Pad Man – Iron Man – Bus Man – Spider Man…

‘We are frequently required to go on field trips. It is very expensive. Going to Sinharaja from here costs at least 50,000 rupees for one child. These are difficult villages. Our parents can’t imagine incurring such a cost. Then our teachers use their meager pay to cover the cost. More than 26 lakhs have been spent on transportation expenses for various programmes this year alone. Sir, the great service you have rendered will be remembered in history. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. What has been done will be written in gold letters in our school’s history…’

This was spoken by a school girl with sparkling eyes as she took the platform. What does she say? Who is she grateful to? Where does she speak with a delicate tone of voice?

The date is precisely December 27. This institution is Tambuttegama Central College. Tambuttegama Madhya Maha Vidyalaya received the fifty-first bus as part of the opposition leader Sajith Premadasa’s initiative, the Sakwala programme. The birthplace of Mr. Anura Kumara Dissanayake is Tambuttegama. He attended Tambuttegama Madhya Maha Vidyalaya for his education.

Anura Dissanayake said this in Kurunegala two days before Sajith gave away his 50th bus.

‘Isn’t that bus driver there? He can drive you a bus. They are childish political endeavours.’

Sajith responded to Anura’s criticism by going to his village’s school. At Tambuttegama Madhya Maha Vidyalaya, as mentioned at the beginning of the note, a girl came to the stage and spoke.

That day, Sajith’s response was this.

The country was governed for 74 years; tax revenue was collected by the state and redistributed in the name of development. They did that for 74 years, the opposition did it for 74 years, they are planning to take over the government somehow, the opposition has never served, have you heard? It has never been done, that’s why some people read and read that ‘Unn and Munn’ are the same for 74 years. But don’t forget ‘Unn’ was in governments, and was in oppositions, Munu was in governments, Munu was in oppositions, but those who say this was also in governments, and was in oppositions, held ministries, don’t forget that those who say Unn and, Munn are the same, but we are different, we are changing, the whole country knows that if you say Sakwala, if you say Husma, if you say Sajith Premadasa, they will definitely do what is said.

Which opposition did so much service, we gave 50 buses to schools, gave computer systems to schools, and gave medicines and equipment to hospitals from breath program. That’s what we call different. We are going on a middle path, we are going on a social democratic path, and in that path we have well understood our social responsibility.

How many alumni are there in this college, talking big, who have served at least a pin’s worth? But even when the 50th bus was given to Tambuttegama Central college, I was scolded a lot, now I have a new name, busman. No problem, I am not a person who is moved by those insults. They are trying to show that they are workers by spending crores of rupees, sending buses, to transport crowd and organizing meetings. Workmen mean to add some value to the village temple, religious place, school, hospital, don’t they mean doing work. There are very few working politicians in this country. There are many politicians who score points. Some would rather see prisons open than improve schools. In our country, our current situation has become a country that throws flowers to thieves. The red carpet is rolled out for those who destroyed the country, and those who work are slandered. I am saying that working to serve the people and dirty politics will not serve the country. Do a lot of work without delay…’

Sajith said so.

As a concept of Sajith Premadasa, the Sakwala program started about a year ago. Through it, two programs are running. One is information technology and classroom program with smart boards. The other is the program of providing buses to schools.

So far, he has been able to provide 54 buses for schools. The school system strengthened through that is massive.

In a year, the cost of transportation of one school running into lakhs of rupees. They are also unbearably expensive.

We held a fair and sold ice cream to raise funds for a school trip. This is how we figured the bus fare for our trip…’

A student at one school related this story.

Some students went to the houses of their neighbours after school to obtain money for excursions by performing hired work. On a number of occasions, financial constraints prevented us from attending matches.

There are innumerable tales similar to this one. Behind every tale lays suffering.

When Sajith went to the event of every school to provide buses, he got a report related to the transportation cost of those schools that year. Often they exceed 20, 30 lakhs.

