Sajith’s Leadership Qualities
Posted on October 29th, 2021

By Dr Sanjaya Dissanayake Courtesy Ceylon Today

Sajith’s Leadership Qualities

Sri Lanka as a Nation today is at crossroads in evaluating what went wrong in its seventy four year old post independent time period. It has happened due to various social, economic, cultural and political changes introduced in an inappropriate manner, such as the language policy of the late 50’s and the closed economy of the early 70’s. Being a functional democracy with a voting population that commands a so called 90+ per cent literacy rate it has been proven multiple times in the past most decisions made through franchise were largely attributed to being emotional rather than rational. 

Of all such flaws in the past a major mistake was made by the Sri Lankan voters at the Presidential election held on the 16 November, 2019. For the mature voter it was a reasonably clear cut, rationalistic, intelligent decision at the Election, when taking into consideration the two leading candidates. On the contrary the Government at that time put forward Sajith Premadasa – a comparatively young, dynamic, foresighted candidate educated at the London School of Economics possessing over two decades of political experience sans a single law suit against him, armed with a vision that blended ‘social empowerment’ with an ‘export oriented economy’. In an advanced democracy such as UK, Australia, USA, Canada or New Zealand the majority choice would have been Sajith without a shadow of a doubt. 

But in a South Asian Nation like Sri Lanka of late emotional factors and materialism have become the deciding factors of a national poll. Gotabaya Rajapaksa became victorious for his over reliance on such factors, while Sajith was spelling out solutions to confronting practical issues of the people. Today a majority of the Sri Lankans do accept that it was a mistake. It is based on a personal qualitative research study done by the author of this article during three months around mid-2021 in two different provinces. Of late most Sri Lankans have begun to witness the leadership characteristics of Sajith, which they do not see in the current President or for that matter in most other leaders. What are those leadership traits? They are as follows:

1. Leading from the front – Example: 

A large number of former leaders in the United National Party (UNP) were either reluctant or did not have a strategy or a plan to challenge the autocratic rule of former PM Ranil Wickramasinghe within the party. But Sajith took the lead and did walk out of the grand old party with a majority of its popular politicians, partners and supporters to the dismay of the incumbent party leader. The subsequent General Election delivered a major knockout punchon Ranil by reducing his once largest Sri Lankan political party to a three wheeler mushroom organisation. 

2. Being foresighted – Examples: 

(a) During the Presidential Election of 2019, Sajith promised to provide sanitary pads to the poorest of the poor ladies in Sri Lanka to eliminate or curb the incidence of diseases such as womb cancer that has had a huge cost impact on the national budget. It was taken as a joke at that time by his opponents, but was an economic measure targeting to save revenue for the state. Today its importance is stressed and put into practice by the leaders of Ireland, New Zealand and Holland. Most others did not see the value of the proposition, since they did not see far like Sajith.

(b) Another case in point was when Sajith as the leader of the opposition became the first sitting member of parliament to inform the house in late January, 2020 before the pandemic broke out in Sri Lanka that the COVID-19 virus was fast approaching the nation and a lockdown of the country should be imposed. He also stressed that personal protective equipment, modern drugs and COVID vaccines authorised by WHO should be introduced to the Sri Lankan people as early as possible free of charge. 

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime made fun of all such suggestions believing in myth promoting concoctions, throwing holy water pots into rivers etc without relying on scientific evidence. Leading Sri Lankan medical personnel as well as some Government ministers later acknowledged the suggestions made by Sajith were valid and had they been implemented at the correct time COVID-19 would have had a significantly lesser impact on our motherland and its economy. 

3. A great listener – Example: 

I’ve had meetings, discussions and interactions with Sajith Premadasa in the past. A trait that I always noticed in him is that he’s a great listener. To be a great leader, and to be successful, one must be a good listener”. Definitely, Sajith belongs to that great leader category. Our current incumbent President on the other hand is not a good listener. It was shown on national TV, when he began screaming at officials of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka threatening them to present economic tools to resurrect the economy. 

4. Target oriented – Example: 

Whenever Sajith undertakes or devolves authority to complete a project or a process it will be based on a target oriented timeline. It was clearly visible when he was the Minister of Housing, Construction and Cultural affairs in constructing and delivering re-awakened villages to poor people and Buddhist daham schools (dahampasal) to underprivileged temples.

5. Honesty and integrity – Example: 

Do not need much explanation. Sajith does not have any court cases filed against him in theSri Lankan judicial system with respect to corruption or malpractices. He’s a class act interms of honesty and integrity as opposed to the current incumbent President, who’s had afair share of allegations and court cases against him linked with dishonesty. 

6. Team Player – Examples: 

(a) Most people in Sri Lanka have noticed Sajith participating in protests or discussions with other members of his Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) party as a team, unlike President Gotabaya who tries to do things on his own making others submissive as shown in a past television news clip, where he orders a public sector employee to consider what he utters from his mouth as a Government circular. 

(b) Another example of Sajith being a team player is illustrated by the fact that he devolves power to other politicians in his party to conduct and complete certain tasks. Two such examples are young capable MP’s Buddhika Pathirana and Mayantha Dissanayake, who were sidelined by Ranil in the UNP have been brought into the forefront of the SJB by Sajith. 

7. Opposition Leader of a different kind – Example: 

In the post independent history of Sri Lanka, Sajith Premadasa is the only opposition leader who has served the people to redress their problems and issues without state funding to provide necessary equipment to hospitals, medical treatment to the needy, water purification apparatus to appropriate village establishments etc in addition to being involved in environmental protection projects such as ‘Project Elephant’ and ‘Project Leopard’. Today for the first time even the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime has not been able to match such endeavours even with state funds at their disposal. 

In management it has been stated that to be an effective leader an individual should be selfaware and prioritise personnel development, focus on developing others, encourage strategic thinking, innovation and action, be ethical and civic-minded and practice effective cross-cultural communication. By carefully analyzing the traits of Sajith Premadasa given above, it is crystal clear they have contributed in making him an effective leader. Therefore now it’s aptly clear why Sri Lanka’s longest serving Finance Minister who was responsible for opening up our economy Ronnie De Mel mentioned publicly a few months back that Sajith is the only hope for our motherland”.

One Response to “Sajith’s Leadership Qualities”

  1. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Rajapaksa brothers have betrayed the nation by mismanagement of the economy, by facilitating corruption at every level, creating an unnecessary fertilizer fiasco by banning chemical fertilizers without foresight. Certainly, they have passed the sell-by date now and we must look for a new leader

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