Deconstructing Sajith

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

LOST IN TRANSLATION – good ideas at one’s fingertips slip through the sieve of disapproving public sentiment into abuse and disabuse?



Sajith Premadasa is trying to say something. But his words seem to be getting in the way. I can relate. If I had half a rupee for every time a well-meaning someone, somewhere, said I was being dense or difficult to understand, I’d be twice a rupee-billionaire by now. And as a writer who tends to use ‘big’ words when ‘small’ ones would do, I can sense the frustration on the part of our young politician whose ideas get lost in translation.

Just last week, the leader of the opposition suffered some small inconvenience when a Twitter storm of comments flooded his newsfeed. He tweeted: “Incipient racism in our society has exacerbated ethnic religious social divisions amongst people in our motherland. This is detrimental and inimical to our country’s national interest. It is contrary to the principles of humanism and humanitarianism.” And then the floodgates of commentary burst…

“Has @sajithpremadasa swallowed a dictionary?” asked one tweep plaintively. “Again?” added another, referring to the party of the first part’s previous tweets. “Or is it a thesaurus?” enquired one wag, keen to differentiate between Webster and Roget. “Does he think that using big words makes him an intellectual?” another wanted to know, adding insult to injury.

Very few asked: “What does he mean?” in a nice way. Much less: “What does it mean?” in the nasty sense. Even fewer asked: “What can it all mean to us?” because people like to naively assume that if they can’t understand it, it must be rubbish – and therefore must be trashed. 

Much fewer folks were bothered with his follow-up tweet, in plainer speak: “Prevalence of racist acts perpetrated against our Muslim brethren is abhorrent and should be confronted by all of us. Such heinous acts are contrary to the noble teachings of Lord Buddha. Any attempts to misinterpret such blessed principles are treacherous and unpatriotic.” 

Fancy that… something that this handle tweeted not only made sense, but also made a meaningful nuisance of itself in a good cause.


To be fair – a rare trait in the Twittersphere – a few stood up for the ideals espoused. 

This: “Fully agree with him… if only he’d keep it simpler in future!” And also: “Now that we know what ‘incipient’ and ‘inimical’ mean, can we focus on the ‘integrity’ of his tweet?” And there is this: “That is what I’ve been thinking all along but didn’t have the words to express…” 

Well, all right. Two out of three is a pass mark, then.

However bitter the feedback may have been to Sajith, Premadasa Jnr. can take comfort in three things:

First and foremost, the flippancy and irreverence of a medium that brings out the worst in racists, classists and chauvinists.

For instance, this tweet: “If Sajith Premadasa was Sajith Dias Bandaranaike, we wouldn’t notice his vocabulary this much. We might even pretend to understand it.” I liked it.

And then there was a tweep who replied that the offspring of the Oxford-educated Bandaranaikes were simple if powerful orators, whose speeches didn’t have the people rushing to the library or word helps. I liked that too. 

Then again, @sajithpremadasa can tell himself that the insidious nature of pushback on Twitter especially can conceal – or reveal – a perplexing range of loyalties and fandoms.

For example, with regard to his obtuse tweet cited above, there is a bewildering array of respondents between and among whom public sentiment is split:

Those who love him, but hate his tweets

Those who like his ideas a little, but dislike the individual a lot

Those who like his ideas, but think he was disloyal to his party, and is to be ostracized

Those who dislike his family, background, political career, personal journey: take your pick

Those who are trolls, pure and simple; although trolls are rarely simple and never pure     

And last but not least, there is the idea that if a thing is worth saying, it is worth saying even badly. Of course, there is the other idea. That if a thing is worth saying, it is worth saying well. I, like he, am bound to be challenged by that notion going forward. It is the least he can do for his fandom and I for my handful of readers: to ‘sedulously eschew obfuscatory hyper-verbosity and prolixity’. The joke’s on us!


There are some pithier tweets which most folks politely ignore: “There is an urgent necessity to resuscitate our economy. Large scale investment withdrawals from China has presented us with a golden opportunity to attract them to our country.” True but not particularly insightful.

However naïve or blasé he may seem, there’s no denying he’s no shy-pussycat of an opposition leader: “However India has beaten us to this task by establishing a special unit under the direct command of the PM mandated with the task of attracting such capital inflows. How come SL is lagging behind? Classic case of incompetence, impotent policy decision making and policy paralysis.” Score Sajith when there is silence in the corridors of power.

If one is willing to overlook his tendency to look back to and live in the past, there is much for far less humble politicos who never admit to mistakes, to learn from his ingratiating style. And however much his arrogant – yet terse – father’s son he may or may not be, he is equally his own man, warts and all: “If one needs to learn lessons about attracting foreign direct investment, study how the 200 garment factory program was implemented. Over to you government of SL.” Over to you, folks!


Deconstructing @sajithpremadasa is a task made transparently easy for the Twitterati. His ideas range from relativizing power and privilege to championing a populist prejudice. 

Many cognoscenti celebrated this tweet: “The free world celebrates the 75th #VEDay at a historic, memorable & victorious juncture in the history of mankind.” 

A few had difficulty agreeing with the full range of ideas in the follow-up: “A day when tyranny, dictatorship, autocracy, authoritarianism & totalitarianism was defeated; democracy, liberty & human rights prevailed & a new world order was born. Let us all dedicate ourselves to nurture and protect the institutions of democracy.” Defeated – really? Human rights prevailed – well, not really. 

I still think there’s sweetness – if not shortness – in naïvêté such as this: “Never again will there be an opportunity for discrimination, Nazism or racism to dictate policies of Nation States. All such tendencies must be defeated by the overwhelming people power of communities all over the world.”

So, yes: Sajith Premadasa is trying to say something. But the words of his critics seem to be getting in the way. I do hope that they will stop carping and cavilling at the mode. And try to understand – and act upon – the message. We have nothing to lose but our blatant snobbery, patent self-righteousness and lack of human decency. And time is running out. While wordy battles rage on social media, our larger society out there is awash in ugly wordless deeds that threaten us all. 

(Journalist | Editor-at-Large of LMD | Writer trying to keep at least his tweets short and sweet @WijDeC)


How to write a text or tweet

A while ago, when @sajithpremadasa tweeted in his customary style, some of my friends accused me of managing his Twitter feed.

My reply was an unequivocal #no! 

The tweet in question… “Realistic substantive policy inputs and the decision-making processes will be implemented in a balanced rational manner. The policy resultants will be implemented in a time-targeted approach using new technology and modern methodologies.” 

This was my advice to my ‘friends’, who wished me to give them tips on composing lucid tweets (as well as a hint to SP, which he seems to have taken to heart):

1. In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities, and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity.

2. Let or allow your conversational communications to possess a clarified conciseness, a compacted comprehensiveness, a coalescent consistency, and/or a concatenated cogency.

3. Eschew all agglomerations or conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectation.

4. Permit or persuade your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations to possess articulate intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rhodomontade or thrasonical bombast.

5. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity and vaniloquent vapidity.

6. Shun or religiously avoid double entendres, prurient jocosity and pestiferous profanity, whether they are obscurant or apparent.

7. Last but by no means least and to sum up – in other words and in short: talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely. Keep from slang, argot or jargon, or lingo no one understands. Don’t put on airs. Say what you mean; mean what you say. And above all, don’t use big words!


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