‘Sajith Premadasa’s leadership qualities’: Reply to Shantha Jayarathne

Saturday, 15 June 2024 00:05 –      – 19

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  •  A reply to the write up published in the DFT on 4 June 2024 under the heading ‘Sajith Premadasa’s leadership qualities: A critique’ by Shantha Jayarathne (https://www.ft.lk/opinion/Sajith-Premadasa-s-leadership-qualities-A-critique/14-762542#:~:text=Sajith%20Premadasa%E2%80%99s%20leadership%20is%20further,that%20border%20on%20vote%2Dbuying.)

By S.J. Amarasiriwardene

The election fever is heating up in an unprecedented and virulent manner day in and day out despite the Presidential election being almost five months away and the Election Commission is still to announce the day to accept nominations.

The political parties and political alliances are in a major strategic endeavour to overtake their rival political parties to ensure the victory at the polls. Many of them have no hesitation whatsoever to attack each other with hyperbolised comments and extremely vituperative, malicious and unfounded allegations more often than not, to score a few brownie points over their opponent.

If one takes a casual glance at the society to have an idea about the current political climate in the country, he or she could easily figure out that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna alias National People’s Power (JVP/NPP) are in the front in the fray. Almost all other political parties such as the SLPP, UNP, SLFP and all left aligned political parties are far behind.


Sajith is being greeted and loved by the people of all strata of the society gleefully where ever he goes to address the public and ceremonial meetings of his welfare programs such as Husma, Sakwala and Sasunata Aruna worth billions of rupees aimed at thousands of under resourced and underserved hospitals, schools, and places of religious importance. This is why he is considered a unique character the voter can trust and a politician who commands a huge confidence and popularity among the citizenry. He is different from all other opposition leaders and heads of political parties Sri Lanka has produced


There is no gainsaying that any political party in the south, other than the SJB and the JVP/NPP combine do not stand a chance to make any significant impact at the Presidential election under the prevailing political situation in the country.

No one must be a political pundit to realise that the prospect of success of political parties and politicians at the polls except the two main parties is extremely remote. It is no doubt that the outcome of the November Presidential election will be the end of the world for a number of top politicians in the south like Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Maithripala Sirisena, Dinesh Gunawardana and a large majority of MPs and ministers of their respective parties.

Many of them will not be in a position even to return to Parliament after the forthcoming general election that would follow soon after the Presidential poll. It will be a political vanquish to many a politician and political party in the south as the political party of the newly elected President will have a landslide at the general election.

If someone gives these politicians a piece of advice it should to be to ask them to pay attention to win a seat at the general election from their traditional hunting grounds, leave alone wasting their time, energy and financial resources to contest the Presidential election which is only a pipe dream for all of them.

Now in this scenario, it is quite obvious that the fight is between the SJB and the JVP/NPP.

However, all opinion polls, the public sentiment and the ground reality clearly indicate that the SJB led by the leader of the opposition Sajith Premadasa is gaining ground regularly. Any Sri Lankan living in and out the country with a balanced and apolitical mindset would see that Sajith’s popularity is far and wide and politicians from other political parties are queuing up or waiting for Sajith’s green light to join the SJB in days to come.

Sajith is being greeted and loved by the people of all strata of the society gleefully where ever he goes to address the public and ceremonial meetings of his welfare programs such as Husma, Sakwala and Sasunata Aruna worth billions of rupees aimed at thousands of under resourced and underserved hospitals, schools, and places of religious importance.

This is why he is considered a unique character the voter can trust and a politician who commands a huge confidence and popularity among the citizenry. He is different from all other opposition leaders and heads of political parties Sri Lanka has produced since the day the representative democracy was introduced in this island nation, probably in the entire world.

Therefore it is no secret that Sajith is a target of all rival parties, political opponents, mainstream print, electronic media and the social media that oppose the SJB and Sajith.

Sajith has not killed, misappropriated public money, taken commissions, maintained accounts at foreign banks, engaged in money laundering, bribery or corruption.

How one can find a way to attack him or find any mistake of him? None.

This is what the antagonists of Sajith cannot stomach. They are hard pressed to find any fault, misdeed, unworthy or indecent act of Sajith to lambast and make him a target of character assassination.

So at last seemingly with much pain, one Shantha Jayarathne (SJ) has found a way out.

