Premadasa entered Sri Lankan politics after the assassination of his father in 1993. Having joined his father's party the United National Party, he was appointed district organiser of the UNP for Hambantota District in 1994, It was from the Hambantota district he contested the 2000 general election and entered parliament gaining 83 percent of the UNP preferential votes. He won , 84 percent in the 2004 general election, 89 percent in 2010 general election and 86% in 2015 general election.
Sajith Premadasa, is the current Leader of the Opposition of Sri Lanka and leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.
At the time of writing this article, he was found positive for COVID 19 infection as he refused to take the vaccine, he stated that he will not receive the COVID 19 vaccine and questioned “HOW DO I JUMP THE QUEUE AND GET THE VACCINE”? Can I wear clothes and do that? I have shame and fear. It doesn’t matter if I contacted COVID-19, I’m not going to get that vaccine before the people of the country.
First priority of a true political leader should be to serve one’s country and not just oneself. Despite the fact that politics can be competitive and at times dirty, a good leader align his activities and policies with what is the best for the country, strictly committing to “country before self”. Hence a political leader should be able to make unpopular decisions if necessary, in the best interest of the nation.
To state differently, a leader must be a patriot. By putting country first before self and family, Sajith Premadasa demonstrated and proved by actions the true patriotism against fake patriotism. Sajith is also one among very handful of politicians in our country who has no allegations of corruption and malpractices against him and free of court cases which can be measured as a vital prerequisite for the national leadership. As two most respected philosophers, the world has ever produced Zun Tsu and Clausewitz said “YOU HAVE TO PROVE IT BY ACTIONS, NOT BY ARGUMENTS”.
In this contexture, I would like to cut the turf to the already aggrieved Nation of Sri Lanka since Independence in 1948 to date in the subject of dirty politics in instituting one of the demanding problem statements, which draws the national attention; which political leader has the qualities of a statesman?
WHAT IS A STATESMAN
A statesman or stateswoman is a respected, skilled and experienced political leader or figure. A statesman is someone who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. To call a person a statesman is a mark of high regard for that person's integrity. In most respects a statesman is the opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. A politician is a man who thinks of the next election; while the statesman thinks of the next generation.
We hear a lot about politicians but not enough about statesmen. People think of a politician as someone having one primary objective – to get elected. The general view of a statesman, however, is of someone interested in the common good of constituents and not his own ego. An example of a politician is a person running for office who flip-flops on issues as the polls change. The politician makes promises but may not deliver on them once elected. A statesman is a person who stands by his ideals and does everything in his power to do what he believes is right for the people of his country. One can compare the possession of these qualities against Sajith Premadasa and any other political leader at present.
STATESMANSHIP QUALITIES AND PRINCIPLES
Statesmen stand on a platform of fundamental truths. They believe in certain core values and don't change beliefs to get ahead in politics. A statesman, however, may change his policies and methods of going about achieving his goals. He may even be criticized for doing so, but he believes that the short-term sacrifice is necessary to the long-term triumph. According to the author of "Politics Among Nations," Hans J. Morgenthau, statesmen are political realists. They look at policy in terms of its effect on the nation.
PRINCIPLES OF POLITICIANS
great politician is good at getting votes. They know how to work the system and get what they need to get and then keep their job. They know how to work things to get paid in donations and kickbacks. They have no qualms with lying and can just shrug off any criticism as sour grapes while laughing all the way to the bank. They tend to be good at speaking. They have no issue with promising the moon and blaming someone else when they can’t deliver. They are manipulators who realise you don’t have to fool everyone, you just have to fool enough.
Politicians may have beliefs, but they tend to be flexible and grounded in the political sphere. Most politicians base decisions on power, wealth or conformity to legal rules or morals, or, as Morgenthau states " the landscape of international politics is the concept of interest defined in terms of power." Therefore, rather than seeking power for the nation, they instead strive for power for their party, SLPP is a classic example. Their interest is neither citizens nor country. Their interest is nothing but they themselves.
STATEMENTSHIP AND VISION
Statesmen have a clearly defined vision for their country and constituents. A statesman knows exactly what he wants to accomplish during his time in office. This requires foresight to recognize that he will confront problems and will need solutions to realize his goals. A statesman must be a good leader to build consensus with the people around his ideas. He is a prolific orator, able to incite participation and movements with intelligent arguments. A statesman actually believes in his message, and he has to keep his word to continue to form support around his ideas, unpopular though they may be.
