Time patriots stood up

Friday, 17 July 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Kumar Sangakkara


I had written an article entitled ‘Let the country be managed by a competent team,’ which was published in a newspaper in May 2019. 

At the time, former Captain of Sri Lanka Cricket, Kumar Sangakkara, had been given the honor of being appointed as the President of the Marylebone Cricket Club, the first non-British person to be given this position. I mused that given all his achievements, qualifications and obvious intellect, perhaps we should consider offering him the position of Executive President of this country on the condition that he appoint academics and intellectuals to the cabinet to build a national policy framework. 

This may have been wishful thinking. It has been obvious for quite some time that most reputable Sri Lankans that have succeeded in their chosen fields would rather not get involved in the rodent infested swamp of politics. It makes perfect sense to steer clear of this mess, to mind your own business and simply get on with it, instead of risking hard earned reputations and money. 

I myself had personally received several invitations from various political factions throughout the years, but limited my involvement to the spheres of economic advice and management expertise. During my time, I had many tussles with politicos of varying stripes. Whilst on the director boards of countless institutions, I always endeavored to serve in the best interests of these institutions often under immense pressure. 

My time as the Chairman of the Cricket Board was punctuated by interference from special interests whilst trying to reorganise an establishment that was rotten to the core. I found time and time again, that with the exception of a few of our team, including Sidath Wettimuny and S. Skandakumar, officials who preferred to take easy decisions than to make the right decisions. In such an environment, I often found myself swimming against the tide, and more often than not, I resigned in protest at short-sighted decisions. 

I fully empathise with Sri Lankans of Sangakkara’s ilk. The enormous risks associated with being involved in the public sphere and exposing themselves to the absurdism of the political circus, means that many qualified Sri Lankans with energy, ideas and a sense of duty, will simply never set foot on this field. 

I have interacted with many individuals who have foresight, integrity and the expertise to make meaningful contributions to our motherland. I urge such individuals to step forward, while there is still time to salvage the wreckage of our nation’s economy and social fabric. I note that there are a few well-qualified persons that have been given nominations, fewer still from the major political parties. However these are too few and far between. 

Kumar Sangakkara likely has many business interests, he has a family to protect and to provide for and crucially, a reputation to uphold, so I do not blame him for being a spectator. However, if he had any doubt about where the Sri Lankan people stand, the recent mêlée regarding the 2011 final should ease those doubts. 

The Sri Lankan people stand by him. The people came forward to protect him, to speak up against the vile accusation levelled against one of our nation’s greatest sons. Around coffee tables, in kitchens and livings rooms, in offices and on social media, the people rose up with one clear voice to say, do not cross our beloved hero. He is a true patriot, his integrity is beyond reproach and does not deserve this treatment. 

There are many individuals like Kumar Sangakkara who may feel that their interests are better served by remaining on the sidelines and not doing or saying anything ‘controversial’. If the recent saga around match fixing should teach us anything, it is that we cannot remain on the sidelines, we cannot remain neutral. 

There cannot be neutrality in such a situation where the country is being run by officials with zero integrity. Some can make any statement about any person and not have to face any consequences. I urge prominent personalities to stand up and be counted, to leave their positions on the sidelines, however inconvenient this may be. 

Remember that all of us are still only a few generations removed from our colonial history. Whatever distance this country and its people have travelled, has been due to the sacrifices made by those that came before them. Would there be a Kumar Sangakkara or a Mahela Jayawardena, without an Aravinda De Silva or a Sanath Jayasuriya? If our predecessors did not show us what is possible, would we have been able to succeed? We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Without the sacrifices of those that came before us, we would be lost. 

Being born in 1939, I know that I could not have reached any position in my career, in this country, if not for those that came before me, and stood up for my rights. They stood up when it was difficult, stood up when it was inconvenient. As those brave few stood up, a few more stood up, and then a few more still. Until we as a country, stood as one nation. 

This is not just about Kumar Sangakkara, although I must say to him, that while he has served our country so diligently, his service may not be over, he may have to come to our service again. I implore all those true patriots to come to the fore, to stand up and be counted. If you ache for the country that could have been, that should have been, please stand up. Kumar Sangakkara may have to write yet another great chapter in our country’s history, but if not him, then someone else must do it. We owe it to those giants who came before us. 

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