Sajith Premadasa whose forte on the campaign trail appeared to be his singing skills is tipped to be appointed UNP Deputy Leader in two days.
Angry UNP insiders point out however that Premadasa stepped on UNP campaign platforms only three times in Badulla – in Mahiyanganaya, Passara and Bandarawela – all electorates the UNP ultimately lost in Saturday’s provincial election.
No great orator, Premadasa’s greatest strength on platforms is his decent singing voice UNP politicians said but several times the party could not make him stop to allow other speakers to take the stage.
At the Bandarawela Rally three days before the election Premadasa arrived late and launched into a speech that lasted well over one hour and consisted largely of his father Ranasinghe Premadasa‘s political achievements. As boredom started to set into the crowd Sajith Premadasa began to sing and continued to sing seven songs, sources said.
“Harin could not get him to stop. Other UNP MPs who were at the rally tried coming up on stage to signal that the singing session was over but no luck. In the end Ranjan Ramanayake who was supposed to speak could not,” a UNP member told Colombo Telegraph.
Some political observers noted that ‘Singing Sajith’ was not behaving as behoves a national level politician and president or prime minister in waiting with his performances on stage.
UNP members also point out that Sajith Premadasa had promised to help organisers in Moneragala including his loyalist Ranjith Maddumabandra but disappeared for two crucial weeks during the campaign. “We were unable to contact him even on the phone” one UNP MP said. “The whole idea was that Harin would handle Badulla and Sajith would help to reduce Government votes in Moneragala. But in the end he just vanished in the midst of all the campaigning” the MP added.
Ultimately Moneragala performed less well than Badulla even though the pro-Sajith media were crediting Premadasa with UNP gains in the province the MP said.
In the final week of campaigning Premadasa spent his time in Hambantota rather than in the Uva province party insiders said. Premadasa admitted to this fact when he texted the Sunday Times political editor saying he was ‘at political meetings in Hambantota’ while his party was engaged in a major fight in the Uva province.
Ironically both Sirasa and Mawbima are hailing Premadasa’s role in the UNP gains in the election on Saturday without airing a single shot of the party’s popular chief ministerial candidate Harin Fernando, on whose young shoulders the weight of the opposition campaign ultimately rested.
“Sajith acted like he was too big for it when the party asked him to contest as Southern Province Chief Minister. Harin did what Sajith had no guts to do. And Harin has come out on top. It is to youngsters like Harin that the UNP should turn as it looks for energetic young leadership. Sajith Premadasa lacks political acumen because as a young politician he is afraid of a gamble. He is no risk-taker,” one senior UNP aide told Colombo Telegraph in an email.
The aide said that ultimately, the UNP had made strides in Uva without the assistance of the Sirasa media network and without help from Sajith Premadasa.
However the UNP Kolonnawa Organiser Marikkar has launched a major campaign on the Sirasa network to promote Premadasa as the hope of the party.
Writing into Colombo Telegraph, columnist Shyamon Jayasinghe notes that by taking a risk Harin Fernando has acted more like late President Premadasa than his own son.