By Vishwamithra –
“Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hats off to Sajit Premadasa! To paraphrase a much clichéd quote: he came, he saw and he conquered, no question. Drive and determination and raw ambition, the three fundamental elements essential for achievement of desired results in any field were amply manifest in the personality of Sajith. Added to that was an army of fellow travelers whose lot is invariably woven into the main protagonist’s ambitious political journey.
A delicate tapestry was woven and into that were whickered the nuanced and direct references of political realities of the day, a narrow scope of political messaging which is readily understood by the masses and the validity of the message and the credence that very narrowness lends unto itself have been carefully orchestrated. Sajith Premadasa looks the man who understands the very parameters within which he needs to exist and how to present himself to the broad masses; not the English-speaking puka sahibs of Colombo, but the broad masses whose daily chores include a common bath at the street-corner water tap or at the spout in the middle of a rural setting, dressing their children for the nearby school, collecting the tools necessary for day’s work and trek home after a well-spent day’s labor, looking forward to the cuddly embrace of an earnest spouse.
Sajit’s appeal to the masses was not created yesterday; it’s a product of a carefully thought-out process, a process by and in itself is hard to duplicate and even harder to sustain. The first victory of winning nomination and the all-purpose rise of Sajit Premadasa in the United National Party (UNP) is indeed a massive victory for the real ‘common man’; not the one on whose shoulders the Bandaranaikes and Rajapaksas plodded to power.
One is reminded of what happened in the UNP Working Committee meeting in 1976. When nominations were entertained by the UNP, JR Jayewardene, the undisputed leader of the party presided and R Premadasa spoke for more than one whole hour to convince the Working Committee member to select Joseph Michael Perera as the UNP candidate. It was rumored that JR had already asked John Amaratunga to wait at ‘Braemar’ J R’s private residence. But Premadasa managed to persuade even JR for and on behalf of Joseph Michael. That determination and drive is hard to come by. In such circumstances and situations, a tremendous skill of oratory and persuasive power, a lethal weapon in the hands of a democratic leader, and R Premadasa had it. Young Sajit too seems to have it in abundance. He did not give up his fight nor did his supporting army of backbenchers.
Nomination for Presidential candidacy was not handed to Sajit on a platter. He fought for it and won it. Today’s politics is not a gentlemanly game of Bridge. It is fought on hard surfaces; obstacles and impediments are many and a determined fighter only needs to apply himself with single-minded purpose; he needs to recognize the boundaries and also needs to recognize the dangers of going beyond those boundaries. The supporting staff needs to recognize that too but in the overall context of the desired results, overreaching is very much tolerated and if the leader of the group can sustain the interest, attaining the desired results is within the realistic grasp of the leader and his group of supporters.
Whether or not all these nuanced aspects of a battle plans, strategies and tactics were planned ahead of time is of no consequence now. The target audience, the broad masses, was convinced much earlier than the real men who decided on the outcome.
Ranil Wickremesinghe may not have had to face a similar status such as the one posed by Sajit Premadasa and he being backed by a leading television channel and a print media thirsty for sensational headlines was not a redundant element in public relation warfare. Sajit’s father tried his hand at a rebellion in the aftermath of the humiliating defeat the UNP suffered in 1970. Dudley Senanayake, although was very much loved and adored by the general public, was not recognized as a politician at elections; his ability to steer the ship of state in troubled times was very much in question. His laidback meandering was already an anachronism in the seventies. An aggressive and battle-hard approach was necessary and R Premadasa, with his marvelous wit and superlative oratorical skills on public platform managed to create a cutting image of an ambitious man in pursuit of raw political power.
Dudley recognized this talent but could not come to terms with it. On the other hand, JR did recognize it and put it to his use, JR’s advantage, and went further and made him his successor in the nineteen eighties. But R Premadasa’s peak was not when he became President. Ironically all his glamour and glory came when he was Prime Minister. Yet Premadasa’s tenure in the throne came in for severe scrutiny and the results of that scrutiny do not tell a pleasant story.
