Jana Jaya political strategy will restore UNP's lost glory - Kabir
The post-Independent political history of the country has shown that
major political parties experience ups and downs in their existence. The
United National Party, founded by D.S. Senanayake in 1946, had governed
the country for over 30 years under seven leaders in different terms of
office. The party was defeated by SLFP-led coalitions on four occasions
since Independence, but it never remained in the Opposition for more
than one parliamentary term prior to 1994.
Since 1994, the performance of this grand old party at every
successive election had been deplorable under the incumbent leadership
of Ranil Wickremesinghe and a group headed by young Parliamentarian
Sajith Premadasa agitated for some reforms in the party mechanism
including some amendments in the party constitution to avoid further
defeats and restore the lost glory of the party. Reforms were effected
sometime back, but no significant improvement was made even at
Then the United Bhikkhu Front came forward to assist the party in its
reorganisational activities and reunite its disintegrated factions.
Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the suggestions submitted by the
Bhikkhu Front and a Leadership Council was formed to handle the party
Accordingly, Chairman of the party Gamini Jayawickreme Perera stepped
down, paving the way for an eligible person to take over the position.
One of the most respected Muslim gentlemen of the House, senior
Parliamentarian from Kegalle district Kabir Hashim was appointed as the
new Chairman of the UNP by its leader with the consensus of the Working
The Sunday Observer had an exclusive interview with the new chairman
of the United National Party, Kabir Hashim. Excerpts are as follows:
Q: Your party hierarchy has reposed confidence in you by appointing
you as the Chairman of the party following the resignation of Gamini
How do you hope to meet this challenge and restore the lost glory of
A: I have been appointed as Chairman at a challenging moment of time
and I realise the degree of confidence placed on me by the party and at
the same time I realise my responsibility. I hope to play a mediatory
role and to try and bring most of the divided factions together. Unity
is key to victory and I will work on this. On the other hand, I want to
help get the party grass roots organised and to groom the party for
victory this year at a national election.
Q: You are a member of the Leadership Council (LC) which was formed
to drive the party to victory at a future election. What is the degree
of progress being made by the LC to achieve its ends?
A: The LC is already engaged in appointing organisers for 2014,
appoint a Nomination Board for the Western and Southern Provincial
Councils and choose candidates.
The LC has designed the Jana Jaya work program to resuscitate the
grass roots organisers of the party. In addition, it has brought about
unity and certain factions within our party have come together. Of
course, there are still loose ends which need tying up and we have a few
more challenges which we wish to overcome.
Q: To the average voter, the UNP appears to be disintegrating, with
the loss of the one time strong vote bank. Are you optimistic that the
Leadership Council will be able to catch up and consolidate its gains in
A: The UNP vote base is still intact. There is a lack of confidence
on the part of UNP activists and voters about the party's ability to win
elections. There has to be confidence building and a strong
organisational strategy. We believe that we have a good plan with Jana
Jaya and our overall political strategy. The LC can do it.
Q: Your party was virtually divided into two groups such as Ranil's
group and Sajith's group after the continuous defeats suffered by the
party at the last few elections. Have you sorted out the internal
conflicts after the formation of the Leadership Council?
A: We have begun the process of reconciliation. It is a hard road to
peace and unity, but we shall prevail. We are motivating our party cadre
to think as one and not as different groups.
We are UNPers first. That is the message we are spreading and it is
working slowly but surely.
Q: Provincial Council elections for the Western and Southern
provinces are round the corner. How are your party's preparations for
the same? Do you think that you could emerge victorious in either
A: We are ready. The nominations are complete and the party is
working hard. The Government staggers elections because they do not have
the guts to have elections in one go as that way, the Opposition will be
more strong. When you stagger elections, as the Opposition we find more
pressure on our limited resources while the Government uses State
Q: You are the most senior UNP member in the Kegalle district and it
is the general belief that at the next general election, you would be a
National List nominee. Do you hope to field another Muslim candidate
from the Kegalle district as there is a Muslim voter population of well
A: Who gave you this idea about me being on the National List? I have
always fought my way into Parliament from one of the most difficult
districts where there is a very small Muslim population.
I have won the confidence of the majority Buddhist community. I am
going to contest next time too, unless the Party does not want to give
me nomination and decides to send me home.
Q: Political acumen is an essential attribute of politicians. What is
your sincere opinion about film stars, singers and artistes, drug
peddlers, fly-by-night operators and swindlers venturing into
politics? What is its impact on the national fabric?
A: Every citizen has an equal right to come forward as a political
candidate. It is not fair to disqualify someone just because he/she is a
film star or singer. It is another recognised profession.
The point is the party fielding such persons must look at the
character and qualifications of such people and see if these candidates
have the capability of serving the people who vote for them. In the case
of nominating drug lords or swindlers, the question does not apply to
Q: Politicians of all hues field their kith and kin at PC elections
in the hope of accessing the national Legislature eventually. Are these
political build ups' a threat to democracy and political transparency?
A: Yes. Family entrants must be considered only on an exceptional
basis rather than the rule as it is applied today. There must be an
opportunity for others to serve their people rather than a few selected
families who more or less serve themselves.
Q: The 13th Amendment has become the bone of contention in the
devolution of land and police powers. In the face of radicalised TNA
politics at this juncture, don't you think their powers are detrimental
to the country's territorial integrity?
A: Wasn't it a government decision to hold the Northern Provincial
Elections?. Surely, they must have made an assessment of the security
threats on a hostile provincial council. If they have not done their
homework, they do not deserve to be a government.
Q: Forces hostile to Sri Lanka will have their day at the March UNHRC
sessions. What is the UNP's stand towards European democracy's attempts
at moving country-specific resolutions?
A: The Government has given a signed undertaking under the LLRC
report and has agreed to fulfil certain things. The people of this
country should question the Government and ask them what they have
promised the international community. The Government says one thing in
Sinhala and another thing in English. As for the UNP, it will never
compromise the Sovereignty of our Nation to any forces. We won
Independence for this country and we shall not let anyone take it back!