AKD goes back to his roots in Thambuttegama to kick off presidential campaign | Sunday Observer

AKD goes back to his roots in Thambuttegama to kick off presidential campaign

Anura Kumara welcomed by supporters
Anura Kumara welcomed by supporters

On October 8, the crowds that thronged the Thambuttegama grounds where the National People’s Power (NPP) held its rally got a rare glimpse into the humble beginnings of its Presidential candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake. A politician and parliamentarian who often prefers to focus on topics of policy and corruption, on that day Dissanayake shared with his supporters the story of his upbringing in the rural village during the 1970s.

It seemed the Presidential hopeful had chosen the apt moment to delve into his childhood as he kick-started his election campaign with a massive rally in his hometown. Going back to his humble roots, Dissanayake who is contesting under the symbol of the ‘compass’ had chosen his hometown of Thambuttegama to hold perhaps the most significant rally in his three-decade-long political career.

Amidst deafening cheers, the NPP candidate and leader of the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Anura Kumara Dissanayake took the stage.

As his ageing mother, dressed in a simple white sari and his older sister watched, Dissanayake told the thousands of his supporters gathered on the day, that he as a leader understands the sufferings of the rural people.

“We first came to this village in 1972 and lived in a rented house which cost us Rs. 20 monthly,” he said recalling his first years in Thambuttegama. While the Dissanayake family settled down in the village going on to build a house of their own, the NPP candidate recalled how he and his siblings would study under the light in the village post office. “We studied under the lights of the post office as it was the only place with electricity then,” he said.

Dissanayake said he understands the sufferings of the villagers. “During school holidays we sold mangoes on the train to make a living, so we understand the sufferings of the villagers,” he said.

“Today, our villagers are born and struggle to make a livelihood only to die unnoticed thereafter,” he said. The leaders of the country have a duty to give a life of happiness to the innocent people in the country’s villages, he said.

“If we don’t have a home, a decent income, a good education for our children, proper health care and mental freedom, should we continue to live like this?” he questioned. Noting that the village folk have often voted with high expectations, Dissanayake pointed out that no politicians have fulfilled their expectations. “Our elders chose the wrong path in politics in the past” he pointed out.

“We are your leaders and if we all get together we can herald in a better future for this country,” he said as the crowds cheered.

According to Dissanayake if the country is to be brought to the correct path, corruption must be uprooted. “If I am elected I will stop all corruption and fraud,” he said.

Pointing to those on the stage, Dissanayake assured that no individual who has extended support to the NPP is a corrupt individual who has stolen public monies, including himself.

“I welcome you to go visit my mother’s house. We laid the foundation to that house in 1988 with a loan of Rs 8,000. Nearly 31 years on we are still trying to build the living room. We have not stolen even a Rupee from the people of this country” he said. Pointing to his sister, Dissanayke told the crowds how her hands are burnt trying to make a living by frying Kavum. “If you have any doubts please do take a look at our lives and see if we are thieves,” he said.

Remembering his neighbours of the past Dissanayake explained how the Thambuttegama Hospital, the Surveyor’s Office and even the Railway Station was headed by Tamils. “We lived and worked closely with them but the leaders of this country destroyed this way of life by creating a war” he said.

“Many who were close to us died and having experienced that we should not allow a similar situation to arise in the county once again” he added.

“If we establish an NPP government we will stop corruption. Secondly, we will get back and refund every cent stolen from the people. We will also cut down on the President’s expenditure. We must correct this system from the top” he said.

Addressing the issues of the people in the area, the Presidential hopeful promised to restore and strengthen the rural communities of Sri Lanka.

The NPP true to its form also opened the stage for a number of speeches by academics, professionals, trade unionists and activists among their ranks.

Addressing the rally representing the National Intellectuals’ Organization (NIO) author and accomplished academic Prof. Liyanage Amarakeerthi explained why he chose to support Anura Kumara Dissanayake at this juncture despite him not being a member of any political party. “As a university lecturer and an independent artist, I decided to support Dissanayake for one very specific reason,” he told the crowds.

“It is because Anura Kumara Dissanayake is the only leader who open-heartedly welcomed all progressive and leftist camps to join together,” he said.

Also speaking at the rally, veteran author Jayathilake Kammalaweera of the Jana Niyamu Kalakaruwo organization noted how the country’s politicians have tricked its people for the last 71 years.

“The NPP is ready to stop this from this Presidential election onwards,” he said. “We cannot allow our countrymen to be tricked every day” he added.