By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
In watching the video of the launch of the UNP manifesto, (available in the Facebook),one of the factors that surprised me most was the performance of Sajith Premadasa. I had never seen him so stiff in delivering his public speeches. He was speaking more as a ventriloquist than as a fired-up, rabble-rousing politician gesticulating frenetically, or beating his chest on public stages. He stood there at the launch as stiff as a statue made of clay. Only his tongue was moving to make noises.
Somebody must have told him that to look presidential he must not throw his hands around and blast his opponents at the top of his voice. So he was as solemn and stiff as he could be, cutting a very poor image of a want-to-be president. The image he projected was that of defrocked priest delivering a Sunday sermon from his pulpit which is about to come apart. On the public stage he comes across like a street-corner evangelist, (inspired by the born-again cult of Rosy Senanayake, a family friend), who promises to bring paradise down to the earth before the day’s sun goes down.
However, it must be conceded that the flow of his verbal gymnastic was flawless. But it was all puffery. It was all sound and no substance. Sajith is a man in a hurry to make an impression. He is trying to cover his immaturity and inexperience with sounds of empty phrases. He is certainly better than Ranil in performing on the stage. He has also energised the crest-fallen UNPers to be more active. But all his rhetoric so far comes down to offering freebies, ranging from gewgaws, lollipops and tampons. His offering of tampons to villagers is the equivalent of Ranil offering computers to farmers in previous election campaigns. I was wondering whether Sajith got this idea of distributing free sanitary pads from Prince Charles who once wrote endearingly to his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, saying that his ambition in life was to be her tampon!
All his sound and fury can be reduced to one simple argument: he is going to be the new broom that will sweep all evils away in one swipe and bathe Sri Lanka in milk and honey. There is nothing new in this. He is repeating what Ranil and Sirisena promised in 2015 – a vena-suck (difference). And he was an integral part of the Yahapalanaya (good governance) which promised the difference. But what did he do when he was a vena-sucker? Did he lift a finger, or raise a whisper to stop the daylight robbery of his leader, Ranil?0r when Ravi Karunayake found guilty by the courts, was reappointed as a Cabinet minister, sitting next to him? Or when his leader failed to honour his promise of bringing back from Singapore the crook who steered the robbery on the floor of the Central Bank? Etc? Etc? If he did nothing then how can we trust him to do something now?
He admits that the state of which he is a key figure is rotten. His new-found political guru, Victor Ivan, too states that the Yahapalanaya regime of which he was part is rotten to the core. But he promises to clean it up. How? Now it is obvious to even the blind man’s blind dog that if and when Sajith is elected (Fat chance!) he will have to work with the same rotten mob. How can he fulfil his promise of restoring purity, honesty and integrity to his government when he is bound to appoint Ravi Karunanayake and Ranil Wickremesinghe, two of the leading political apparatchiks behind the biggest bank heist in Sri Lanka, to his Cabinet?
He is lying through his teeth when he promises to be the next “Mr. Clean” of the UNP. He knows that he can’t fulfil his fake promises. Obviously, he is making these fake promises because he knows that he will never be asked by the people to honour his promises on November 16. They know as a vena-sucker he went along with the “rotten state” (his words) of his leader Ranil. And despite his bravado on the stage, he will continue to go along with the same rotten mob which will pressure him to fall in line with their rotten politics. If he is the honest man that he claims to be can he gives the nation an assurance now that he will not appoint crooks like Ranil and Ravi?
Sajith is tied, hand and foot, to Ranil’s “rotten” political agenda. His desperate attempts to project himself as a new force within the UNP, divorced from Ranil, lacks credibility because he has fallen into the hands of Ranil’s doppelganger, Mangala Samaraweera who is with Victor Ivan and the NGO gangs who constitute the so-called civil society. The difference between Sajith and Ranil is only a personal conflict of interests / ambitions and not ideological, defining two different political philosophies. Sajith’s flowery language is a mere cover to hide his hidden commitment to Ranil-TNA political agenda.
