Sajith the great pretender
Posted on October 27th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Days after the Pohottuwa Presidential Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to simplify the draconian tax system that exists today, the UNP Presidential Candidate Sajith Premadasa too repeated the same pledge. 

Premadasa berated the current tax system as if he was from the Opposition. 

Ignoring the fact that he is very much part of this Government, he lambasted the current tax system that is increasingly becoming unbearable to the people and pledged to do away with these taxes.

 The greatest irony is that he thus castigated the incumbent Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera who is one of his biggest supporters.

Soon after Premadasa took up cudgels against the current taxes, Samawareera scrapped the carbon tax. However, in the long list of grievances against the Yahapalana Government, the carbon tax is of the least concern to the people.

 Of course, though the people were unhappy about an additional tax being imposed when it was introduced, it was hardly the point that turned the people against the Yahapalana Government.

 Thus, revoking it will hardly reverse the unpopularity of this Government. Furthermore, scrapping the tax on the mere pledge made from an election rally platform raises concerns from a number of fronts.

The fact that it was removed just as easily as it was imposed indicates that it was imposed haphazardly in the first place.

 Instead of any environmental concern, it appears that this was just another tax introduced to bolster the fast emptying coffers of the Treasury. 

The Government’s failure to seek alternate avenues to maintain the controls they sought with the carbon tax clearly indicates that this Government did not have a legitimate reason to impose it in the first place.

This action also exposes the role Sajith Premadasa plays in this Government. 

From all his platforms, he has done his utmost to distance himself from the actions of the Government. In reality, however, he is very much a key player in the Government and is proven by the ease with which his word is being heeded.

It must have been very hard for Samaraweera to sit through Premadasa’s speeches, while Premadasa liberally criticised his policies and decisions. 

Premadasa definitely would not have come this far as a presidential candidate had it not been for the steadfast support he received from Samaraweera. 

It is not a secret that Ranil Wickremesinghe was coerced into making Premadasa the Presidential Candidate. Samaraweera was one person who pushed Wickremesinghe to the wall until he had no other option but make Premadasa the candidate.

Despite having come to the forefront on Samaraweera’s shoulders, Premadasa did not lose time to vehemently attack the current taxes that burdens the people.

 Perhaps, being a veteran political manipulator Samaraweera might have complied with Premadasa’s pledge immediately, instead of waiting till he actually wins the elections, just to expose that Premadasa is very much a partner in his decisions.

Samaraweera’s actual intention is immaterial. The fact remains that the Government in power is led by the UNP of which Premadasa is a prominent figure. 

Yet, he blithely allowed all disastrous decisions taken by the Yahapalana Government without once voicing a protest. 

At a recent press conference he boasted that he has a degree in economics and he will not be a slave to ‘any economic advisor’.

  Yet, in all his time as a politician representing the poorest district in Sri Lanka, he had not brought in a single investment to uplift the economy of the area.

 He was also upset with the Rajapaksa Administration for improving the economy from poor to lower middle income nation. He complained that with that upgrade the country lost on foreign aid and handouts.

He had also failed to capitalize on the strategic assets established by the previous Rajapaksa era. 

Both Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, with careful management would have created a massive economic revival in the Southern Province.

 Despite the economic degree he holds, he along with his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also very erudite, failed to see any purpose other than storing paddy in the newly-built Mattala International Airport.

At the time of the decision to store paddy, specialists advised against it. They pointed out that the sophisticated air conditioners installed in the stores will get damaged by the fine dust from the husks. 

Instead of the Mattala Airport, they recommended the storage facilities available in the Hambanthota Port, which is just kilometers away.

However, the UNP leadership, in which Premadasa holds the second rank, wanted to belittle the asset. 

By storing paddy, they wanted to emphasis that the asset had no other use. It was a cussed knee-jerk reaction simply because the asset was built by the previous administration. 

As a direct result of this pettiness, the damages to the Airport facilities are estimated at five million rupees. 

Though Ranil Wickremesinghe today tries to distance himself from the decision then taken, the Paddy Marketing Board Chairman Bandara Dissanayaka is on record at the Presidential Commission on Corruption that he was personally instructed by Wickremesinghe to carry out this ghastly act.

While denying giving such an order, Wickremesinghe had nevertheless tried to justify the act. 

Yet, this cannot be justified by any means when the world’s second largest cargo aircraft Antonov 124 landed at Mattala Airport for the ninth time earlier this month.

 If the Airport thus performs despite the apathetic attitude of the incumbent Government, imagine the contribution to the economy from this Airport under a government keen to unleash its full potential.

Just as with the Mattala Airport, Premadasa did not utter a word against when this Government clamped down on Avant Garde Maritime services that not only earned huge foreign exchange for the country, but also 

provided over 7,000 jobs to retired servicemen. Today, Premadasa’s campaign is attacking the previous Administration for getting the military into industries in construction and hospitality and is trying to portray that the serviceman was used as a labourer. Premadasa, despite the 

qualification he claims to possess, does not understand the importance of training the military into a second career that they could embark on once retiring from services at a young age of 40.

When the Hambantota Port was leased to the Chinese, he again kept quiet. It was the same story when the oil tanks in Trincomalee were given to the Indians.

Most contentious of all is his silent endorsement when this Government rebranded war heroes as criminals. In any organisation, there are the miscreants, floaters and performers. 

 None of the Military or Police personnel incarcerated by this Government over various charges had been miscreants or floaters. 

They had been the highest performers in their service and had contributed greatly to end the war and terrorism. 

This anomaly should have been addressed by the son of a father who was blasted into smithereens by the LTTE.

Yet, under this Government the spouse of a hardcore LTTE terrorist had been sponsored a number of times to fly all the way to Geneva and air her grievances. 

The daughter of a high ranking military personnel on the other hand was literally shooed out of the BMICH when she tried to hand over her father’s side of the story to the representatives of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

He should have been a voice to this young lady, but he chose against it. He was just as mum when the disabled servicemen were tear gassed for wanting a salary and not a pension after reaching their retirement age.

Yet, days after Gotabaya Rajapaksa spoke of strengthening national security, Premadasa also repeated the same message.

 Premadasa even pledged to go to the war heroes feet. As one wag, over social media, noted Premadasa appears to be planning to be at the war heroes feet as they are being extradited to international tribunals to face war crime allegations.

 The fact that he was smiling and endorsing Professor Thenuwara’s “ranawirugaaya” exposes that Premadasa is just another shallow fellow in this Government.

The bottom line is very simple. His educational qualifications are immaterial for we, as a nation, had not benefitted from any of those disciplines. 

Thus far, he had merely repeated the same message articulated by Gotabaya Rajapaksa few days before in his own rally. Emulating GR, Premadasa is also speaking as if he is from the Opposition.

 Premadasa had become a total joke in the presidential campaign. Perhaps, he is hoping negative publicity as a good marketing tool. Hopefully, the voter would be much more discernible.

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