In the write-up published in the Daily FT on 4 June 2024 (last Tuesday) entitled “Sajith Premadasa’s leadership qualities: A critique” he says, the leader of the opposition and the leader of the opposition Mr. Sajith Premadasa uses the pronoun ‘I’ when he addresses the masses.

Furthermore, SJ laments saying that: “This individual centric approach starkly contrasts with the essential qualities of effective leadership, highlighting a critical shortfall in his ability to lead”.

Probably after many searches, SJ finds using ‘I’ by Sajith to introduce himself at public rallies and meetings is no good. If using ‘I’ is the only mistake of him, it manifests that he could claim to have a clean sheet of character when goes through between the lines of SJ’s mingy rhetoric.

This mistake or weaknesses alluded to him by an opponent is a credit to Sajith.

Marred with malicious intentions

Sadly SJ’s comments are marred with malicious intentions.

“The rising sun can dispel the darkness of night but it cannot banish the blackness of malice, hatred, bigotry and selfishness from the hearts of humanity”, the respected banker and academic of Canada Ian Mckay has said.

If one implies that the use of ‘I’ by a politician to identify himself at public meetings is a weakness in a country where almost all the politicians including lawmakers are lambasted for allegations of bribery, corruption, murder, embezzling, inefficiency and many more misdeeds it can be presumed as a sign of honesty, integrity and statesmanship of him.

Besides, here is a politician who has refused to accept the premiership offered by the Executive President of the day not once but at more than several dozens of times simply because he has a name to safeguard, a political party to protect and a family to save.

Sri Lanka has a history of assassinations to grab power, we must not forget.

If Sajith is incapable of leading the nation as suggested by SJ, why do many other politicians desert their party under which they returned to Parliament in 2020 to join the SJB accepting Sajith’s leadership? Why do hundreds of thousands of people rally round him when he meets people and addresses public meetings at various parts of the country. Why have other political parties failed to attract politicians and voters from the SJB to their fold if Sajith is a weak leader?

Look at the face of school children, parents, teachers and average voters who participate in the ceremonial meetings held at Government schools, hospitals and temples that reflect the sense of gratitude, appreciation and happiness when Sajith gifts brand new buses to students, electronic and IT equipment to set up smart classrooms at underprivileged schools, medicine and medical equipment to hospitals and renovates dilapidated temples.

If this is what Sajith and the SJB can do while out of power, is it unfair to convince the people to think what he and his team are capable of doing for the country and the nation when given power? Sajith is carrying out all these meritorious and social welfare acts from funds raised with the help of philanthropists and benefactors of the SJB.

The self-promotion or self-aggrandising in an extremely competitive atmosphere is a modern way of election propaganda used by politicians in all parts of the world, be it in the US, UK, EU, or in India. It supports a politician to stand out against the rival politicians and gather more and more voters round him.

Former US president Donald Trump (R) won the presidential race in 2016 against former first lady Hillary Clinton (D) on a vicious and extremely pompous propaganda campaign. Trump continues to aggrandise himself despite the fact that he is a bloody Casanova and a convict of 34 charges in the hush money case filed against him in New York. Nonetheless, he is very popular in the US electorate right now thanks to his self-promotion drive. It will be a surprise if he did not win the November presidential polls in the US.

The entire world witnessed how 8,360 candidates who contested the just concluded Indian Lok Sabha election had resorted to self-promotion to their ability and financial strength. During electioneering in any other country that practices representative democracy, there is no exception.

Dr. Philippe Beauregard of the University of Aberdeen, who has done many research and studies on international leadership and cooperation, political psychology, personality cognition and emotions and environmental politics highlights in his 2022 best seller ‘The Passion of International Leadership – How Emotions Shape Transatlantic Cooperation’ explains how do international leaders emerge and why are they successful in bringing followers converge on their positions?

He says that leaders are driven by their convictions and that they must strike a balance between the intense emotions associated with their belief and their need to represent a broader community. At the same time as they seek to bring followers on board by persuading them, they need to pay attention to emotionally contagious and resonate events.

This is exactly what Sajith practices when he addresses public meetings and rallies explaining his objectives on carrying out community welfare programs, social security programs, policies and planning of a soon to be established SJB Government under his presidency in order to bring the country and people out of the current economic, social and spiritual mess.

