Harin no match for Shashendra
The United National Party
(UNP) won the July 1977 general election with a landslide, reducing the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), to a mere eight seats. The SLFP was
relegated to the third place and the TULF leader A. Amirthalingam became
the Opposition leader.
The UNP's five-sixths majority was a carte blanche cheque to the new
Prime Minister J.R. Jayewardene to do anything and everything, except to
make man a woman and vice versa. He changed the Constitution and
introduced the Executive Presidency and the preferential voting system.
Although Jayewardene was not elected the Executive President in 1978,
he exploited the UNP's resounding victory and switched to Executive
Presidency and appointed his deputy leader R. Premadasa as Prime
Minister - a post which Premadasa compared to a peon after succeeding
Jayewardene in 1988.
The enormous power which devolved on President Jayewardene made him
feel that the masses gave the UNP a permanent mandate. He ordered that
the electoral map be folded and even put off the 1983 general election
with a controversial referendum which was marred by large-scale rigging.
Despite the Opposition yearning for elections, during the 17-year UNP
regime from 1977 to 1994, the iron fist of successive Presidents from
the UNP folded the electoral map and by-elections were also scrapped
under the 1978 Constitution.
In contrast, President Mahinda Rajapaksa holds various elections on a
regular basis to feel the pulse of the people. Since his first election
as President in November 2005, President Rajapaksa has kept the
Elections Department on its toes every year.
Be it Local Government elections, Provincial Council elections,
parliamentary general election or Presidential election, the masses are
given an opportunity to exercise their franchise almost twice a year.
President Rajapaksa has implicit faith in democracy and the people's
power. This made him hold elections well ahead of their scheduled dates.
Although the then Opposition agitated for elections from 1977 to 1994,
the current main Opposition is perturbed over the President holding too
The UNP's mindset is understandable as it had lost 29 successive
elections under the weak leadership of Opposition leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe. After every election defeat, Wickremesinghe faced severe
opposition from the rebels in his party who are determined to oust him.
Wickremesinghe seems to have got cold feet over the recent
announcement of the Uva Provincial Council election. Another impending
defeat for the UNP is unavoidable in Uva and would add another record -
the 30th election defeat under Wickremesinghe's tottering leadership.
Unlike earlier, this time Wickremesinghe wouldn't be able to remain
in the UNP leadership if his party loses the Uva Provincial Council
election. Hence, he comes up with various strategies to win over the
opponents in his own party and tries to discredit the Government with
cock and bull stories to mislead the UNP membership.
Nominations for the Uva Provincial Council elections will be received
from July 30 to August 6 at the nomination centres in the District
Secretariats, according to the Elections Department.
Wickremesinghe who lives in a dream world, says that it is time for
all forces to get together and “overthrow an undemocratic and
dictatorial regime”. One wonders whether the UNP leader has gone bonkers
after suffering so many humiliating election defeats. He is now
struggling for survival and is making every effort to retain his post as
the UNP and Opposition leader.
When there was mounting pressure from within the party for him to
step down from the leadership, Wickremesinghe took a leaf from his uncle
Jayewardene's book to introduce the much-talked about Leadership
Council. This helped him immensely to isolate his main contender Sajith
Premadasa after getting Karu Jayasuriya to head the Leadership Council,
a toothless tiger.
Wickremesinghe is now making sweeping statements to boost his ego,
fearing that the Uva polls would put an end to his role as UNP leader.
Being acutely aware that the increasing number of defeats would compel
him to bid adieu to the UNP leadership and politics, Wickremesinghe is
resorting to many tactics to woo the support of UNP Reformists who at
one time demanded that the party leadership be handed over to Sajith
These demands are fizzling out with the amnesty from the UNP
leadership that disciplinary action would be dropped against the
reformist rebels. Apart from parliamentarian Palitha Thewarapperuma,
Wickremesinghe is reportedly sinking differences with former UNP
Provincial Council members Shiral Laktillake and Maithri Gunaratne after
the duo were refused UNP candidacy to contest the last Western and
Southern Provincial Council elections. The disciplinary action initiated
by the UNP against several other reformist group members will also be
withdrawn as Wickremesinghe is going hammer and tongs to isolate his
main rival in the leadership battle.
Despite the overwhelming odds, Wickremesinghe has fortified his
position as the UNP leader and is in firm control. There is no doubt
whatsoever that Wickremesinghe would become the UNP's candidate for the
next Presidential election. The UNP leader has vowed to contest the next
Presidential election sans any outsiders as the common candidate.
The much hyped common candidate for the next Presidential election is
only an illusion as none of the leaders in the main Opposition parties
would wish to forgo their chances of contesting. Democratic Party leader
Sarath Fonseka said that the UNP and the JVP should support his
candidacy as the common candidate as they had done in the past.
However, Fonseka himself, is unsure as to whether he could contest an
election as he had been stripped of his civic rights on a court order.
If Fonseka were to contest, he would not only expose his political
nudity but would be unable to command even one-tenth of the votes he had
polled in 2010 with the backing of the UNP and the JVP.
On the other hand, Wickremesinghe would not make the same mistake
again. Although the new JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is running
helter-skelter in his quest for a common candidate, they would not
entertain an outsider for the job. Despite Anura Kumara being in the
forefront of the JVP's call to field a common candidate, their trade
union stalwart K.D. Lalkantha maintains that the common candidate should
be from within the party.
In this scenario, the ruling UPFA is set for another comfortable
victory at the Uva Provincial Council election, giving another five-year
term to the incumbent Chief Minister Shashendra Rajapaksa. The UNP's
chief ministerial candidate Harin Fernando is certainly no match for
In fact, the Badulla District's only UNP parliamentarian cut a sorry
figure when he confronted North Western Province Chief Minister Dayasiri
Jayasekera in a television debate recently. Fernando met his waterloo
for making unwarranted comments and character assassination to gain
petty political mileage.
Although Jayasekera demonstrated his gentlemanly qualities by making
a public apology, Fernando is maintaining a deafening silence knowing
only too well that his foul language wouldn't be accepted by the masses.
People in Uva saw Fernando's true colours after he challenged Chief
Minister Jayasekera. His unbecoming conduct is not in keeping with one
who aspires to become a Chief Minister. Fernando would, no doubt, have
to pay for his sins with a bigger defeat at the Uva Provincial Council
An inevitable landslide victory for the UPFA at the forthcoming Uva
Provincial Council elections would induce the Government to go for an
early Presidential election, throwing the Opposition into deeper
Certain insidious Western elements have already begun pumping money
for a regime change they dream of. Nevertheless, the masses would rally
round President Rajapaksa to show their profound gratitude to the leader
who had liberated the country from the menace of LTTE terrorism and
ushered in peace and harmony.