By Vishwamithra –
“Sacrifice: If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” ~Anonymous
No General should send his troops where he himself cannot go. That’s a universal quality of leadership. Historical examples are aplenty; Gandhi and Nehru spent years in jail so that their soldiers couldn’t one day point the finger at them accusing them of betrayal or of self-preservation. Fear of and hesitancy and reluctance to undergo and endure physical hardships and mental collapse is not within the armor of great leadership. The question then is whether our current leaders in Sri Lanka are willing and ready to do whatever difficult tasks in order to accomplish the noble goals of the Aragalaya which began more than two months ago on the Galle Face Green. Unfortunately the answer is an emphatic NO.
Pontificating from atop political platforms or inside the well of the house of Parliament or before a media group is not leadership. In fact, it is naked and unequivocal cowardice. Both Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa fall into that group of leaders whose political ambitions have overtaken the need of the hour. Their apparent reluctance to extend the voice and action of the greater majority of our people beyond the traditional playground of politics is responsible for the lethargy and sluggishness of the Aragalaya that once was a cause of many unpredictable changes that were eventual effects of the process.
The two most formidable groups of politicians, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) are silent today and their respective leaderships have displayed nothing but reluctance, hesitancy and haplessness when the call is for more vigorous, more steadfast and more authentic approach to the economic, political and social journey of the country.
After Ranil Wickremesinghe assumed the office of Prime Minister, the faint and slim hope that the people clung on to is evaporating before our very eyes. The youth whose stamina is seen to have been exhausted need a push and shove if the fundamental goals of the movement are to be met. Political leadership is one ingredient that was absent from the Aragalapitiya and that very subjective condition seems to be going abegging from the Aragalaya.
Had Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and the rest of Indian leadership during India’s Independence struggle stayed at home and asked their troops and followers to perform Satyagraha on the streets of India, what would have been the status of that great movement? The success of the Free India movement was greatly attributable to the exemplary leadership and the sacrifice they, the leaders of the movement, so willingly rendered. It would be great treachery to compare our Sajith and AKD to the Gandhis and Nehrus of India, yet a pertinent mention of the leaders of yesteryear in India is not an overstatement.
The Rajapaksas once again have managed to safeguard their closely guarded wealth and conceal the untold atrocities, thanks largely to the inclusion of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the greatest political traitor modern Sri Lanka has produced. Their preoccupation is with protecting and buttressing the status quo; the hope that the uprising, when it began its sparks and flashes to spread around the country, has had its desired effects, their presence was needed elsewhere. Not because the need is no more or the objective conditions have improved; it is solely because the soldiers have found another, more demanding and an unforgiving battleground: ever-lengthening queues for basic household essentials.
While differences between AKD and Sajith on matters of policies and principles are many, there is one stark similarity between the two: approach to attainment of their political goals which is based on the false assurance of ‘give us power we will know how to provide gas, fuel, medicines and fertilizer’. Their reading of the voter’s mind is as delusional as that of the Rajapaksa brothers- no plan, no roadmap no strategy and no tactics.
But today’s youth in the country are a different species. They are educated, they are well informed and they are indeed not parochial in their fundamental approach to politics, economic management and governance. Their erudition is far beyond the unsophisticated mindset of the current political leadership in the country. And by being so languid and timid in the methodology to resolving many intricate issues that confront the country of today, both AKD and Sajith have become enablers of the very system and organism which today’s youth wish to destroy and replace.
It is precisely that psyche which gives room and space to the current lot of politicians of the government to drag out issues which should not be procrastinated even by twenty four hours. Urgency and immediacy does not seem to be in the working formula of all our mainstream-politicians and as a result of this lack of attention and consideration, the countrymen are doomed to further difficulty and unspeakable hardships.
It is beyond all imagination that our politicians, whether they represent the government or the Opposition, could boast of a clear and detailed roadmap for the resolution of the multiple crises the citizenry is facing. One cannot grasp this reality; the tardiness that is the landmark of an unsuccessful leader has taken ahold of all our leaders and that is so amongst all parliamentarians. A total lack of empathy coupled with sheer incompetence, first to understand the complexities of the issues and then arrive at a consensus-rooted strategic and tactical plan, is costing the country each passing day.
One can easily understand the apathy and incompetence of the Rajapaksas and the Wickremesinghes; but how that same sense of apathy and incompetence has seeped into the mindset of men like AKD and Sajith and their respective sets of party men is utterly alarming. With that kind of political leadership, the country is perceptibly approaching total calamity, a calamity from which there won’t be any recovery.
At the very outset of this series of occurrences, the youth of the country, the real heroes of the Aragalapitiya showed a way forward. A new awakening of the mind with a fresh outlook into racial and religious divisions, rejection of decades-old traditions of polarized and polarizing politics flew out the gates and a fresh insight into a different vista of national life opened up. But the proposed marriage between the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe, at least among those who wished for a better day to come, put a halt to the growing intensity of the battle on the Galle Face Green.
That halt, first perceived as a temporary slag, became the norm in the ensuing weeks. Increasing demands of day-to-day needs of families took the youth away from the Aragalapitiya and placed them amongst the thousands of men and women that crowded the queues for household essentials. Our youth is not a generation that had fallen from nothingness; they too are part of their families and those families have needs outside protesting against the governing junta. A vicious cycle of demand and supply and its need to be fed without a stop began working against the interests of an uprising which one once thought is about to be delivered of- a new baby cloaked in a ‘system change’.
Changing a system, introduction of fresh principles and fresh structures takes time, in fact, a long, long time. Those who are not cultivated and refined to be patient and scrupulous must forget about transformation of a system; they must first follow the texts written and rewritten about successful political change. Political change, or even a spontaneous uprising as was evidenced amidst a falling economy and a rotting political culture, needs superior management skills if the desired results are to be achieved.
It is precisely in this arena the AKDs, Premadasas, Champikas and the rest of our Opposition-political leaders have failed the country. Identifying the potential lapses and issues and thereafter offering tangible and pre-tested resolutions is a hallmark of astute leadership. However, when such a demand is the cry of the hour, good leaders take the lead, not rushing to the trouble spot after the horses have bolted as they did on the Aragalapitiya on that fateful day, May 9th. Sajith Premadasa had to take to his heels in order to avert serious injury; the fury of the protesters was so overwhelming.
In other words, Sajith is not ready to dare to challenge the police assault and nor was he ready with a pre-tested formula as to how to recoup from one failure. Instead, Sajith sought solace in his comfort zone of press briefings and mulling in solitude. AKD was no better; at least he was not threatened with assault when he visited the Aragalapitiya the same day, in fact, long before it dawned on Sajith to pay his ill-timed visit.
Yet it is not too late for both these leaders to come together as one team, with one coherent message before the people and throw a challenge to the governing Gota-Ranil Junta and risk being arrested. A few days or a few weeks inside jail is not too much to be asked of these so-called leaders of the people. Their time is running out. Objective conditions of the people are worsening and a strong leadership with iron discipline and a flexible strategy must be presented to the people waiting for such a head of a movement. Don’t let this movement die. If it dies without archiving its primary goal, the wrath of the people and the fury of history would be fairly and squarely on both of you, AKD and Sajith.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com