In a country where the Political Opposition so conveniently is typical in its resorting to criticism over whatever the move made by the Government and seizing of power in the first successful attempt, it would be an undeniable fact that Sri Lanka’s Opposition’s role has taken an all-new course when Mr. Sajith Premadasa took office as the Leader of the Opposition. His work during the last three years has proven it on an overwhelming scale, dragging away the image of the Opposition from the so called double-games and ‘mansion-conspiracies.’
The Office of the Leader of the Opposition at No 30, Marcus Fernando Road, Colombo, a building known for the longest time for holding political deals, commissions, a safehouse and a getaway point for the Opposition and the Ruling Party alike inside its walls, which political leaders like Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa are witnesses to, had a major setting change, when Premadasa took office.
The common phrase chanted by the Opposition political parties in Sri Lanka over and over again demanding power claims that they are the ‘best’ in solving the problems facing the country and therefore, should be elected. In other words, they imply that they should be given the authority to regulate our tax money and that they need them to save themselves while saving us some. Power in their perspective is seen as a wand that can conjure magic, hence the endless promises made during public rallies.
However, state power is not a mandatory requirement to serve the people, nor is it impossible to serve them in your best capacity despite being the Opposition. Are your operations being handled with transparency and accuracy, and of goodwill, allocating funds for your purpose will not be difficult either.
This is something Sajith Premadasa has proven over the preceding three years.
Premadasa introduced the ‘Samagi Balawegayen Husmak’ initiative at a time when the citizens of Sri Lanka were vulnerable amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic. Arrangements were made to provide a large amount of medical equipment to government hospitals in a number of areas. His initiative continued post Covid, and among the medical equipment he had donated were blood filtering machines required by many hospitals in areas where renal diseases are common. Needless to say, that his initiative may have contributed to saving thousands of lives.
Then he initiated ‘Sakwala,’ a programme to eliminate the disparities in the Sri Lankan School System, where the schools are largely divided as ‘popular’ schools and ‘difficult’ schools, by speed-running a comprehensive digital classroom facility across many schools, at a cost of about Rs. 850,000 each. His programme then branched itself to donating buses to schools for the transportation needs of school children, which is currently underway, at a cost of about Rs. 05 million each. So far, buses have been donated to 67 schools in different parts of the island.
The willingness to serve the people as demonstrated by Premadasa over the years has changed the course of the Opposition, regardless of criticism along the way. The political strategies and ideologies may differ from one another, but the political parties in the Opposition have to understand that ‘power’ is no longer a necessity to accomplish a goal that benefits the public. Having Premadasa’s example already in motion, any future Opposition may simply not be able to brag about their ‘goodwill to serve’, because now the people know that anyone with willingness to step in will step in anyway. Because Sajith could, why cannot others? People will soon question.
Being ridiculed, Premadasa still managed to change the history of Sri Lanka by altering the Role of the Opposition. Sajith Premadasa, on all accounts, is the political leader who gave the Opposition a meaning..
*Adapted from original Sinhala article “විපක්ෂ නායක භූමිකාව වෙනස් කළ සජිත් ප්රේමදාස …” by Darshana Weerasinghe published on 10/01/2023