A bus was donated to Piliyandala Dharmaraja Vidyalaya under the Sakwala programme. There, the principal of the school has indicated that the transportation cost incurred by Dharmaraja School for the year 2022 is 22 lakhs. It is close to 30 lakhs in Tambuttegama College.

Sajith knows that getting buses is strengthening the school system which is incurring such a huge expense.

That’s Sajith. He gives a school a bus and drives it himself. What do you say? Shall we let CTB to rule the country…?’

This is how Nalinda Jayatissa of JVP criticized Sajith’s program.

‘I saw one of those stage heroes saying let the drivers of CTB run the country.’

We say, Narendrasingha Modi, who sold tea on the train, became the Prime Minister of India. Any person can become a leader of a country if he has effort, ability, courage and philanthropy…’ replied Sajith.

“Only a person devoid of morals could condemn the job of giving a school a bus. Anyone who criticises in this manner has likely never attended school. In either case, there is not the slightest concern for education in this country…’

A teacher stated this.

Sajith is currently engaged in three unique social care activities, regardless of the number of slurs and insults hurled at him. The first is to provide school transportation through Sakwala. The ‘Digital Computer Screen and Computer Donation Pilot Project’ was conceived by opposition leader Mr. Sajith Premadasa for a technologically savvy generation of children and launched in May of last year. It is on-going as well.

Due to online education, the goal of his initiative is to bring respite to the children of this country who must travel kilometres to find a signal. It goes without saying how powerless the children and parents of this country have become in recent years thanks to online education.

His social care effort entails supplying hospitals with medical supplies through the “Husma” programme. Even today, tens of thousands of patients are able to breathe as a result of the health instruments and drugs he provided to the hospital system.

Even diplomats from many nations have complimented Sajith for these three accomplishments. During the previous presidential election, Sajith, who ran as a candidate for president, made a statement that had never been uttered by a candidate before. This is a definitive statement concerning the health of women in this country. He stated that he should create a programme to distribute free sanitary napkins to women in this country in order to improve women’s hygiene. As soon as this declaration was heard, the opposition developed their slur campaign making use of this statement.

They began striking Sajith repeatedly till the stage trembled. The matter grew so problematic that not only artists, political figures, social activists, and Pohottuwa voters opposed this declaration, but also those on Sajith’s own side.

Immediately, Rajapaksa-affiliated social media users dubbed Premadasa “The Pad Man” and constructed an image of him holding a sanitary pad before launching an attack.

Pad Man is the name of an Indian Hindi film based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganadam, a South Indian who launched an initiative to supply affordable sanitary napkins to impoverished women in India. The Rajapaksaists insulted Sajith Premadasa with a poster of the film “The Pad Man.” They substituted Sajith Premadasa’s head for that of Akshay Kumar in the poster depicting him holding a pad. If this presidential election had occurred by accident in South India, the same poster designed by the Rajapaksas would have been sufficient for Sajith Premadasa to win.

Because ‘Pad Man’ was a hugely successful movie and became one of the ten highest grossing movies of 2018.

‘A presidential candidate is openly offering these items (sanitary towels) to our women. These Sinhalese men are energetic and capable of purchasing sanitary towels for their wives. I say it without hesitation. You have removed women’s shame and fear in order to gain votes. Our husbands are very respectful. They carry them out. Don’t be concerned about them…’ Sanjeevani Weerasinghe, an artist, criticised Sajith in this manner.

‘Oh, Willy is very shy. ‘What are you talking about…’ joked Bandu Samarasinghala, shaking the stage.

Pohottu supporters, who believe that holding a party to celebrate the rape of a hundred women, including little girls, is a reason to uphold women’s pride, saw it as an insult to women when a presidential candidate announced on the public stage that they would provide’sanitary towels’ or ‘pads’ for free.

