UNP provincial leaders confident of future victory
Democracy is defined as a government of the people, by the people,
for the people and is believed to be one of the best forms of
administration in the world. Most developed countries in Europe, the
United States of America and all former colonial countries practise
We inherited Democracy from our ‘colonial masters’ and after winning
Independence, we consolidated democracy in the country, based on party
policies and principles. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) was the
first registered political party in the country while the United
National Party (UNP) was founded by D.S. Senanayake in 1946.
Subsequently, a number of political parties wer formed including the
SLFP which was formed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, after breaking away from
the United National Party in 1951.
The ruling power has since then been shifting between the UNP and
SLFP led coalitions, since 1956 upto 1977 when J.R. Jayewardene, the new
leader of the UNP, won with a five-sixths unprecedented majority and
firmly consolidated the party with the introduction of a new
Constitution. It was easy for JR to mobilise the masses against the
Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government as there was a severe shortage of all
consumer items, mismanagement of State institutions and unemployment
among educated youth due to wrong economic policies adopted by the
Soon after winning the election, J.R. Jayewardene revolutionised the
entire administrative mechanism of the country and liberalised the
A large number of major development projects came into being,
employment opportunities were created and there was rapid growth in the
economy. All consumer items were freely available in the market and the
people enjoyed the benefits, irrespective of any difference. That was
the main reason for the United National Party to remain in power for 17
However, the LTTE became very active during the late eighties and
started killing people indiscriminately, resulting in a fear psychosis
in all parts of the country.
They wiped out all the promising leaders in the country, especially
in the United National Party. The degree of destruction they carried out
in the country was enormous that the masses were at a loss. The UNP
membership was fully demoralised over the continuous loss of its
The UNP regime was defeated in 1994 by the People’s Alliance led by
Chandrika Kumarathunga who continued to remain in power amidst LTTE
atrocities during both her terms.
The United National Party formed a government in 2001, with support
rendered by a breakaway group of the PA, headed by its General Secretary
S.B. Dissanayake, but couldn’t continue for long and was defeated after
Mahinda Rajapaksa who took ovr the mantle, eradicated terrorism
militarily with the able support rendered by the Security Forces.
Rajapaksa consolidated his power at the next Presidential election and
at the parliamentary election. The dawn of peace in the country was the
main reason that contributed to the victory of the present regime.
The United National Party had been bogged down in the Opposition for
the last few years with no of recovery although there are many economic,
social and political problems faced by the public. The Sunday Observer
contacted some of the upcoming provincial leaders of the UNP to
ascertain the present position and their future course of action to
revive the party and to regain its lost glory.
The following are the excerpts:
Daya Gamage National organizer
Q: You are UNP’s National Organiser and Leader of the Eastern
Province and you have a huge responsibility in the forward march of the
party. What measures have you taken to fulfil your responsibilities?
A: Last year, I was unable to contribute to the Party as much as I
expected due to the expropriation of one of my companies, Sevanagala
Sugar Industries Limited. Now, most of my business responsibilities have
been taken over by my son and I have enough time to attend to my
Last year, in September, through the Provincial Council elections, I
laid the foundation for a UNP victory at the next Presidential or
Parliamentary elections expected in 2014. In 2008, the UPFA won by over
54,000 votes (65 percent of total votes).
However, in the previous election they lost by over 204,000 votes (27
percent of total votes).
Our leader has set a target to enrol two million new members to the
Party. By working closely with our party organisers in all electorates
and reaching the grass roots level, I will ensure that this goal is met.
Q: The UNP remained a monolith under D.S. Senanayake, Dudley
Senanayake and J.R. Jayewardene, with no room for breakaway tendencies.
How did such forces eat into the party structure?
A: It is wrong to say that a breakaway tendency was not there during
the time of previous leaders of the UNP, namely, D.S. Senanayake, Dudley
Senanayake and J.R. Jayewardene. The SLFP itself was formed by a
breakaway group of UNP led by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Even during Dudley
Senanayake’s period, J.R. Jayewardene was about to break away, but
remained in the party as Senanayake gave up the leadership position.
There are really no serious issues within the party and any issues
that were highlighted in the media during the last few months have now
been fully resolved. The people themselves realise this and now don’t
believe in false statements.
