Lead well, Mr. President!

This was the editorial of The Sunday Morning Business written on Saturday morning, ahead of the announcement of  the Presidential Election results.

Congratulations on your victory Mr. President. Your camp must be euphoric today after weeks of hard fought campaigning.

We hope from the moment you are declared the President, you make every effort to be the statesman that Sri Lanka so desperately needs at this juncture. While it will not be easy to extricate yourself from the deeply entrenched culture of partisan politics, we would dearly like you to choose the difficult path.

Remember that you are everyone’s President whether they voted for you or for your opponents. From today, the polity needs you to be successful because your success will be inexorably linked to that of our nation.

We need you to bridge the chasms and become a unifying force; encourage Sri Lankans to move beyond the divisions that hold us back and please do so, by example. Work for real inclusion; create the right opportunities for people to be heard and for their voices to matter. At the end of your term, if you’ve earned our respect for making a sincere effort to embrace and empower the many marginalised segments of our communities, that alone can be the incredible legacy you leave behind.

Your predecessor has left a blemish, or a few, in the office of the Presidency. But which of our Presidents has been perfect? There are lessons to be learnt even from President Number Six. The freedom of expression enjoyed during the last five years must continue: you must begin a constructive discourse with an engaged republic. Let them speak their minds. It only makes our democracy a vibrant one.

35 Sri Lankans vied for the Presidency that you have now won. Many of them proposed ideas that energized some sections of the electorate. Consider those ideas for the greater good. Be the bigger man who appreciates ideas of value even when they originate from those you disagree with.

You’ve become a leader of a nation at a complex time in a complex world. To keep up, we need you to change our political culture; we need you to surround yourself with the right people; we need you to create a meritocracy; we need you to make decisions that are right for us, even when they’re unpopular with the politicians.

And finally Mr. President, don’t let this office change who you are. You are our leader and we want you be someone who listens and considers others’ opinions but has the wisdom and maturity to trust your own judgment and live by your values without being swayed by pressure.

Over the next five years, you are accountable to every one of us. You are especially accountable to the children of this land who had no role in electing you but whose futures you will most certainly impact. You must wear that responsibility with pride, honour and concern.

Welcome Mr. President. Enjoy the ride.