At this critical stage when he has to walk a tight rope between the South and the North he is unable to reveal his hand. That is why he and his minders hired Victor Ivan to propagate the fiction of a new constitution as the final solution to the national crisis. To the vast majority the talk of a new constitution is as dangerous as one of the bombs made by Victor Ivan when he was a JVP fascist. Sajith is promising to devolve uparima balaya (utmost power) to the Tamils within a united nation which is the mechanism designed by Ranil and Sumanthiram. All this means, that the UNP has put forward Sajith, dressed in national costume and pirith noola, to sell the TNA agenda instead of Ranil marketing it in shirt and trousers. In this election the stand taken on constitutional reforms is critical to win the Tamil votes. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has bluntly rejected the 13 proposal put forward by the Tamil extremists. But Sajith is silent. Instead he puts forward Victor Ivan to praise the necessity of constructing a new constitution – a concession that goes to please only the Tamils. When on the day Sajith makes his firm pledges to the nation he invites Victor Ivan to preach the value and the necessity of constitutional changes as drafted and promoted by the TNA he is indirectly guaranteeing that he will give top priority to the devolution of “uparima balaya” to the Tamils in exchange for a handful of votes.
Prioritising of “the constitutional changes” was the main platform of the UNP at the launch of the manifesto. Sajith and his minders had pre-planned in advance and picked Victor Ivan to deliver the message of constitution-making as a sine qua non for the future of the nation. Events on political stages of this magnitude do not happen by chance. Key events are pre-planned. Which means that Sajith had embraced and endorsed Victor Ivan to be his spokesperson. And victor Ivan was the ventriloquist who uttered the words of Sajith.
Sajith should hang his head in shame for committing this betrayal. He was not only betraying the nation but also his father, President Ranasinghe Premadasa. If his father wanted to betray the nation he had the opportunity to do it when he was the President. He need not have risked his life. He sacrificed his life to save the nation from the Tamil extremists. Sajith, like Chandrika Bandaranaike, is somebody today because his father gave his life to save his people. Sajith’s lack of principles and readiness to betray fundamental decencies that define honest men of integrity was revealed when he invited the man who celebrated his father’s death to deliver his betrayal of the nation.
He is doing exactly what CBK has been doing. She climbed on her father’s coffin to raise her image in the eyes of the sympathetic public claiming to be the legitimate heir to his heritage. Once she climbed to the top she betrayed her father with no qualms. The children are shamelessly climbing up the public ladder by claiming to be the legitimate heirs of their fathers. When they get to the top they party on their fathers’ graveyards, kicking their fathers’ principles without any respect or gratitude.
In a sense the whole scenario at the launch is hilarious. Imagine the giants like DS Senanayake, Dudley, JR and Premadasa of the Grand Old Party being told what to do by Victor Ivan, the bomb-maker of the JVP which went all out to decimate the UNP leadership. It is a comic show that could be organised only by the UNP jokers. He was hand-picked by Mangala Samaraweera and Harin Fernando – two of the key minders of Sajith. Where does this leave Ranil? Is this the shape of things to come?
The battle lines are quite clear now: Gota has openly rejected the TNA demands. Sajith thinks he can get away by spinning rhetorical yarns to cover up his surrender to the Tamil demands. The launch of the manifesto now has exposed him as a prisoner of the Mangala-gang within the UNP who is equally committed as Ranil’s commitment to grant the Tamils their demands.
The internal struggles for power, the betrayal of national interests, the bankruptcy of a party which cannot guarantee a secure future and, above all, the rottenness of the leadership in the UNP are factors that reveal the pathetic state of the UNP. Besides, the indecent act of Sajith inviting Victor Ivan to launch his manifesto is reason enough to question whether the son carries his father’s DNA. Victor Ivan not only celebrated his father’s death but he took the son’s stage to promote the political agenda of the Tamil Tigers who assassinated his father.
What a father! And what a son!