Discipline in party is vital - Deputy Opposition Whip, Ajith Perera
The United National Party, which had been a formidable political
force in the country since its inception has sustained innumerable
problems during the recent past, mainly due to remaining bogged down in
the Opposition for a long period of time. It is quite evident that there
has been a gradual deterioration of the party since the 2004 general
election when the UNP was comprehensively defeated by the UPFA.
A large number of stalwarts left the party and joined the Government
during the past few years, claiming that there is no democracy in the
party. Ranil Wickremesinghe ascended to the leadership of the party
after the untimely demise of many UNP leaders including Gamini
Dissanayake and under his leadership the party managed to win only the
2001 general election.
With the series of defeats suffered by the party, Wickremesinghe’s
leadership was challenged by Hambantota district young Parliamentarian
Sajith Premadasa who clamoured for amendments to the party Constitution,
His campaign gathered momentum with the support of some of the sitting
They were branded ‘reformists’ by the membership. Dayasiri
Jayasekera, the Deputy Opposition Whip of the party was one of the
vociferous speakers of the reformists group who agitated for a change in
the party leadership.
Finally, the party top brass decided to have an election for all top
positions at the party Headquarters ‘Sri Kotha’ for the first time in
its long history of over six decades.
The dissident group promoted Karu Jayasuriya for the top post while
Sajith Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekera contested the Deputy Leader’s
and National Organiser’s posts respectively.
The Election for the top posts was held and only Premadasa scraped
through to the Deputy Leader’s post with a marginal majority while
Jayasuriya and Jayasekera were comprehensively defeated by
Wickremesinghe and Daya Gamage.
The reformist groups claims were found to be null and void among the
working committee members.
The unfortunate incident which occurred at the party headquarters
with the promulgation of election results was vehemently condemned by
the entire membership irrespective of any differences.
Press conferences were held by the reformist group after the election
and some derogatory remarks made, which were detrimental to the
democratic existence of the party and had also antagonised the new
The party Working Committee decided to take stern disciplinary action
against those who act in an arbitrary manner.
As an initial step, some of their party membership were, suspended.
Dayasiri Jayasekera was removed from the Deputy Opposition Whip position
and replaced with Kalutara District Parliamentarian Ajith P. Perera.
The Sunday Observer had an exclusive interview with the newly
appointed Deputy Opposition Whip Ajith P. Perera to ascertain the
present position of the party, its activities and the future course of
action with regard to the burning issues of the country.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: You are an eminent lawyer enjoying a lucrative practice.
What made you take to politics?
A: Well, I was interested in politics from my young days. I
remember the first meeting I attended when I was barely 10 years old.
That was in April 16, 1977. J.R. Jayewardene came for a rally
accompanied by R. Premadasa. J.R.J.’s majestic appearance and
Premadasa’s fiery speech moved me and I decided to become a politician
Q: Who is your political mentor?
A: No doubt, It’s J.R. Jayewardene’s vision and stature which
prompted me to become a politician. However, during the latter stages, I
had some reservations on certain issues with J.R.J. Still, one cannot
deny the fact that he was a great visionary born in our country since
We are still on par with the rest of the countries in South East Asia
thanks to his initiatives which some people have now forgotten.
Q: What is your political background? Were any of your family
members involved in politics?
A: Absolutely not. I am from an ordinary family in
Bandaragama. I studied at a village school upto Grade 5. After winning
the Grade-5 scholarship, I came to Ananda College. I entered University
and Law College and became a lawyer.
Q: Now you are an eminent lawyer with a lucrative practice and
also a legal educationalist with your private enterprise. How do you
find the time for politics and invariably social service. In addition to
all that now you are vested with an additional responsibility, as the
Deputy Opposition Whip of the party. How do you manage all these?
