28 June, 2022


A New Centrist Alternative: Response To Vishnuguptha

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

With the atrophy of intellectual activism and the dying out of an activist intelligentsia in Sri Lanka, it is not to be expected that anyone would engage intelligently and at length with what one writes. I am therefore thankful that Vishnuguptha has done so.  I am all the more appreciative because I have been a regular reader of the column since it made its appearance on the website Lanka Standard and then in pages of Ceylon Today. I find it knowledgeable, thoughtful, passionately argumentative and unafraid to confront that which most columnists prefer to avoid: the chronic crisis of the UNP.

Let me respond in the same constructive spirit as he has and take it further in search of a solution. What are we discussing? It is either the reconstruction and renovation of the UNP to return it to electoral viability, for which a new leadership is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition, or the launch of a new Centrist project and formation.

To my mind a viable UNP or a politically serious spin-off must position itself between and therefore define itself against both the minoritarian deviation of Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as the earlier majoritarian deviation of DB Wijetunga whose “tree and creepers” perspective gave the minorities the creeps and lost the UNP some of its traditional support, enabling Chandrika Kumaratunga to pick up the slack with ease.

This, however, is not enough. A renovated UNP or a new-born Centrist formation must also pick up on the dormant disaffection in the SLFP caused by (a) the imposition of a glass ceiling beyond which a non-member of the ruling family may not proceed or realistically aspire to and (b) the