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Sunday, 28 September 2014

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UNP seniors should settle scores through consultation


Ranil Wickremesinghe
Sajith Premadasa
Ravi Karunanayake
Kabir Hassim
Harin Fernando
Lakshman Kiriella
Imtiaz Bakeer Markar
Daya Gamage

The United National Party (UNP) which was founded by D.S. Senanayake way back in 1946 had governed the country for well over thirty years since independence under a number of its leaders. First Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake and successive leaders such as Dudley Senanayake, J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa were political visioneries who rendered yeoman service to the nation during their tenure of office. However, since 1993 the UNP suffered a severe setback with the assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa followed by the assassination of UNP Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake along with a large number of party front-runners. Then Ranil Wickremesinghe became the leader of the Party and formed a UNP government in 2001 whilst the Executive Presidency was held by PA Leader Chandrika Kumaratunga. The Country's economy had been reduced to abysmal level by that time and Ranil Wickremesinghe managed to revive it to a fairly satisfactory level within two years with his far-sighted economic policies. He negotiated an interest-free loan of Rs. 45 billion to address the burning issues of the day and run the economy smoothly. Radical political elements of the Chandrika government and the JVP immediately realised that it would be politically suicidal for them and pressurised Chandrika to dissolve the government which had a clear majority in parliament.

Chandrika Kumaratunga dissolved the UNP government of Ranil Wickremesinghe despite the joint affidavit signed by 132 members of the House supporting Ranil Wickremesinghe. Chandrika's loyalists such as Mangala Samaraweera and Sreepathi Suriyarachchi ably backed by JVP launched a vicious campaign against Ranil at the polls and his party was defeated in 1994. Since then UNP's performance at every subsequent election had been rather poor owing to a number of reasons. With repeated defeats suffered by the party a large number of party front -liners left the party and joined the UPFA government. Following this scenario, quite naturally internal conflicts erupted in the party and even the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe was challenged by the second-rung leaders of the party which demoralised the grass roots level membership very badly.

But as a true democrat, a far-sighted political leader and also as a strict disciplinarian Ranil Wickremesinghe weathered all political storms and guided the party with his long outstanding experience which he has achieved whilst working with great leaders such as J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. He listened to Maha Sangha and allowed their suggestion to form a Leadership Council from which the party earned a new lease of life.

Southern and Western Provincial Council elections held early this year proved pretty well that if the party is united it is not difficult for the UNP to regain its lost glory. The Provincial Council results indicated that the UNP achieved a marginal growth in all districts in Western and Southern Provinces.

There is a few vibrant young UNP parliamentarians who are eternally committed to the party unity among top brass in order to form a UNP government in future. Harin Fernando was the most vociferous, and outspoken parliamentarian who aired his views without any fear or favour and requested all front-runners of the party to unite shedding petty personal differences.

He single-handedly took a bold decision to step down from his parliamentary seat and to contest the Uva PC elections for which the green-light was granted by the party. Harin had two main motives behind his bold act. One is to address the grievances of the public and the other is to reunite his party top brass in order to assure a victory for the party at a future election. Despite the UNP's loss at the Uva polls and being unable to become the Chief Minister, Harin  has managed to wrench the UNP out of a decade long depression. The subsequent developments of the party machinery proved beyond doubt that young Harin Fernando had played a major role in consolidating the UNP.

He has already become a political superstar for the UNP and an unchallenged leader of the UNP in Badulla district which he richly deserves.

The new appointments made at the last working committee meeting will definitely boost the morale of the party membership and pave the way for a victory at the next National election. Sajith Premadasa's re-appointment as the Deputy Leader of the party is a commendable act taken by the party hierarchy and party loyalists from all corners of the country unanimously endorse same claiming with fresh hopes for the UNP.

When the UNP was languishing in the Opposition from 1970-1977, J.R. Jayewardene as the party leader started his aggressive reorganisational activities from mid 1974 by appointing new electoral organisers to most of the electorates and district leaders for almost all districts in the island and gave them a free hand to organise the districts with general instructions from party headquarters to leave aside petty differences. Some of them were strong loyalists of Dudley Senanayake.

It is admirable to see that Ranil Wickremesinghe has extended an open invitation to all those who left the party to rejoin with no conditions. Some left the party and joined the government accusing the party and the leadership.

Some left for personal benefits. Others left to avoid litigation. There is a very few who didn't leave the party but virtually became dormant due to differences of opinion with the party hierarchy. They never condemned the party nor attacked the leader. They worked for the party and its candidates at elections mainly because they love the United National Party. Not only party loyalists but even the general public have implicit faith in them. The Leader, Deputy leader, National Organiser and all other front liners of the party should collectively try to regroup these dormant members who are of paramount importance to the forward march of the party. Former Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar is one such person whose active participation in the party politics would definitely bolster the UNPs national election campaign as he is already working voluntarily as a Peace Ambassador among communities.

It should be stated that UNP was bogged down in the Opposition for so long mainly due to the internal conflicts which plagued the party over which the grass roots level membership was extremely demoralised. There are party loyalists who love the UNP more than their religion or perhaps their own lives. One Rienzie Algama committed suicide as he couldn't see the divisions in the party.

Let bygones be bygones! Now that the party is re-united, it should be the foremost duty of all party front runners to work together unitedly to retrieve the lost glory of the party at a future election.

Leaders may have differences of opinion on certain issues which is quite natural under democracy. They should settle their scores through consultation, compromise and consensus.

Party front runners should not attack and counter-attack each other in public jeopardising the forward march of the party. Party discipline is extremely important to achieve victory at a future election.

Ranil Wickremesinghe has a large number of able lieutenants under his wings in addition to the recently appointed vibrant office-bearers.

If everyone of them discharges his duties and responsibilities satisfactorily, the future victory for the party would be possible. During J.R. Jayewardene's stewardship as the Opposition leader he reposed trust in his provincial leaders such as Alick Aluwihare from Matale district, E.L. Senanayake from Kandy District, Ashoka Karunaratne from Kegalle district and Ranasinghe Premadasa from Colombo district.

Similarly he had a number of provincial leaders covering all the districts in the island. He delegated powers and responsibilities to all of them and monitored their performance. Everyone of them was fully committed to the reorganisational activities in their respective areas with the support of the electoral organisers. Finally they achieved a 5/6 resounding victory in 1977.

It is the general belief of the grass roots level membership that Ranil Wickremesinghe also has a number of provincial leaders in addition to his deputy leader Sajith Premadasa such as Ravi Karunanayake - Colombo district, Kabeer Hashim - Kegalle district, Daya Gamage - Eastern Province, Lakshman Kiriella - Kandy district, Ranjith Madduma Bandara - Moneragala district and similar party stalwarts from all parts of the country. They should be given full authority by the leader to establish their own political empires whilst maintaining strict party discipline.

The political analysts are of the view that the outcome of the recently held Uva PC election is a clear indication of the resurgence of the United National Party and it is left to the electoral organisers to launch an effective campaign for the future. Right now the UNPers are in a jubilant mood despite losing Uva PC elections.

Although the UNP lost both Moneragala and Badulla districts to the UPFA and finished six seats short they seemed to be happy with the election outcome. Nevertheless, it was UNP's 31st election defeat under the shaky leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

However, the UNP supporters feel that the party's reunion by all its leaders and their joint and individual declarations would make the party victorious at a future election.

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