Improve things without destroying democracy
Today is the last day of the Presidential campaign. While one candidate is failing to prove their citizenship, another is making an actual closing argument. Let’s talk to the fellow with his sarong on.
What follows is the latest set of tweets from Sajith Premadasa, some of his final communications before election silence at midnight tonight. I’ll quote them and then put comments where I have them.
The people of Sri Lanka are politically mature. They know that this election could be our last. I have no doubt that voters will vote for the candidate who will preserve the right to change their leaders when they feel change is needed.
I pray that he’s right. Across the world people have elected obviously unqualified candidates on racist agendas. It’s a vile but often winning combination. I hope that Sri Lankans are better than this.
As Sajith says, he comes with a return policy. He’s part of our democracy, not an attack on it.
There is nothing fiscally irresponsible about prioritising the welfare of ordinary Sri Lankans, including women, children and youth. I understand that debt taken today has to be repaid tomorrow. I would not be a president who burdens future generations in order to live a little easier in the present day. Our plan calls for funding our pledges through thoughtful planning, accelerated growth, reduced waste and borrowing costs.
My pledges must be evaluated as the productive investments that they are. They are not empty airports, idle ports and cricket stadiums abandoned to the jungle. For example, free sanitary pads will not only safeguard the health of women and girls, but will also increase their participation and performance in school and in the workplace, resulting in an incalculable boost in economic growth.
On this you have to look at the people around Sajith. Mangala Samaraweera has been a competent Finance Minister. He ran a primary balance surplus for the first time ever and got us removed from a money laundering watch list. He has proposed sane and smart budgets, a far cry from the blatant corruption of the first UNP Minister, Ravi. Sajith has said his team will have no one with corruption allegations, so no Ravi.
The other people around him are Dr. Harsha De Silva, an economist, and Eran Wickramaratne, a former banker.
That said, these people all need a balance away from neo-liberalism and whatever the IMF wants. These can balance sheets and unbalance a society. We still have to continue investing in people and the poor. Sajith himself is committed to that.
There is not and has never been any question of my allegiance being divided between this country and any other country. I have never been suspected of or arrested for any crime.
This should go without saying, but Gota has offered no third-party (ie the US Embassy) proof that he is no longer a US citizen. His dual citizenship was dodgy and is in court. He is in court for multiple criminal cases.
Gota’s citizenship is so messed up that he is already compromised by America. He’s running as an anti-American candidate somehow, but he’s so arrogant and lazy that he’s become their asset.
I have been very clear that no one who is facing allegations of corruption or wrongdoing from our criminal justice system will have any role to play in my government. That is set in stone.
No. Fucking. Ravi.
But I believe few of us politicians focus on the most down-trodden and oppressed in our country. I have chosen to be their voice, their advocate. The people have taught me everything I know about politics.
Sajith has spent his time among the poor, his family base is Colombo but he chose to contest from and serve Hambantota. I believe that lifting up the poor is the right thing to do, and the surest way to prosperity for us all.
I have learnt that to get anything done, the most critical step is assembling the right team and empowering them to deliver results. Therefore, my first priority will be putting the right people in the right places.
My team will comprise energetic, capable and educated people of integrity. Positions of responsibility will be given to those who can make things happen. Meritocracy will prevail.
As President, I will ensure that the right people are in the right positions to run the economy, ensure national security and manage our foreign relations.
People think leadership is about ‘doing stuff’, and it’s really more about people. The biggest thing is appointing the right people. I think Sajith is aware of that, and he’s not surrounded by crooks, grifters and family hanger-ons.
This was in response to a question about what he would do in his first days in office. Gota’s answer was to release child kidnappers and murderers, so errr. But there’s a higher bar than that. Appointing a team is the right answer. That’s the most important thing when starting a management job. It’s people. Sajith understands that.
We are firmly committed to maintaining a policy of friendship with all nations. I will personally review any international treaty or agreement and support it if, and only if, the benefits to Sri Lanka outweigh the risks.
I think Sri Lankans flatter ourselves that other countries are constantly trying to take us over. But yeah, fine.
Even though I have been an MP for nearly 20 years, I still feel the vigour, energy and ambition of youth. I am passionate about our country’s future and I have a stake in it. I am interested in results.
Sajith is a full generation younger than Gota, Mahinda, Ranil and that whole crew. It would be a welcome change. He has also done like 147 rallies in the past month, so he has energy.
Much of the social injustice I pledge to reverse involves the struggles faced by women and girls in our society.
When the SLPP started (and continued) harassing Sajith for talking about menstruation he stuck to the issue and said he was proud to be called Pad-Man. That’s good.
His manifesto calls for 25% quotas for women spreading across government and we need desperately need this diversity to change our gross, male, emotional (anger is an emotion) political culture.
I read the whole piece (an interview with the Sunday Times) via Sajith’s Facebook page. These are sensible policies from a sensible person.
He is running against simplistic racism, authoritarianism and constant lies from the SLPP, lies that go back to their candidate’s very citizenship. Yet Gota is backed by the main media channels. It’s unclear how much of Sajith’s message even gets out.
I hope it gets to you. We vote this Saturday. Vote wisely. Given the choices, it’s honestly not that hard.