Sajit seems to have inherited all the positive skills of his father. What tells a very telling story is the drive and ambition and pursuit of his goal, until the desired results are achieved. Such perseverance and dogged belief in oneself are indeed rare and need to be instilled in our current crop of up-and-coming political leaders of all parties. Making Ranil Wickremesinghe bend is no easy task. Ranil’s irrational belief in maintaining an unsustainable status quo in the midst of sensational and marvelous innovations of Smartphone technology and internet networking seems to have bypassed Ranil and the consequence of ignoring these modern scientific and societal realities eventually caught up with him. And by that time the horses have left the proverbial barn.
As far back as February 2012, a writer in one of the current dailies carried an article under the banner, ‘Premadasa Exceptionalism and challenges it currently faces…’ And I quote from it as follows: ‘so, it’s not one or two reasons why R. Premadasa became acceptable to a very caste-creed-conscious society up to that time. His humble beginnings, his oratorical skills, his boldness in vision, his exemplary work ethic, micro-managing his subordinates and making it his strength instead of a weakness, his self-driven ambition, his masterful exploitation of the local media, his time-management ability, his simple and spotlessly clean attire, waking up early mornings and seeing the constituents at 4 a.m., and his dogged adherence to a timeline-oriented work plan, all these attributes contributed to his success. Who but an assassin can stop a man who possesses all these attributes?’
While I concur with all the sentiments so expressed in this part of the said article, I must warn Sajit that all flattery is not what one must judge the situation by. His responsibility now, at least in the very short term, is to win the elections. To that end, I’m sure he does not require training. Yet the mid-term goals could differ and they will pose a totally different challenge. For all realistic purposes, the UNP is now his. He’s the candidate from the Party. The last candidate who represented the UNP and won was his father. He can create history and he’s bound to do just that, create history. The United National Party has a candidate representing itself; not another ahindagatta (one picked at random) like the last one, the current President. Those UNPers who stayed at home on the polling day will go in procession this time, I’m sure.
In fact in the context of historical necessity, winning the elections would be much easier than sustaining the new reality such a victory would entail.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thondamany / October 2, 2019
Drive and determination and raw ambition of schemer Mangala.
Sajith can party. Votes for foreign liquor. Good strategy by my Mangala the Finance Minister.
From today, a person is entitles to posess 80 litres of foreign liquor.
Steve / October 2, 2019
Dawn of a new era with a young President in touch with the common man. He will follow his late father in making Sri Lanka great again.
Words / October 2, 2019
Where was this wonderful exceptional deputy leader of the UNP, when our country was driven to the ground over the last 4 years through revenge politics and dismal economic management and zero security??? Sleeping?? Can he say it had nothing to do with him????
Native Vedda / October 2, 2019
“Where was this wonderful exceptional deputy leader of the UNP, when our country was driven to the ground over the last 4 years through revenge politics and dismal economic management and zero security??? “
He probably was building houses with both of his hands.
On the other hand where were you when Gota and his goons were killing and stealing money from the state and LTTE by the way lying now?
This American coward Gota was allowed to steal, kill, destroy, …. abuse, … with total impunity. Were you concerned about a foreigner’s outrageous behaviour, conduct, ……? Were you concerned about Mahinda who was co-conspirator of the failed coup in October 2018?
Words / October 2, 2019
Lol.. yes you’re right! Must have have been building those houses with both his hands..no wonder they look such a work of art!!!??
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / October 3, 2019
Examples of late Premadasa exceptionalism :
1. Political murders – Aluthkade Pala, Davasa Photographer, Shanmugam brothers, Richard de Zoysa, Councillor Guneratne etc.
2. Amassing of ill gotten wealth from his humble beginning at Kehelwatte. 3. Megalomaniac designs – one million houses, 1000 garment factories etc.