Q: The Ceasefire Agreement, the lukewarm attitude towards the war
against terrorism and the break-away of 18 prominent members dented the
party fabric. Would you agree with this or do you have other reasons?
A: Through the Ceasefire Agreement, Ranil Wickremesinghe, created
splits within the LTTE, to weaken their position and instrumental in the
breakaway of Karuna and Pillayan, demonstrating the clear results of his
efforts. If not for this breakaway in the Eastern Province and the
international support received in respect of training our Forces, ending
the war against terrorism would have been extremely difficult.
The breakaway of the 18 members was not because of the stance taken
by the UNP on the war against terrorism, but for personal benefits.
Q: The UNP has lost its touch with the masses especially in rural
areas and this has been adduced as one of the major causes impeding its
recovery. Would you express your views?
A: I accept the above and to overcome this situation, Ranil
Wickremesinghe, our leader had directed all organisers to start village
level organisations and strengthen the Party membership. We started this
process from the Galle district, last week we covered Kandy and next
week Kurunegala and within this year, we will cover the entire country.
We will enrol two million new members to the UNP and this will be
achieved by reconnecting with the grassroot levels because that is where
our true party strength lies.
Q: Ranil Wickremesinghe has formed a front to fight the UPFA in
future elections. Neither the JVP, Sarath Fonseka nor the TNA have the
unity agreement. Could you manage with a few three-wheeler parties?
A: The UNP is a strong party and can stand alone. However, what we
are fighting for is not different to what the JVP/Sarath Fonseka or the
TNA seek in certain matters.
Also, I would like to say that it is not ethical to call any party a
The Government is waiting for us to enter into an agreement with the
TNA to brand us once again as a pro-LTTE party.
Q: Dissension, tug-o-war, cut throats and betrayals have defaced the
party identity and brought about disillusionment among the voters. What
is your comment?
A: That statement is partly correct. Some members who were elected on
the UNP platform worked secretly with the Government to create disputes
within the party and after completing their ‘contract’, they crossed
over to the Government
Q: No final decision has yet been taken on the Deputy Leader’s post
of the party. Don’t you think that delaying this issue will lead to
further complications in the party?
A: Most of the senior members of the Party hold the view that the
issue of having a Deputy Leader has created numerous problems and as
such, some of the senior members have suggested having two to four
deputy leaders instead of one. However, the authority to take such a
decision lies with the Working Committee and I have no personal opinion
on the matter.
Q: What is the strategy you hope to adopt to garner public support at
the forthcoming Provincial Council elections to the Wayamba and Central
A: The forming grass-roots level branch societies at village level
includ Lak Vanitha and Youth Councils. These elections will definitely
hold strong results for the UNP because at present most families don’t
even have money to feed their children three square meals a day.
Q: Have you drawn out a plan to secure victory?
A: Yes, of course.
Q: MP Range Bandara is busy organising a front to contest UNP’s
official candidates at the forthcoming Provincial Council elections?
What is the impact on the party?
A: My assessment is that Ranga Bandara has a political future only if
he goes ahead with the UNP, because the voters are now much better
informed and cannot be easily manipulated as they have been tricked
several times in the last few years by empty promises. It is very clear
that the majority of people wish to change the present regime and only
the UNP can do this under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. That
is why he is being attacked.
Shamal Senerath - Opposition Leader Wayamba Provincial Council
Opposition Leader of the Wayamba Provincial Council Shamal Senerath,
speaking to the Sunday Observer, elaborated the present position of the
party and its future course of action to regain the lost glory of the
The United National Party, from its inception, had done a great
service to the nation. Look at the Mega Development Projects executed by
UNP leaders in the past. The Gal Oya project, Senanayake Samudraya
project, Mahaweli projects and all other multi-purpose irrigation
projects were founded by UNP leaders. J.R. Jayewardene liberalised the
economy in 1978. Since then, one could see the rapid development that
had taken place in the country in the socio-economic sphere.
The housing projects of President Ranasinghe Premadasa have benefited
over 1.5 million people in the country.
