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Sajith Premadasa : Question or Answer ?

Could a change of government bode well for the island’s democracy? Sajith Premadasa could provide the answer 

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 18, London- Sri Lanka Guardian)
We voted in governments who did not listen to its populace since independence. We closed our eyes when our very rights as democratic citizens were pilfered right in front of our very eyes. And we continue to buy the canard that successive governments are interested in the aspirations of the common people.

Our leaders belonging to two major parties whose members kept switching sides as and when it suited them have hoodwinked us for well over six decades and still counting. These leaders are not at fault. The mistakes lies within the populace which buys the utopian promise that things are getting better. Their machinations are so well-orchestrated so the thin line between good governance and sublimations of the people become so blurred that we placed utmost faith in voting in leaders whose aspirations did not transcend narrow selfish interests.

They called in Sinhala nationalism as their trump card and all the while even the majority Sinhala populace were left wringing their hands in agony over the plight they plunged themselves into. Let us forget for one moment the predicament of the minorities.

Starting with our first PM since independence, D.S. Senanayake, there has been a conspicuous crossing over and interchanging of politicians from the UNP to the SLFP. Only the party political colours and symbols differed and not much else. DSS ensconced his whole inheritors in crown lands stretching from the hills of Nuwara-Eliya to Cinnamon Gardens, once a wilderness but having chased out original inhabitants and building blocks of flats down Gregory’s Road in Cinnamon Gardens evacuating original dwellers.

The Senanayakes still inhabit these prime properties pilfered from rightful inheritors. It is not surprising the Mahinda clan are following in the footsteps of their precedents. While the Senanayakes were carters to the then colonial British powers, the Bandaranaikes were the latrine contractors for the British in early 1800. May the late Manik Sandrasegara who enjoyed hospitality from the two clans who imparted these news to the author during his cannabis-induced state rest in peace.

Dr Ranil Senanayake, the grandson of Robert Senanayake and brother of DSS, is in the habit of procuring crown lands in the name of environmental conservation and reserving the lands in his three grandsons’ names. Check out Mirihawatte in Bandarawela district and NSRC (Neo-synthesis Research Centre) funded by US NGOs such as Rainforest Rescue International and Counterpart. The excuse of Dr Senanayake known to all as the ‘snake man’ ( he exported indigenous snakes to the West for profit) is that he is rehabilitating natural forests degraded by the British who denuded them for tea plantations.

It is to the credit of the Late President Premadasa that he scoffed his predecessors and resurrected the down-trodden classes to a semblance of average living standards. I have witnessed the transformation of the rubbish dump in Peliyagoda into human habitat replete with electricity and concrete buildings in the late ‘80s.

President Premadasa also won accolades for his one million housing schemes which benefited the poorest of the poor including the ethnic Tamil minority. He was feted in Harare, Zimbawe, for his championing the dirt poor over his predecessors who never felt hunger pangs or were in need of shelter. Violet Nona could not wax more eloquent than the achievements of a President who ripped off class hegemony and gave priority to the common masses. Children in schools were given free nutritious meals in the form of kolakenda and daily intake of milk.

Many Tamils had their own homes thanks to the initiative of President Premadasa. It is pertinent to note here an anecdote this author encountered in Wattala. The kids at a nursery school were attending a lesson in religious education. The teacher asked the kids who gives them food, shelter and who helps them grows trees. The children replied in unison. “Pemadasa”.

That he also caused the 1983 ethnic riots incited by racist elements cannot be ignored. But having experienced the ravages of a class-ridden aristocracy in the form of the two leading dynasties which were the Bandaranaikes and the Senanayakes, he set out with one goal of uplifting the poor from their entrenched fate of always being relegated to their fate of never rising to their potentials.

For the first time in their lives the poorest of the poor had electricity instead of bottle lamps. Sajith Premadasa carries on the mantle of his father and more importantly the kind and generous nature of his mother Hema Premadasa.

Sajith’s leadership in the UNP could save this island nation of ours from oligarchy and veer it towards restoring democracy Ranil Wickremesinghe notwithstanding. The struggle within the UNP and Ranil W’s relegating Sajith Premadasa to the backwoods of UNP struggle should not be ignored. Sajith is emerging as a politician who has the ability to resurrect the UNP and work towards the aspirations of the common masses with guidance and growing up with two selfless individuals who happen to be his parents.. Tell a Friend

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