Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part X – ORATORY SKILLS

Nanda Wanninayaka   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In my last 9 marathon articles, I was comparing and contrasting the two main presidential candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in 9 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This 10th and the final post deals with how ORATORY SKILLS of the duo would influence the voter. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IX – NEPOTISM for the previous post. 


I am glad that I just managed to compile the last of this series of posts a few hours before the election campaigns come to an end by midnight. Not that this little post of mine is going to make any difference in the voter’s choice but I am happy that I could accomplish my task.  

When it comes to oratory skills of presidential candidates, I am totally disappointed with the way they go about it in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan politicians have repeatedly shown how low they can go in throwing mud at the opposite candidates rather than targeting his or her policies. Hardly anyone even reads policies of the candidates. Putting a document of policies forward has become just a formality over here whereas in the West, the policies play a major role in gauging a candidate or his party’s direction for the next few years.

The next big drawback is the endless undeliverable promises the candidates make during the election campaigns. Unfortunately, even though the voter has been fooled many a time since the Westminster style democracy came into the picture, nobody learns it seems. Sri Lankan voter has been fooled by the prime ministerial and the presidential candidates with promises ranging from “rice from the moon” to “8 pounds of grains” to “a loaf of bread at 3.50 LKR” to “free Wi-Fi access” to the masses. The voter knows what happened with those promises yet for all, the voter still is gullible to similar ridiculous promises.


Gota never was a career politician. He was an officer in the army, an IT professional and a secretary to a ministry who doesn’t necessarily need the ability to make lengthy speeches. So, he never was comfortable in addressing large gatherings, taking questions from the media, taking part in debates. He was more of a presenter in small scale meetings. He knew it and so did the voter. But he tried to show something he was not by trying to become a big orator. Instead, he should have openly expressed at the very beginning of the campaign that he has no interest or the capacity in making speeches to give gallery a go and stuck with his way of communicating he proved he was good at. Besides, Sri Lanka has had leaders who were great orators such as Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, Mr. J. R. Jayawardene, Mr. R. Premadasa but whether they achieved much for the nation remains a big question. So, Gota’s inability to talk eloquently has become a plus point as the voter has been listening to useless lengthy speeches for ages. Gota is a doer, not much of a talker


Sajith, on the other hand, can speak literally till the cows come home, just like his late father used to be. I won’t call him a great orator as most of what he talks directly goes down as some of the most idiotic speeches made during a presidential campaign. In addition to that, he has the same shrill voice his dad had which is irritating to the listener. For me, Sajith’s voice is as irritating as that of the Hollywood villain Joe Pesci. Feel sorry to draw parallels here as one cannot expect every politician to have a deep booming voice like the former US president Mr. Barrack Obama had but at least Sajith’s advisors should have advised him to use less screaming and let the sound systems do the rest. But Sajith has the ability to attract people for his speeches especially from the villages and they might vote for him with the kind of promises he made during his campaign. This is a country where throwing mud, undeliverable promises and jokes of bad taste decide winners in politics. So, let’s hope for the best.