Sajith’s statement about free sanitary napkins that day was not by chance. It was built on a solid foundation. According to the Department of Census and Statistics, 52% of Sri Lanka’s population is female, with approximately 5.7 million of them menstruating. On days when periods are on, 30% of girls in remote villages do not attend school. Many people do not use sanitary napkins because they cannot afford them. Isn’t this a delicate subject?

Sajith said in front of this criticism that I am more proud to be ‘Pad Man’ than to be ‘Van Man’. However, many of those who mocked Sajith later realised how powerful his proposal was.

However, while Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free sanitary napkins and related products to all women, Sri Lanka decided to tax sanitary napkins. Sanitary napkins are priced between Rs. 120 and Rs. 175 in the Sri Lankan market. Imported brands sold at Rs. 350.  According to analysts, buying imported sanitary napkins is difficult for most women and has turned it into a luxury item. The average woman’s period lasts about 5 days and she uses 4 sanitary napkins per day. As a result, under the previous tax system, a woman would have to spend 520 rupees per month on menstrual hygiene products. It is now even more expensive.

Many people are still feeling the weight of Sajith’s proposal, which he made in the midst of countless insults and insults. This tragedy also befell his father, President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Gam Udava, Jana Saviya, the establishment of 200 garment factories, the Sevana Sarana Parental Care System, the provision of uniforms and lunch to schoolchildren, the establishment of a Divisional Secretariat system, and the introduction of a competitive examination system for government service recruitment, and so on. Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa etched his name in this country’s history by launching many memorable programmes.

The arduous mission he carried out for the upliftment of this country’s poor people is being discussed more than it was previously. Having spent nearly fourteen thousand rupees on school supplies for one child, there is no doubt that the parents of more than forty lakh children today remember Mr. Premadasa’s mission.

Because of the revolutionary step of providing free uniforms to schoolchildren, the children of this country have gained a lot of support today.

There was a discussion summoned in Sucharite about providing school uniforms to the students. It was attended by a large number of government officials and businessmen. Mr. Premadasa personally tested the samples they brought. He said all these are local stuff? Not good quality. Good clothing should be provided. Isn’t there the material with the blue line on the white which I’m wearing? He inquired. The officials stated that such a fabric exists, but the cost is extremely expensive. Then Mr. Premadasa says it doesn’t matter because I’ll allocate the funds. Give children clothes of good quality not bad ones. Make plans to provide appropriate clothing. Do things like this happen in the modern era, gentlemen…?’

Sucharithe Abeyratne, who worked in Mr. Premadasa’s office for a long time, opened all letters that came to him while he was there, and connected phone calls to various officials to him once he said…

Mr. Premadasa also wished to provide shoes for poor children. He was killed unexpectedly while testing shoe samples. Mr. Premadasa resumed his afternoon bun distribution programme for schoolchildren. This is a previous programme that was discontinued. Mr. Premadasa was always striving to do his best for the schoolchildren. It’s the same whether you look at uniforms or shoes…’ he added.

A pair of school shoes nowadays costs more than 4,000 rupees. Two pairs of shoes cost Rs 8,000 if two children in a family attend school.

Sajith recently stated that his goal is to provide two pairs of shoes to each school child.

Some people began to laugh as well. Who can laugh at education investment? Sri Lanka is one of these countries.

‘I’m not afraid of being slapped. I’m not afraid of being accused. The children of those who criticise me ride the buses I provide to school. Those who criticise me using the medical equipment I provide will be able to breathe in the future. The children of those who criticise me also attend my welcoming classrooms. The entire country will decide whether my work is good or bad…’

Sajith responds to the critics in this manner.

During the presidential election, Sajith was dubbed “Pad Man,” and a “Iron Man” was elected. That Iron Man eventually destroyed the country and fled after two years. JVP has now brought ‘Bus Man’ to the forefront. Finally, instead of Bus Man, they will seek out a ‘Spider-Man,’ who will undoubtedly destroy the rest of the country.

Jayawardena, Trixie

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