Sajith is honoured, welcomed and adored by millions

SJ raises doubts about leadership qualities of Sajith. But Sajith is honoured, welcomed and adored by millions of Sri Lankan voters, global leaders, the diplomatic community and religious leaders with one voice.

They are unanimous that he is the most suitable and astute statesman in Sri Lanka who possesses the ability, skill, vision and a plan to take Sri Lanka out of the current economic, political and social downturn.

The biggest problem for the opposition is that he continuously raises burning issues of the people in and out of the House that has led to many a positive outcome.

The Government has been forced to amend or withdraw a number of draft Bills that contravene the Constitution and violate fundamental rights of the people before they were passed in Parliament. The best example is the Electricity Bill of Sri Lanka which was passed last Wednesday.

Consequent to a petition filed by the legal team of the SJB on the advice of Sajith, the Supreme Court convicted eight respondents including three Rajapaksa brothers namely Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil for the mishandling of the national economy that led to the bankruptcy of Sri Lanka.

Sajith’s continuous and persuasive critic in Parliament has compelled the Government to postpone the parate execution on those who have taken bank loans but failed repayment due to the economic crisis. This has benefitted and given a sigh of relief to thousands of macro, small and medium scale enterprises.

The Government will increase the annual interest rate on fixed deposits of senior citizens to 15% from the current 8% on the insistence of Sajith shortly. The grievance of the opposition now is that Sajith is acting fast.

The writer SJ finds fault with Sajith for his alleged self-promotion. But alas: SJ is deaf and blind to Sajith’s numerous good deeds that have benefitted millions of Sri Lankans.

He fails to question the JVP/NPP combine on what they do with their massive funds collected from JVP supporters. Why it is no problem for him when Anura Kumara Dissanayake and other JVP/NPP top brass indulge in merry making tours in many parts of the world, wear highly expensive branded shirts, three piece suits, purchase branded shoes, belts and stay in five-star hotels in world capitals using the lucre collected from undisclosed sources and from their members? What are the benefits they have given to the people of Sri Lanka or at least to their voters using this money?

Why does SJ not raise a voice against the declared policy of the NPP which envisages to giving power to its cadres in the village to mark individuals, file charges and pass judgments against those who commit offences under the law dictated by the JVP/NPP combine if and when they came to power?

Are they going to re-activate the killing spree of the armed wing of the JVP, the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV) in 1989/90 period that murdered political opponents, intellectuals, university academics, politicians, priests, armed forces and police personnel, journalists, film and teledrama artists and hundreds of innocent civilians who did not obey their unlawful orders, making Sri Lanka a killing field?

He has no qualms at all for giving facilities and introducing laws to encourage prostitution among women in Sri Lanka to increase State revenue in their left oriented utopia and for exposing the breasts of young Sri Lankan women to popularise tourism in the country.

He does not question about the economic and trade policy of a JVP/NPP government. What is the position of the NPP on family business and private enterprises?

Sajith has not taken a single meal or purchase a litre of fuel using funds donated to the SJB by his well to do supporters as far as I know. Does not SJ see any difference in Sajith from other politicians and as a leader of the opposition in particular? He has done all these meritorious and people-friendly deeds with no help from the Government. He has put a smile on the face of millions of families of Sri Lankans, Tamils, Muslims and followers of all religions with no discrimination against any. As a habit, he does not sling mud at anyone but he is a prime target of character assassination of his adversaries.

It seems that SJ has no courage to talk about President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s indecent haste to distribute free rice packets, orders given to finish development projects in the periphery before the polls while the budgetary allocations 2024 were meant to finish them by the end of 2024 which is a clear example of misusing State revenue for his political advantage. Can’t he see that Ranil who has been in power on and off since 1977 as a deputy minister, cabinet minister, opposition leader, prime minister and finally as the executive president is a miserable loser who has failed to make any significant contribution to the nation building?

He has suddenly become a munificent benefactor to all Sri Lankans. After a deep slumber, he has become a great philanthropist at the last stage of his political career with an uncharacteristic love and compassion for the people. He freely gives away the unsuspecting masses free goodies and money from Government coffers. Distributes land deeds to families living on State lands for decades without any trouble as there is no ‘tomorrow’.

Ranil has done the biggest harm to democracy in Sri Lanka when he deliberately contributed to postpone the local government polls last year. He, being the Minister of Finance, aggressively refused to release funds allocated from Budget 2023 to the Election Commission ignoring the repeated attempts by the Supreme Court to facilitate the conduct of the LG polls. Hilariously, Ranil has served as a vice chair of the International Democratic Union after all.

