Sajith Premadasa, with his black T-shirt and huge Indian-politico garland at Badulla, is certainly making a massive pitch to be the UNP’s next candidate for the Presidential poll. His spread of villages and towns in the country has passed its 250th, and is racing ahead to keep alive his paternal memories of Gam Udava.
The Gam Udava politics and memories of his father are certainly good for his loud backers in the green bandwagon. But, there is certainly much of important human and political forgetfulness in the run up to grab the green party candidacy.
Democratic politics in this country runs back more than seven decades. It began in the mid-1930s with the election to the first State Council. Coming down through all these decades we see an increasing trend in forgetfulness in the seekers or hunters for national leadership, and their backers from political parties and families.
My memory of Premadasa’s father – President Ranasinghe Premadasa – brings back memories of journalistic colleague – Richard de Zoysa. Is it possible that Sajith P has forgotten or has no knowledge of that brutal killing of Richard de Zoysa, the outspoken journalist, dramatist and civil society activist? He was killed by the powerful and uniformed catchers of the Premadasa government dumped in the sea.
Such forgetfulness may be good in the politics of convenience, in the search for the green banner in presidential candidacy. But, it is a memory that remains with the people. We recall that anti-Premadasa poster that went on the walls of the city, just before Richard was abducted and driven to his death, and seawater ditching.
Sajith P should also know (if he has forgotten or is ignorant of it) that Richard de Zoysa’s killing is what led to the forming of the Free Media Movement, which gave a lead in the fight to protect the lives and limbs of journalists during the Premadasa era of UNP government, and dirty green politics. Richard de was not the only victim of the deadly politics of the Premadasa reign, with catchwords about power to the people, and the actuality of power to the crooked.
As Sajith Premadasa keeps opening more villages and towns, giving them the most puzzling names, it would do well for him to be reminded that the Gam Udava gimmick was disliked and rejected by the people, and how those Gam Udava places became abandoned localities in the rural neighbourhoods.
Forgetfulness may be helpful in the race for the green candidacy, but it would help to have some memories of how 600 policemen were killed by the Tiger Terrorist LTTE, during the reign of Ranasinghe Premadasa. Why were they asked to surrender to the LTTE? And, what about all that massive supply of weapons given to the LTTE, by the Sri Lanka government, supposedly to attack the Indian IPKF, but was in fact turned on this country’s own troops and people too by the LTTE? These are not memories that easily fade away, however much the current ‘Premadasa Putha Senakeliya’ – political carnival – moves on in the first major inner riot of the UNP.
Going back to those bloody Premadasa power days, and what followed, let us also not forget the role of Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his later position of power as PM, to prevent proper judicial punishment to the Richard de Zoysa killers. This is the trail of UNP contortion that Sajith Premadasa follows as the emerging voice of the greens.
Sajith P should also know one more thing about his current race in village and town building. The huge monies spent on Samurdhi only show the increase in poverty in the country. The rise in new hamlets and town-lets with tiny homes is a scourge on nature in this country. Would two-storeyed housing units be rejected or hated by our people, and how much of greenery and forest would that preserve? Such thinking is not in the “Prema-Putha Buddhiya” thinking!
Forgetfulness is certainly not confined to the Green Parade. The Purple Parade, with Gotabaya in the lead, also raises deadly memories to us journalists, and to the public. Gotabaya has said he would go beyond the confines of power in his coming presidency, obviously supported by his Elder Brother Mahinda, who expects to be the powerful Executive Prime Minister – thanks to the 19th Amendment!
This certainly brings us memories of the still unresolved killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the murder of rugger player Wasim Thajudeen, the abducted and missing (believed dead) Prageeth Eknaligoda, the abducted and injured Keith Noyarh, and the many other journalists who were attacked and injured in the days when power was with the Rajapaksa Family, of which Gotabaya was a brother of action.
The new rise of Gotabaya, the man with the most case postponements, with several judicial recusals, is the new rise of Family Power or Pavul Balaya. We are fast moving to the days of a new Sahodara Balaya – Brotherly Power, and not the old slogan of comradeship in the working class.
We have still to see how well Gotabaya and Sajith will carry out their campaigns of family memories and brotherly power. Sri Lanka is certainly looking with much worry at such anti-social and crooked memories.