BY PRANAVESH SIVAKUMAR
The New Democratic Front’s (NDF) Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa kick starting his inaugural rally themed ‘Forward together’, left the sea of supporters by the sea to decide, as to what calibre of candidate they were wishing for.
Premadasa in his opening remarks, tendered an unreserved apology for referring to his mouth as sacred (Shri Mukaya). “I thought I should make this apology before the Maha Sanga and the masses here. I appeal for pardon for the mistake,” he said.
He posed the question to the thousands who had thronged the venue, “Is it the welfare of the people or a particularly family, that this nation needs? This country needs no leader, who has taken up militarism, tribalism and extremism on himself.”
Premadasa in an unanticipated promise declared that if he emerges victorious, National Security and eradication of the drug menace will be delegated to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. He hailed him as a war-winning veteran commander, and said now with the proposal, he has a big responsibility.
“I leave it in the capable hands of the public to decide, whether you want a country where the law is implemented or one where there is lawlessness,” United National Party’s (UNP) deputy leader said.
“We will pay our tribute to war heroes, who actually won peace for this country. Fonseka, is not an artificial or cardboard hero. But, the one who actually won the war for the country. We have no personal acrimony or rivalry with anyone. We want people, capable of working for the country. Gratitude was paid to Sarath Fonseka for his gallantry in war by getting him to wear the ‘jumper’ (prison kit). But, in politics, we don’t want anybody to wear the jumper. It is not the politicos, but the judiciary that decides whether a person should be made to wear a jumper or not.
“We want the Field Marshal to draw up plans to root out terrorism, in any form, in this land and ensure peace,” Premadasa said.
“I promise the nation, after the forthcoming election, the voice of the toiling masses will be assigned a pride of place. We have to win the world by showcasing our talents and special aptitudes. We must sacrifice ourselves to make Sri Lanka, the No.1 country in the world.
“We have to go ahead with new technology specially digitalisation. We have to create a country where people can breathe freely. Have an export-oriented production economy. A country, where middle-class farmers, the workers, and others, can live happily,”
“The farmer community and the working class will be the deciding factors for the future of the country. We hope to promulgate a period of transition in the country. We also want to make this country, a place of harmony for the people to live peacefully. We have a long, proud history, with a rich culture and civilisation.
“Eventually, we will have to build a country, embodying all these characteristics. In the country, we are hoping to build we will never give room for fraud and corruption. Our government will be the purest-ever to be installed in this country. Those who expect to plunder the wealth of this country should make up their minds now itself not to extend any support to us,”
“I will sacrifice myself for the service of the people, during the 24-hours of the day. We are only the caretakers of the country. I’m also geared to safeguard the sovereignty of the people and the territorial integrity of the nation. I also want to be the servant of the millions of youth in this country,”
“I will sign a pact with the youth, by which the youth will become the partners of developers. Women and mothers of this island will be respected and regarded in high esteem. We are proud that the Prime Minister, the President, the Chief Justice of the country were also women. We are going to introduce statutes for farmers whereby, they will be recognised. We will also appoint a Presidential Task Force for farmers and help them to obtain a guaranteed price for their produce,” he said.
Referring to the drug menace, the Premadasa warned, “drug-peddlers will be dealt with legally and those convicts in prison will be sternly dealt with if they resort to drug business while being behind bars. The country should not return to the age of intimidation and violence, against journalists.”
“We don’t need a military rule. Our government won’t leave room for bribery and corruption,” Premadasa asserted. H thanked Premier Wickremesinghe for making him the Presidential candidate.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said, “I asked Sajith Premadasa as to why he is not interested in Colombo Central? But, he told me that, he has much to do for Hambantota.”
“On Monday, October 7, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) national organiser, Basil Rajapaksa had labelled their candidate as a ‘terminator’. I leave it to the people to decide whether they need a ‘terminator’ or a ‘people’s person’.
“The late Premadasa had his foes and was attacked. But, his foes could not wipe out his name. Like the name of King Mahasen, his name too, was preserved. J.R. Jayewardene came to power on the platform of poverty. And, Premadasa was the chief-spokesman, in this regard.
“Under Sajith’s late father, we had launched several development programs. I was the Minister of Industries, under him. Under the open economy heralded in 1978, 200 factories were opened.
“ Sajith led the struggle in Hambantota. He represented in Parliament the aspirations’ of the poor people. He had provided pre-schools and all other community facilities for the people of Hambantota burdened by family politics. So it is natural, that he may have his enemies, at Hambantota. We decided to continue the struggle launched by late President Premadasa and we resolved to appoint the son, as our Presidential hopeful. He is a leader of the people. “The power we gained must be preserved,” he observed.
The Party’s General Secretary and Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said, “Today (October 10), Colpetty, Bambalapitiya, Borella and Town Hall are full of our crowds. It’s you who have to take a call, whether you want a President from a family (the Rajapaksa’s) or a leader for the country (Sajith Premadasa)”
He left it to the people to make up their minds as to whether they want an “imported President from the US” (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) or a leader nurtured in Sri Lanka (Sajith Premadasa).
Minister for Plantations and Industries Navin Dissanayake, raised questions on whether the SLPP counterpart candidate feels the pulse of the people?
In comparison, Dissanayake hailed their representative, as a leader, who would work at grassroots levels. “It’s only such a leader, who should come to power. Gotabaya dispatches white van for the smallest problem.”