have performed better in leading the opposition. Sajith is only thriving using his father’s name and not his own ability.

        • 2

          Capitalism needs a bank of poor people, without whom the working class can make ‘unfair’ demands.
          Do we not have our fair share of the poor?
          You correctly mentioned ” a million able-bodied men driving three-wheelers, while their women slave away in garment factories”. You may add to it the emigrant workers.
          But where did this voodoo economic trend originate?
          People in politics have short memories.

          • 2

            S.J, LC,
            This same sort of economics is what the Pohottuwa practices, although it seems P.B.Jayasundera has recently woken up and sworn not to undertake loan-funded big projects.
            I don’t think we need Pohottuwa economics with Premadasa characteristics.

            • 0

              Premadasa characteristics had an element of concern for the common man, or at least he had the ‘common touch’.
              Do “Premadasa Jr characteristics” display any such ‘weaknesses’?

  • 13

    Having being rejected so decisively this rascal Ranil still wants to creep into parliament ,not with a mandate but using the pathetic constitution his uncle created. For a one time Prime Minister this is shameless.

    Ranil’s career is proof that Sri Lanka never had a proper elite, only a pretentious bunch of misfits, (neither native nor English-having the worse qualities of both)whose only common feature is the greed for office and wealth .

    I just ask one question-since 1977 how many foreign trips has this man Ranil made in his official capacity ? Which hotels did he stay at, what perks did he enjoy, where did he wine and dine?

    The answers will stupefy everyone including the high living millionaires of Arabia.

    At somebody else’s expense( including the people of this country, but manily various organizations and foreign tax payers) this scoundrel enjoyed his life to the max. The only justification -he is an office bearer in a State( MP, Minister, PM and even leader of Opposition) Never mind that this so called State of Sri Lanka is hardly noticeable for positive reasons including its size, but clearly remarkable for its failings.

    Even during that very short stint as PM under Chandrika ( when Ranil failed to disarm her and even stopped the impeachment of rogue judge Sarath Silva ) Ranil travelled overseas more than ten times!

    • 4

      Ranil had to travel mostly to be debriefed by Delhi and Washington and to mandatory meetings for peace negotiations.
      “For a one time Prime Minister “
      No, twice.
      Scold anyone to your heart’s content, but it helps to check on facts.

      • 3

        Sivasegaram, you have again displayed your ignorance. You can criticize anyone to your brain’s capacity, but it helps to check on fats. Ranil was prime minister thrice – first under DB Wijetunge, next under Chandrika K and finally under Sirisena.

        • 0

          Thank you for the data. You added: “You can criticize anyone to your brain’s capacity, but it helps to check on fats.”
          Why should one check on ‘fats’?
          May I say:
          “A quack can criticize anyone to his brain’s capacity ( i.e. if there is one in working order) but it is important to spell correctly.”

    • 3

      Yes, Joker Ranil is the biggest loser. He has been bribing Muslim ministers for votes for decades. Rishad Bathiudeen, one of those he bribed, resigned after the Easter attacks, as he had links to the bombers. He travels overseas at taxpayer expense, staying at 5-star accommodation and giving useless speeches. He tried to sell the country to LTTE terrorists in 2005, probably to get Tamil votes. Because of Millenium City incident, several military intelligence personnel were killed. Then there is the bond scam. Rajapakse is corrupt to some extent, but they will never sell the country to terrorists to get votes. Sajith should have called out Ranil in the last election. Failure to do so portrayed him as weak.

      • 1

        “Then there is the bond scam”
        Would you, with your superior knowledge, explain what this bond scam was, how much was lost, and who lost it, with calculations?

  • 2

    Both UNP and SJB are lost causes. Half the SJB voters do not know what SJB means (Samaki Jana Pallavaka)!

    Dissolve both and form a united new front under a new leader.

    • 2

      New Leader?
      What is new here?

  • 10

    I have read reports saying that Sajith Premadasa shows up in political meetings so late that the members get frustrated with his behavior. If he is not serious about political meetings of his own party, can you expect him to be serious about the nation? Never!

    If these reports are true, I don’t need a PhD in sociology from the University of Oxford to conclude that he is not a genuine leader with dedication who can lead like what Lee Kwan Yew was to Singapore.

    Somehow Sinhalese leaders (they are the majority) since independence were/are not dedicated to building up a nation. They are all racists and opportunists.

  • 9

    “Sajith has a Social Democratic Vision and a Mission.”
    Dr Mahin Mendis, You being an academic should not have stooped so low, praising and defending Sajith Premadasa who is a misfit to be a leader. Look at the blunders he makes when ever he opens his mouth. The recent example is when he thought Arundathi Roy is a MAN. Couple of weeks ago in SL parliament Sajith quoted Arundathi Roy’s statement where she criticizes the handling of Covid 19 by Hon. Modi. In Sajith’s speech he referred to Arundathi as “ETHUMA”. He should have said “ETHUMIYA” instead. You could watch Sepal Amarasinghe’s interesting video “https://www.youtube.com/hashtag/sajithpremdasa” and listen to what Sajith says in parliament at 6.45 min.
    Dr Mendis , think twice before writing Hosanna.

  • 3

    Ranil failed, period but the demise of the UNP can be attributed to Premadasa jnr & his cronies as well, conspiring for the leadership for years. Premadasa snr may have tried but his vision was flawed because none have borne fruit. He wasted public funds on useless projects, thuggery & corruption escalated during his watch, his appeal with his gutter mouth was for the simple country folk but internationally, he was out of his depth. Premadasa jnr is internationally educated, therefore, should be better than his old man but so far, I haven’t seen the leadership conveyed by, for example, AKD. Unless Premadasa jnr can clearly differentiate his party from others & convey the party strategy clearly, such as, forming a shadow cabinet to hold the current ministers accountable, as does the opposition in UK, my assumption is that the SJB is just another version of SLPP. Academic spin doctors singing for their supper doesn’t quite make a party any better.

    • 0

      I agree with you.
      But is it not a tall order to expect Premadasa Jnr to clearly differentiate his party from others?

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