A: I am very good at time management. I have delegated my
personal enterprises to my subordinates. I am fully involved in
Parliamentary affairs and procedures and other functions of our party at
I work under John Amaratunga and I am sure that I possess all
requirements and the aptitude to discharge my duties efferently and to
the satisfaction of my party top braas.
Q: How is your relationship with other party members?
A: Well, I treat them all as my Parliamentary colleagues and
work very cordially with everybody.
However as far as party policies are concerned, I have no friends in
the Government Party or for that matter in any of the parties.
My firm desire is to form a government of our own under Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s leadership as soon as possible.
Q: With constant infighting among the top leaders of the
party, now are you going to project a good image of the party to win a
A: Well, now everybody has realised the importance of working
as a single unit to muster the support of everybody in the country.
There cannot be divisions or factions in the party.
I know some leaders have their personal programs and agendas. But
everybody will have to work under the umbrella of the United National
Party and its policies and principles to restore the lost glory of the
Q: Instead of penalising the dissenting voices of the party,
don’t you think it is time that everybody got together and strengthened
the party fabric?
A: Intra-party discipline is an integral part of any
democratic party, especially when you are in the Opposition.
What the party leadership is trying to do right now is to take all
measures to completely establish intra-party discipline.
I don’t think Ranil Wickremesinghe has personal grudges against
anybody. What he say is that discipline has to be maintained even at the
cost of some political losses.
Q: Flexibility is a vital component for the progress of any
party, why doesn’t each member compromise their stand and iron out their
A: We always discuss matters and try to arrive at collective
and unanimous decisions. Everybody will realise their shortcomings and
will work as a single team in future.
Q: Your new assignment requires flexibility, fact and a sense
of proportion to unite disintegrated factions. This will not be an easy
task. How do you hope to iron out the differences among your members?
A: I always try to establish trust and coordinate with an
exchange the different views of our members on all matters.
It is quite common in any democratic political party to have problems
when in the Opposition. Some unscrupulous media institutions have
launched an aggressive campaign to destroy our party.
We do not have insoluble problems which cannot be solved among our
members, certain media organisations paint a gloomy picture for vested
Don’t you remember the internal party problems of the SLFP from 1977
to the early ninetees? How many groups were there in the SLFP? They even
went to Courts to sort out internal matters. We do not have such grave
problems within our party.
Q: Your party’s vote base had been gradually reduced to
abysmal levels over the years. What are your plans to resurrect it from
the present position?
A: Let me put the facts straight. Our party’s vote base has
not reduced to abysmal level as you say. We still maintain about 30-35
We have to improve by about 20 percent, which is not difficult with
the correct approach and an effective plan and program.
We have drawn out a two-year program to achieve the desired results.
Some of the actions of the Government would help us achieve our goal,
even earlier than we expect. We only have to mobilise the disgruntle
elements for us to form a stable government.
Q: What is you party’s stand on the LLRC recommendations?
A: I am unable to comment on it since we have not taken a
final decision on that.
Q: Do you believe in devolution of power? Could you agree to
the transfer of Police and land powers to the now liberated North and
A: We believe in the devolution of power with some
reservations. There is nothing wrong in granting land powers to the
people in the area, but not police powers.
Sri Lanka is too small a country to have different police forces. It
can invariably lead to severe complications and implications.
Q: There is international pressure to dismantle security camps
in the North and the East. Since defence is the top priority of any
sovereign state, can anybody agree to such demands?
A: You have to analyse the situation based on the prevalent
context. After a long drawn battle against terrorism, it takes time to
fully normalise the attitudes and temperament of the people.
It is necessary to gradually reduce military enforcements in the
Q: Instances of Parliamentarians taking the law into their own
hands are being reported very often. Will your party enforce a strict
code of conduct for your people to ensure a decent Parliament?
A: I don’t think any party leaders would endorse the indecent
behaviour of some of their members. Unfortunately, it constantly happens
I shall assure you that we will have decent and admirable
Parliamentarians in future under the able and far-sighted leadership of