4. Self promotion using state funds – painting bridges, exhibition on his birth day.
Spring Koha / October 3, 2019
Dr GS – Good examples but . . .
We must not forget Prez Premadasa’s lasting gift to the many towns of this land – the one that past’s the test of time:
The President’s clock towers. Here is what Nan wrote many years ago in the Island nespapers.
‘As we all remember, Ranasinghe Premadasa as both Prime Minister and President ordered the building of clock towers in very many cities and even hamlets’. ‘When we passed clock towers we would intone with peals of laughter: “Premadasa was here also.” Our laugh was justified in many cases since the clocks were hardly accurate.’
Tick tock tick tock
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / October 3, 2019
Clock towers are classic examples of short sighted policy purely for self promotion. What is the use of them when the clocks have stopped working and the structure in a dilapidated state. Populism is not the answer for progress.
Piumi / October 4, 2019
you must add to this the wealth they collected including the estate at Warakapola and stealing the vauable tings from the Presidents House
soma / October 3, 2019
Native, your thoughts are still loitering around the banks of Nandikadal. Thank God you managed to escape.
Akasa Herath / October 3, 2019
Yes, his father made Sri Lanka a cemetery with murdered young people. The son can take over and finish the rest.
Akasa Herath / October 2, 2019
What a horde of rubbish. Do not glorify a mutt. What are his policies to save this beloved country of ours from these unscrupulous pollies who plunder it more and more? Provide the school children with the mid-day meal, these are his bloody policies? This fellow is a thief and a fool. I suppose our country needs fellows like him, to continue the curse of JRJ.
soam / October 2, 2019
Between Sajit and Gotabaya, the later leaves the country at crucial times; i.e. during the last stages of the war with LTTE and now trying escape from the court ruling on his eligibility and the nefarious activities he is alleged to have committed. Gota is not fit be a leader and a ruthless person, Sajit should prevail. He must ensure “iceberg” Ranil is not made the Prime Minister.
Real Revolutionist / October 2, 2019
Sajith has come with luck in 1 hand & bad luck (Ranil) in the other hand.
Probably there’s a force upon him not to take the defense in his hand & vest it on FM SF.
Wise people can’t make him the leader.
Good Sense / October 2, 2019
Electorally SRP is popular and perhaps down to earth. So is Kim Jong Un (KJU) although his addiction to cheese is not known to the average North Korean is not known. It is also reported that SRP has his meals quite privately. The flabby appearance of SRP indeed reminds me of KJU. In both cases the spouse came into limelight quite recently. In both cases no photograph of children is available in the public domain. There are so many similarities. The only exception is that SRP is yet to be in the help whereas KJU has been in the helm for quite some time for his record especially dealing with people against him to be well known internationally. Popularity is one thing but what he is likely to do if and when he gets power is an assessment we all of us must make. I know the folly of voting for MY3 without checking his background and his past antics. MY3 said that he would operate from his hut in Polonnaruwa instead of occupying the Palace in Fort. Oh! Yes! Dead right. But he built his palace in Paget Road for a colossal sum. SRP says he will not occupy Government houses. Fine but he declines to state where he would live and that cost of living can be higher than what had he occupied one of the palaces. Let us learn lessons from the past.
soma / October 3, 2019
“Revival Of Premadasa Exceptionalism”
That’s the worry.
devadatta / October 3, 2019
From what I have observed, what Sajith cannot be trusted. He seems to be a cardboaed hero too. His statement that he is not gong to take even one step back is stupid. It may be OK for one’s private life. But such bravado in a leader very dangerous. No one is perfect and the ability to change course when required is a mandatory quality for a leader.
chiv / October 3, 2019
Though the outcome may turn out to be different as usual, my opinion is that ” if Gotha is found guilty of fraud and not eligible to stand in elections, then Ranil too should be barred from politics permanently for life”. He is as guilty as Gotha in breaking the Low and Odor. If not for constitution , UNP supporters , should see to that.