State Minister Chamara Sampath Dasanayake is a people’s candidate and is in great demand among party leaders as a vote-gathering machine.He is an unabashed Ranil Wickremesinghe fan who never fails to sing his mentor’s praises both in Parliament and outside.



State Minister Chamara Sampath Dasanayake is a born newsmaker. His pithy statements are a newsperson’s dream. Recently he pulled up the Speaker of Parliament for not addressing him properly as State Minister – a position awarded to him by President Ranil Wickremesinghe overlooking the claims of several seniors – forcing the latter to apologise for his ‘lese-majesty’.

Speaking about his position in Uva, Chamara Sampath said that even those who did not know him personally voted for the ‘Bada’ [Fatty] from Ella, his native village from where he emerged to be Village Councillor, Provincial Councillor, Chairman of the Uva Provincial Council, MP, and now State Minister.

In his new capacity, he has recommended the privatisation of all 14 State enterprises entrusted to his care. Earlier he lambasted his former Chief Maithripala Sirisena and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara and sang the praises of Ranil Wickremesinghe, whom he befriended when the latter was a lone voice in Parliament after being nominated as the single National List MP of the United National Party (UNP). The new State Minister says that he has attended every funeral and wedding of his supporters in the district.


Most heads of State have had their acolytes put into good positions in government. Thereafter they sing the praises of their patrons, much to the embarrassment of other members of Parliament who are not so enthusiastic.

Under Premadasa Sr., it was A.J. Ranasinghe (AJR) aka ‘Sapattu Supa’ who said that he would even drink a soup made out of his sponsor’s shoes. AJR was so powerful that he could prevent his Minister of Culture W.J.M. Lokubandara from entering his own office. He was Premadasa’s ‘media czar’ and the State media was converted into hurrah boys of his boss.

Mrs. Bandaranaike [and son Anura], Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK), and Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) had at different times Mervyn Silva as their acolyte who would do their bidding. However, once he fell out with a sponsor, Mervyn had no hesitation in roundly abusing them after joining their opponents.

He invaded Rupavahini in MR’s time and was involved in a brawl with the staff there. His then sponsor MR overlooked that ‘small’ transgression, which Mervyn said was done at the behest of his sponsor. Emboldened, Mervyn then tied a Samurdhi officer in his Kelaniya electorate to a tree [shades of Jathika Chintana] and berated him in the presence of a mob led by a present state minister.

Our current Parliament has its own quota of distinguished representatives of humble origin. Among them are alleged gold chain snatchers, conmen, murderers, extortionists, and jailbirds. There are also others who were engaged in occupations like selling ‘vadais’ and short-eats at railway stations, but were immensely popular because of their human touch.

Man of the people

Chamara Sampath boasts that he has attended every ceremony of the kith and kin of his voters. As Chief Minister, he kept a school principal kneeling in his office as she had refused to admit one of his nominees to her school. Though there was a mighty hue and cry in the media at that time, the lady principal involved withdrew her complaint and the matter was hushed up.

There is no doubt that Chamara – ‘Bada’ as his people affectionately call him – is very popular and will easily be returned to Parliament regardless of his shift of loyalties. He was fond of saying that he and Nimal Siripala de Silva could not ever be dislodged from Badulla. Even at a time when Harin Fernando started a whirlwind of support for the UNP in Badulla, Chamara Sampath retained his place with ease.

He is a people’s candidate and is in great demand among party leaders as a vote-gathering machine. Wickremesinghe has chosen his supporter well. He in turn is an unabashed Wickremesinghe fan who never fails to sing his mentor’s praises both in Parliament and outside. He joins Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who said in Parliament that he could not sleep peacefully at night until Wickremesinghe was put in prison for the bond scam. He now sings a different tune, perhaps with Cabinet positions in mind.

Whatever ideological differences remain, the departure of Nimal Siripala and Chamara of Badulla District is a body blow to the SLFP. With Dilan Perera also leaving the SLFP to join Dullas Allahapperuma, the once-powerful SLFP is now only a shadow of itself in Uva. Harin Fernando’s transfer to Gampaha and later defection to the Wickremesinghe camp is a similar blow to the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).

Chaos and corruption

The proliferation of representatives at village, provincial, and national levels – a three tiered structure – has led to administrative chaos and widespread corruption. For example, the large allocations for village road building is a thinly veiled sop to Pradeshiya Sabha members to dip their hands into the till.

Rural roads are built year after year, but remote villages remain as isolated as ever. Pradeshiya Sabha members pocket commissions and are hand in glove with contractors. This year’s Budget too, with all its cuts in expenditure, retains a large allocation for road building to please the backbenchers.

When President Premadasa introduced the Samurdhi safety net, he stipulated that beneficiaries should provide three days of labour on roads and other village infrastructure. This restricted claims to the deserving who had nothing but their labour to offer. After CBK became President, her Samurdhi Minister S.B. Dissanayake politicised poor relief, dispensed with reciprocal labour requirements, and called it his ‘Election Machine’. Samurdhi officials were taken on junkets to Thailand to get their assistance in herding Samurdhi beneficiaries to the polling booth to vote for the SLFP.

Proliferation of political representatives

The attempt at formulating a new constitution must recognise the unhappy and unnecessary proliferation of political representatives at different levels, which has made a mockery of the public service which is forced to dance to their tune. There is no demarcation of competencies of village councillors, provincial councillors, and Members of Parliament. MPs are locked into purely village concerns so that they can win votes willy-nilly under PR.

Media takes this provincialism to the masses and Parliament, notwithstanding theories about the Westminster system, etc., is being reduced step by step to a village council, if the current contributions of most MPs are any indication. ‘People’s representatives,’ with all the tricks of the trade to win votes in the boondocks, are taking over from those with learning and skills.

Sometime ago, MP Chamara Sampath candidly said it all when he told the media that he was taking a three-month holiday from Parliament as he did not have the education to make a useful contribution there, but his newfound friend President Wickremesinghe thought otherwise and made him a state minister. Even the Speaker who did a slow take in Parliament about the new appointment must now bow to reality

Courtesy: Sunday Morning