Sri Lankans must vote a Leader – Who is that Leader?

Without a doubt this is a crucial election. Sri Lanka is going to elect its 7th President who is also the Head of State and the Head of the Armed Forces. The President has a humongous task ahead of him. While we cannot expect him to satisfy all of our individual aspirations there are some common pledges that he must pledge to uphold with responsibility & accountability. It is the role of the citizen voter to work out the common themes applicable to all that cannot be compromised – national security / law & order / equal rights under one law are just a handful of themes that all voters must agree on whatever political colour they are aligned to.


It is imperative that the country accepts that fielding common candidates with political motives endangers the pillar of the Presidency and that is an aspect we have seen via the 6th President secretly promoted to contest by an alliance that had individual political aspirations to advance through the elected candidate. Are voters aware of proxy candidates? Should voters give their vote to such proxy candidates?


As a result, we have seen the tweaking of the constitution, the shocking interference in the judiciary & judicial system, the administrative apparatus, law & order network and detrimental Acts/Bills passed often without debate, without majority vote, without being made public and drafted by foreigners. The magnitude of the damage will be felt with a change of government which is why voters need to elect the correct person who can provide leadership & authority taking responsibility for the tasks delegated.


No doubt, elections are times when campaign teams use every mode of communication to promote a candidate. However, this Presidential Election is no talent show – we should not be diverted by how best the candidate speaks, looks, plays cricket, sings, its not the colourful propaganda that should count but the content of the message the candidate is conveying. Voters must take interest in his vision and it must be consistent with one’s own or his vision must be one that will inspire voters to look forward to the future, voters must wonder what the candidate’s action plan for our future is. We should not be fooled to accept freebies and promises and a candidate who in desperation is promising the sun and moon should never be taken seriously. Governing a country with over 20million people and taking care of the country’s assets, resources, flora, fauna etc is far more serious than the theatrics displayed on stages or silly statements made to make audience clap & laugh.


By now VOTERS should be asking of any candidate “HOW” he proposes to make his vision happen not simply accept “WHAT” his vision is.


By now VOTERS should question his ‘ABILITY’ against his promises. Here is the most important stage of testing credibility. We must pause at this stage to recollect decades of LTTE terror which started under the 1st President and continued under 4 Presidents and it took the 5th President to have the courage to take a decision against tremendous diplomatic/international & local pressure demanding he does not militarily defeat the LTTE. His decision not to listen to them but to listen to the victims will enter history books because none of the previous leaders did not have pluck to take the decision that the 5th President did.


We have over 30 candidates contesting – most are not even known by majority of the populace but there are 4 contenders that we can turn our attention to.


We have a contender who represents a party that has been responsible for 2 insurgencies and deaths of thousands of Sinhalese and armed forces personnel. His party is the richest political party in Sri Lanka. Sometimes many of us have wondered what party his partymen are supporting – their own or others. The third candidate is another who left the country, worked on a US military base, returned to command the army and a month after retirement announces Presidential bid angering a contender who had been groomed a couple of years’ back as an ‘alternative’ candidate. Needless to say, it was clear that the ‘common candidate’ tamasha had not gone down too well with the masses and there was need to find a different name for the backers of the ‘common candidate’ – ‘alternative’ was the name and it was easy to tap into various civil groups who were angry with the political system, get them all pumped up to promote slogans that was subtly meant to say ‘Don’t’ Vote X’ – by now many people had picked up on the plan and ironically the disgruntled voters of the party laying the plot are now likely voters of the ‘alternative’ candidate’ we may see some drastic changes happening to change this status quo in days to come. Then we come to one of the two main candidates whose father managed to break the uncle-nephew party and not only become its leader but by a whisker win the Presidential elections. His tenure in power has been marred by many controversies overshadowing his achievements against a massive onslaught of rumors probably by those who think that the uncle-nephew party should not have gone to a classless head. Be that as it may one credit to this 2nd President is the spick and span manner in which he kept the Public Service administrative system who was always kept on attention with strict discipline. His son ironically faced the same obstacle in being nominated but has not been lucky enough to contest from the party that he remains deputy head. Instead he has had to contend with an bird emblem while struggling to rally his party’s supporters to once again vote for the same emblem that this grand old party had no choice but to vote for in 2010, 2015 and now 2019. Judging by the stage talk we realize that he is only appealing to the lowest 30% class of supporters and thus there is no vision – no mission – no action plan and no strategy that wows the rest of the vote base. Will the 70% of its supporters decide to vote the alternative, not to vote or give a chance to the most popular candidate will be seen as campaigning progresses. But certainly there is a good 40% capable of being won over for they too want to look forward to a future.


Then we come to the final candidate who has been brandished by names that has shown tarnishing his image is the only way to downplay his rising popularity. We must learn to give credit where credit is due irrespective of the party. We all appreciate JVP role in de-merging the north & eastern provinces and that appreciation will remain. Similarly, it is necessary to benchmark his role firstly since he’s been compared against politicians, secondly because he’s related to a political family, thirdly because there is a coordinated attack to keep him away from becoming a people’s representative. This candidate served a good number of years in the military, was overseas and returned to take over a position that previous takers had failed to deliver. His coordination capabilities together with other traits surfaced for the public to notice him as a future leader. Regime change afforded him a golden opportunity to build his base among professionals, academics, youth and across the expat communities. It is no exaggeration to say that the people chose him and the political party had no choice other than to nominate him. His post-conflict development and other programs raised his scorecard further. Against the other main contender’s single achievement of building houses that the poor have to pay for the fourth contender has given people not the fishing rod but teaching how to fish.


One of the most important signs in a leader is not just to claim to be the leader but to have people’s acceptance and the best example of this can be shown in the manner the most popular contender declared his campaign would be poster-less and his rallies have had no posters even the one’s who would have loved to show their support by printing massive cut-outs desisted honoring his wish. Now this is an amazing example of people listening to him & following his instructions and this shows that he is ready to take the mantle of head.


The country needs a quality statesman not a farcical character. The Nation must be able to look up to the President. His plan must be our plan. His vision must be our vision. Just as he has to do his duty we must also do our duty by the nation. We cannot be spectators finding fault. We must be equal participants.


Vote wisely – we cannot have the kind of weak leadership we suffered since 2015. A Leader is one who can motivate people towards a common goal – our goal is to uplift Sri Lanka & its people, protect and foster it for future generations.

Who can take up that challenge to lead & motivate us … he is the person whom you should vote for!




Shenali D Waduge

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