Ranil is in the process of fulfilling his childhood dreams

How many foreign trips has he undertaken as the President in the last two years? Ranil is in the process of fulfilling his childhood dreams right now. Though not having a people’s mandate, he has ascended to the Presidency because he was at the right place at the right time. So he is of the view that he has every right to enjoy the power and privileges of the executive presidency to the fullest.

So, rubbing shoulder with kings, presidents, prime ministers, top diplomats like the secretary general of the UN is extremely joyful, a dream realised after many attempts.

There was a grand tamasha in New Delhi to celebrate the swearing in of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday (9) with the participation of President Wickremesinghe which is his 22nd foreign trip as President. What a jolly good life at the public expense uh?

As an artful dodger, Ranil has appointed nearly several dozens of committees, commissions and board of inquiries to resolve various issues during his political career with no positive outcome but only a waste of public money. Shantha has no qualms about these things.

SJ adds that leadership transcends personal achievements. It is about inspiring and uplifting others. Very true. But why cannot he understand that this is exactly what Sajith is doing?

Has any citizen, organisation, NGO or foreign diplomatic mission ever made any negative comment on his social and public welfare programs or the handling of the opposition, public affairs or his speech?

Right throughout his political career, Sajith has maintained, followed and displayed courage, empathy, passion, vision, self-awareness, innovation and integrity, the much talked about qualities of leadership and statesmanship.

It is a universally accepted fact that the most friendly and helpful president on the poorest of poor, the downtrodden and the marginalised sections of the society ever produced by Sri Lanka was late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. I have no doubt that even President Premadasa’s political enemies will accept this.

His main focus not only during his presidency but in his early days in politics was poverty alleviation, providing a square meal, a roof above the head and improve the living condition of these people who have no voice.

The biggest global level achievement of president Premadasa was the declaration of the ‘International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (IYSH) by the UN General Assembly in 1987 on the initiative taken and proposed by then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Premadasa.

In national level, his policy was to take the industrial development to the hinterland if we are to develop the rural sector.

He introduced the 200 garment factory program. Provided all possible incentives to investors such as tax relief, lands, and facilities to import machinery. He instructed entrepreneurs to go to the village and provide a minimum of 500 jobs to rural youth that has become a great success story in Sri Lanka’s industrial development.

Today, garment and apparel exports are one of the biggest foreign exchange earners and biggest employment provider to rural youth.

The Gam Udawa program has provided hundreds of thousands of houses to the needy. President Premadasa introduced free meal, free glass of milk, free textbooks, and free school uniform programs for the benefit of school children, a massive relief for students and their parents.

His service to the art, theatre, and aesthetic industry is unparalleled.

There is a universally accepted norm that no one criticises, ridicules or insults the dead.

This is what SJ has to say about late president and one of the greatest national leaders who ruled Sri Lanka.

“… Such practices are reminiscent of the governance style of Sajith’s father who was known for squandering public money to benefit his cronies. This pattern of behavior raises serious questions about Sajith Premadasa’s commitment to ethical leadership and fiscal responsibility”.

Can SJ point out a single incident of squandering of public money or giving financial support to their cronies by late president Premadasa or Sajith? Please let us know.

The stand taken by SJ on the use of the term ‘I’ by Sajith

Finally, if the stand taken by SJ on the use of the term ‘I’ by Sajith is bad enough to get negative comments as a national leader, the most famous and biggest offender in using the term I, me, mine or mine to introduce or boast of himself is Prince Siddhartha.

Prince Siddhartha who was born some 2,647 years ago at Sal garden (Cannonball tree garden) at Lumbini in Nepal pronounced soon after his birth that “Aggo Hamasmi Lokassa, Jetto Hamasmi Lokassa – Ayamanthima Naththidhani Punabbavo” In a loose translation it goes as ‘I am the greatest in the world, I am the topmost person in the world. This is my last birth. I will not have a reincarnation hereafter’.

However, late President Premadasa or his son Sajith have never ever declared that they are the greatest, most important or influential politicians in this country at any stage or at any time.

The greatness and the respect have been conferred on them by millions of people of Sri Lanka for what they have done for the country and nation. Please wait until the conclusion of the Presidential election to see the veracity of this statement.