Statesman are politicians who perform their job well and with dignity. They understand they are the embodiment of the will of the people, not just those that voted for them. They understand the weight they carry and act accordingly. While they are human and therefore not above reproach, they will attempt to perform admirably and in the best interest of the whole of whom they represent knowing they are not just a mouthpiece of representation, but an instrument of policy. They are poised and act with honor and in good faith. They attempt to emulate the best of who they represent while trying to have none of their flaws and vices. There is no need for them to demand respect, their actions and words command it whether they are in the room or not. Then again readers will have a opportunity to check made the statesmanship between Premadasa and any other political leader at present or future and come to his or her own conclusion.
GREATEST STATESMEN IN HISTORY
Great statesmen are also great leaders who possess qualities that create large ripples of positive influence that stand the test of time. TIME Magazine shares that great leaders have lots of energy, vision, adaptability, understanding, awareness and courage. Mahatma Gandhi led peaceful protests against Brittish rule, which inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., and his leadership in the United States Civil Rights movement. Nelson Mandela led a movement against apartheid in South Africa, while Frederick Douglass was a published author and leader in the abolitionist movement in the United States. Other great statesmen include the likes of the Dalai Lama, Simón Bolívar, Aung San Suu Kyi and Ashoka the great, who ruled almost whole Indian sub-continent from 269 to 232 BCE was the greatest statesman in History.
POLITICIANS AND VISION
Like statesmen, politicians have a vision. However, they may direct this vision more toward personal gain or the advancement of their political party. Politicians' motives may not be sinister, but their interest in power may lead to the use of morally questionable devices, such as advertisements denouncing their opponents' message, dishonest PR campaigns and propaganda to draw people to their side. According to the University of California, negative campaigning uses fear to lock into the natural negativity bias in the brain, which impairs decision making abilities and creates fear to influence votes. This is in contrast to the more positive framing used by statesmen who create a vision of a more positive future.
THE PROBLEM OF REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY IN SRI LANKA
The problem with a representative democracy is that it is too easy to get a great politician who is not a distinguished gentle(wo)man. Being a true statesman takes a certain flair and ability. Most don’t have it. It is far easier to point and blame and lie and rabble-rouse than it is to form relationships and compromise and hold yourself to a higher standard. This is why there are few or no statesmen in the Country at the national level. Wedge issues, divisiveness, and blaming have become the name of the game and have shouted down those who, while you might not agree with them, act in good faith to make the nation the best it can be. We here in the Sri Lanka live in dark times no matter the party. I only hope the electorate wakes up soon for its own good. Because when things start getting bad, great politicians come out of the wood work, while statesmen solutions get put on the back burner.
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES PRIOR TO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SHOULD BE MADE COMPULSORY IN SRI LANKA LIKE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
During presidential election campaigns in the United States, it has become customary for the candidates to engage in a debate. The topics discussed in the debate are often the most controversial issues of the time, and arguably elections have been nearly decided by these debates. Candidate debates are not constitutionally mandated, but they are now considered an intrinsic part of the election process. The debates are targeted mainly at undecided voters; those who tend not to be partial to any political ideology or party.
John F. Kennedy (standing, left) and Richard Nixon(standing, right) participate in the second 1960 presidential debate, held in the NBC studios in Washington D.C. and moderated by Frank McGee.
Presidential debates are held late in the election cycle, after the political parties have nominated their candidates. The candidates meet in a large hall, often at a university, before an audience of citizens. The formats of the debates have varied, with questions sometimes posed from one or more journalist moderators and in other cases members of the audience. Debates have been broadcast live on television, radio, and in recent years, the web. The first debate for the 1960 election drew over 66 million viewers out of a population of 179 million, making it one of the most-watched broadcasts in U.S. television history. The 1980 debates drew 80 million viewers out of a population of 226 million. Recent debates have drawn smaller audiences, ranging from 46 million for the first 2000 debate to a high of over 67 million for the first debate in 2012. A record-breaking audience of over 84 million people watched the first 2016 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Electing a president to rule a population of 22 million for a period of five years cannot be a joke and in isolation in Sri Lanka as people either will be benefitted or will have to suffer and future of the country will also be in danger. It has been proved beyond doubt that Sri Lanka neither had visionary and honest leaders nor in other words statesmen. That’s why country with 2500 years cultural heritage had to borrow recently a sum of 200 million dollars from a country which had only 50 years history. All the politicians, especially those who ruled during past three decades are to be made responsible for the failure.
Therefore, it should be made compulsory by the parliament for future presidential candidates to engage in a debate prior to election like in the United States of America. Based on the overall knowledge, leadership qualities, character and performances, citizens of the country will have a greater opportunity to determine a statesman to politician as the President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
“The inactivity of good men is enough for evil to win over good”; Edmund Burke
Major General Dr Boniface perera
Presently working as an International writer and an International researcher. He was the former Colonel Commandant of Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, Security Forces Commander Eastern Province and Wanni Region.
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