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DateLine Sunday, 9 September 2007

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Government Gazette

Writing on the wall for UNP

The United National Party had a rich background and heritage as a leading political party. It produced great leaders of the calibre of the late D.S. Senanayake, Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister.

Founded on September 6, 1946 after amalgamating three right-leaning pro-dominion parties from all three major communities - the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, its founder leader, Senanayake had been in the forefront of then Ceylon's struggle for independence from the British.

The UNP valued Sri Lanka's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the 1947 general election, they campaigned on a platform under the British and protected the traditional way of life and Buddhism, followed by nearly three-fourths of the population.

In July 1977, the UNP had an overwhelming general election victory with an impressive five-sixth majority in the Parliament. It was the late J.R. Jayewardene who steered the UNP victory that gave him unlimited power which ultimately inspired him to introduce a new constitution in 1978 with a powerful Executive President.

His successor, the late Ranasinghe Premadasa too was a leader with a vision. He had his own inimitable way of doing things. President Premadasa too was a leader who could win the hearts of people and this was a trump card at elections.

The combination of JRJ and Premadasa ensured a UNP regime of 17 years where the opposition was silenced by various strategies. But lo and behold today, the UNP is in the political wilderness, having lost 14 successive elections.

A party that had always been in the forefront, never had a leader like Ranil Wickremesinghe, who clings to the top seat of the party. Having been defeated at two Presidential elections - in 1998 to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and in 2004 to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe continues to hold on to the leadership of the UNP.

Many political analysts feel that the presence of Wickremesinghe at Sirikotha's top seat is a blessing in disguise. Despite becoming the Prime Minister on two occasions - in 1993 due to the assassination of the then President Premadasa and at the 2003 elections with the support of S.B. Dissanayake and SLFT dissidents, Ranil Wickremesinghe has never been fortunate to become the head of state.

The lack of democracy within the party and several unilateral decisions by the party leader prompted the UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and 17 other party stalwarts to extend their support to President Rajapaksa.

Prior to that, several UNP heavyweights including Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Rohitha Bogollagama quit the party in disgust. The UNP has lost nearly half of its MPs elected at the last general elections as forty odd 'heavy greens' have rejected Wickremesinghe's leadership and his way of tackling the LTTE.

It was Wickremesinghe who signed the Norway-backed Ceasefire Agreement, which remains a controversial document.

Though Wickremesinghe and terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran were the signatories to the CFA, they signed the document at two different locations. By inking his signature on that controversial CFA, Wickremesinghe accepted the so-called 'LTTE controlled' areas before the international community.

How could a legitimate government grant or hand over a section of its own territory to a terrorist organisation? In other words, Wickremesinghe legally or illegally handed over a section of our motherland to the LTTE.

Wickremesinghe did all this during his tenure as the Prime Minister, and not as the Head of State because Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was the President at the time. Wickremesinghe's controversial conduct, overstepping his purview when there was an Executive President, prompted Kumaratunga to take over three key ministries.

That eventually led to the downfall of Wickremesinghe's 'dream government'. But everything changed drastically after Mahinda Rajapaksa vanquished Wickremesinghe at the 2005 Presidential elections.

Unlike Wickremesinghe, President Rajapaksa was not willing to mollycoddle the LTTE. Instead, he took a tough stand against terrorism.

Though the UNP attempted to paint a gloomy picture of Mahinda Rajapaksa during Wickremesinghe's Presidential election campaign, his efforts were in vain. While giving equal rights to the minority Tamils and Muslims as citizens of Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa vowed to overcome terrorism and Prabhakaran's barbarian acts.

He was also not willing to dance to the tune of the international community or INGOs. On the other hand, President Rajapaksa let the Security Forces launch a series of humanitarian operations to liberate innocent Tamil civilians from the jaws of Prabhakaran's cruel terrorist rule.

The liberation of Mavil Aru, Sampur, Vakarai and Thoppigala paved the way for the innocent Tamil civilians to be freed from the LTTE clutches. They were liberated and rescued from Prabhakaran's barbarian rule.

The Security Forces are now ushering in that same joy of liberation to the people in the North as well. Our brave security forces have liberated people in Silawathura in Mannar without any loss to human life.

Simultaneously, the development process of the East is taking place at a rapid pace. However, the UNP is resorting to various means to sabotage it by making an issue over the loan that the Government intends to obtain from a foreign bank here.

It is indeed a crying shame that Wickremesinghe does not realise that this money is for development of the East and to uplift the living standards of the innocent civilians there.

Let the intelligent people of this country monitor the conduct of our political leaders and give them their due places purely on merit. Political opportunists and leaders of such parties which put their personal agendas as a priority would certainly not stand any chance.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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