Q: With all these great services to the nation, the UNP had been
bogged in the Opposition for the past few years. What is the reason for
A: Well, we are a democratic party and we should realise the ground
situation of the country with regard to our repeated losses at the last
few elections. We humbly admit the fact that President Mahinda Rajapaksa
eradicated LTTE terrorism which had been a cancer to the nation for over
two decades. Our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Ceasefire Agreement also
contributed heavily to militarily weaken Prabhakaran as it led to a
breakaway faction comprising two of their top rung leaders in the field.
With the dawn of peace, people heaved a sigh of relief and that has been
the main reason why we couldn’t win the previous elections.
However, I have to tell you very clearly that the picture has changed
now. We are fully confident of winning the future elections.
The Government has failed miserably to serve the people in all
aspects such as in health care, education, law and order, security and
protection. The cost of living has sky-rocketed over the last few years
and people are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
At the same time, corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of
State properties have become the order of the day. There is no law and
order in the country.
In this backdrop, it is very easy for us to mobilise the masses
against the Government in the future. During the last few years, people
didn’t want a regime change, but now we believe that the people are
determined to change the present regime.
Q: With the constant internal conflicts in your party, do you think
that the people will repose confidence in you?
A: Tell me the party which has no internal conflicts. We are a
democratic party and there can be leaders who hold different views and
opinions on certain matters. It doesn’t mean that we are divided. When
it comes to an election, everybody will work together to achieve victory
at a future election.
Q: You are representing the Wayamba Province from where very strong
political personalities have left the party and joined the UPFA. So how
can you say that the UNP will bounce back at a future election?
A: I am sure they now regret what they did as they have realised that
public opinion has changed. And I must tell you that people do not go
behind individuals blindly, but they go for policies and principles.
I must also tell you that the people who crossed over to the
Government, did so to enjoy perks and privileges and not to strengthen
the hands of the President, as they claimed. People have lost faith in
them and they will learn a bitter lesson at the next election.
Q: Have you drawn out a plan to face the next election with
A: Provincial organisational activities are conducted on the
guidelines provided by the party headquarters. Right now, we are in the
process of recruiting two million new members to the party. We are fully
involved in regrouping the disintegrated factions of the party
regionally, provincially and nationally - and the response is very
We have also embarked on a comprehensive program to educate our
grassroots level membership on the corruption and mismanagement of the
I do not want to disclose all our unique strategies to the media in
respect of our re organisational activities. In short, I can tell you
that when our new strategy is precisely executed, victory is certain for
the UNP at any future election.
Dr. Thusitha Wijemanne – Opposition Leader, Sabaragamuwa Provincial
Q: You are a senior Provincial Councillor who had been elected for
the third consecutive term and the party hierarchy had reposed great
confidence in you by appointing you as the Opposition Leader of the
Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council. In other words you are responsible for
the party’s performance in both districts, Kegalle and Ratnapura which
comprise 17 electorates. What action have you taken to rebuild the image
of the party since you took over the Opposition Leader’s post?
A: Well, we have three prominent parliamentarians from the Ratnapura
district, namely Thalatha Athukorala, Ranjan Ramanayake and Dunesh
Gankanda and we have Kabir Hashim and Champika Premadasa from the
Kegalle district who do a marvellous job on the party’s reorganisational
activities. I, as the leader of the Opposition in the Sabaragamuwa
Provincial Council work quite closely and cordially with all of them.
They are senior members of the party and I always seek their
assistance in discharging my responsibilities.
We have already launched our propaganda campaign aiming at a future
election. Our membership recruitment drive is already off the ground and
we hope to complete it by the end of the year with two million members.
I have started the setting up of new branch units in my electorate youth
leagues, and women’s leagues to consolidate our grass root level
Regrouping of disintegrated factions was not easy for us during the
past few years mainly due to the peaceful environment prevailing in the
country after terrorism was defeated.
You know my area specially Kegalle and Ratnapura are not well
developed areas in comparison to other districts in the country. People
depend mainly on rubber and tea cultivation.
The cost of production of these crops have gone up while the selling
price remain the same.
We have a large number of estate schools and medical centres all over
the province and most of them are not properly equipped with basic
requirements and human resources. Rural peasants are undergoing untold
hardships due to the lack of medical facilities. We have been constantly
complaining at the provincial council sittings but to no avail.
We are confident that we could form a government at a future election
under the far sighted leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe.