23 May, 2022


Champika Ranawaka’s Moves

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream in the dark recesses of the night awake in the day to find all was vanity. But the dreamers of day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, and make it possible.” – “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, T. E. Lawrence

In his review of James Manor’s Expedient Utopian, Regi Siriwardena highlights S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike’s attitude towards authority and how this shaped him while in power. He infers that Bandaranaike’s clash with the UNP was symptomatic of a long line of personal clashes, alternating between rebellion and submission, which ended up with him courting authority and at the same time being indecisive enough to bend to popular pressure as and when it was expedient to do so (hence Manor’s title for his book).

He then conclude on a pithy note: “Perhaps Bandaranaike saw no inconsistency between the two (i.e. expedience and idealism) because his brand of populism was dependent on the assumption that whenever supposedly popular forces asserted themselves, authority should bend before them.”

This is the truth, and not just for Bandaranaike. Politicians seek the opportune from whatever moment. They are rarely if at all fired by idealism, and if they are it’s to again grab at what’s opportune. Rhetoric and frill are good for talk. Statesmanship, however, is as far away from our politicians as it was back in 1956 (or for that matter 1948). That is why or rather how most national heroes venerated today not only kowtowed to imperialists but condoned the stunting of (largely) Marxist dissent against them. Sad, yes. But true.

Champika RanawakaWriting before the parliamentary election last month, this writer commented on the Jathika Hela Urumaya and Champika Ranawaka (“Reflections on the ‘Sihala Urumaya’ that was”) and his (largely perceived) opportunism. Ranawaka (or anyone else in that party for that matter) is not an opportunist in any sense (yet). He has however demonstrated an ability to enter and wreck equations in whatever party or movement he’s in. That doesn’t indicate opportunism. That indicates an ability to enforce his vision on those movements, enough for his opponents to lose legitimacy immediately, if not afterwards.

Ranawaka was with Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005 to 2014. Well, he was with him before that too, but the point is that during that time he badmouthed the then opposition United National Party (UNP) enough to make one remark “Strange bedfellows!” when seeing his and his party’s alliance with it today. As such his moves, political or otherwise, must be judged on how well he handles this alliance, especially in light of what it stands for and how far he is able to subsume his vision for its sake (a no-no situation as far as he’s concerned, not impossible though).

The Jathika Hela Urumaya doesn’t exist anymore, not on paper and not in spirit. He did maintain its identity during the presidential election, but immediately after that all he not only substituted another party (the diamond-shaped good governance alliance) for it but went as far as to dilute it in favour of the UNP.

On one level this indicates two possibilities: that the Hela Urumaya lost its base (in a manner of speaking) upon its rejection of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and that Ranawaka is willing to let go of his original positions (on race and nationality in particular) if that will get him closer to the likes of Lakshman Kiriella (“any gona can conduct a war”) and Ravi Karunanayake (“Alimankada and Pamankada”) and consolidate gains within the UNP. While one can doubt the latter point, it’s an inevitable outcome should the former point be true.

The Jathika Hela Urumaya emerged when both the UNP and the SLFP (and its People’s Alliance) were dallying with the LTTE and its mythmakers. Getting nine members into parliament barely three years after only 0.5 percent of the country voted for you isn’t just a coincidence, after all. Perhaps this was best illustrated by how the Sihala Urumaya (under S. L. Gunasekera) viewed the political relationship between the LTTE and the two major parties: “between the devil and the deep blue sea”. A middle way was what it aimed for. That’s what it got.

The point is that 2004 wasn’t 2014. Mahinda Rajapaksa was no Chandrika Kumaratunga and for this reason, rejecting him meant a partial rejection of race-driven nationalism. Ranawaka, let’s not forget, did not conduct himself well during the Aluthgama riots, even going as far as to call Muslims “outsiders”, never mind that this statement was criticised by Mujibur Rahman, who under the UNP contested with Ranawaka himself last month, and in Colombo too!

Professor Nalin de Silva was frank when he said that Ranawaka’s political philosophy was nothing but “power and power” (a reference to his book Balaya saha Balaya). He was wrong. Champika Ranawaka’s track record bears testimony to what politicians do, yes. But this has in no way demonstrated opportunism on his part, not because he is an angel but because each time he has jumped he has taken use of a particular social ill which he has, to the best of his ability, eradicated.

Naturally enough, this puts him at odds and in a favourable light when compared with the likes of Rajitha Senaratne, S. B. Nawinne, and pretty much everyone else who jumped from the UPFA to the UNP during both general and presidential elections this year.

There’s another reason for this. Every time he jumps, those who oppose him lose legitimacy. That is what happened in 2000, when he hijacked the Sihala Urumaya and crippled the likes of S. L. Gunasekera (who, let’s not forget, went as far as to call him a “Taliban”).

Those who opposed his decision to support Maithripala Sirisena from his own party, with the exception of Ellawala Medhananda Thera, were no different. They too lost legitimacy, not only because they supported the real underdog in the election (Sirisena was the top dog, by the way) but because the rift between rationality (on the part of Sirisena) and rhetoric (on the part of Rajapaksa) was reflected in the rift between Ranawaka’s JHU and Udaya Gammanpila’s Pivithuru Hela Urumaya.

Here lies Ranawaka’s biggest strength: his ability to wield opposition when those he opposes have lost legitimacy. No politician here has matched this achievement. Speaks a lot about the man.

Patali Champika Ranawaka is thus a dangerous man. Not because he seeks the opportune, but because at a time when seeking the opportune has undone movements and politicians, he has waded through thick and thin and emerged as victor. Always. He is a T. E. Lawrence in the making. For our time.

These are still early days though. Whether he can withstand the lure of “power and power” while manoeuvring politically will depend on how well he handles his transition from the largely chauvinist UPFA to the cosmopolitan UNP, bearing in mind of course that not all chauvinists vote for the UPFA and not all lotus eaters vote for the UNP. Politics is never that simple. Ranawaka, one suspects, understands this better than anyone else.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. Blog-  fragmenteyes.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Excellent analysis of existing reporting. CT – Please note. More needed like this instead of the blah blah blah of the internet enlightened genii.

    • 6

      Excellent writing Uditha, keep it up!
      Pathala Champika is a dangerous man. He has delusions of grandeur, a will to power is a Sinhala Buddhist racist and NAZI – an UBER-,MENCH.

      He will use and Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism and ABUSE what the Buddha taught in his will to power.

      Sri Lanka has been destroyed by corrupt and morally and intellectually bankrupt politicians who build their vote banks by using ethno-religious racism.
      Today is one of the rare moments of exception in this bankrupt trend in Sri Lanka’s corrupt political culture. But at the opportune moment Pathala Champika will unleash and use racism again in a far more lethal way that Mahinda Jarapassa to try to turn multicultural Lanka into a Sinhala Buddhist Theocracy: A Buddhist Caliban/Taliban who will destroy the country’s social fabric in his will to power sans real knowledge or wisdom!

  • 5

    this guy wants to be the next president or prime minister. so will do anything-just that.

  • 9

    Hello! What has Mr Devapriya been smoking?

    This is the most shameless piece of sycophantic ‘pandankara’ tripe I have come across in a long time. As I do not know Mr Devapriya, I can not even guess his motives.

    Champika IS a racist, ultra-nationalist, shameless, thick skinned opportunist. He has more twists than a cork screw. He will wriggle his way into where he wants, bleating sweet nothings until he gets the chance to put a knife in.

    Decent politicians must be on their guard against his devious ways. Others with nous will use Champika for their own ends. Then dump him.

    Professor Nalin De Silva correctly summed up Champika’s political philosophy. However, the Gunasekera camp hit the bull’s-eye when they dubbed him the ‘Talibans Testicles’.

    “”Patali Champika Ranawaka is thus a dangerous man””” writes Mr Devapriya, Damn right! and that is why if you ever have to shake hands with Champika, never forget to count your fingers afterwards.

    • 0

      Spring Koha,

      We are in the age of yahapalanaya. Some of the things that have happened since the January election were unimaginable before that.

      If yahapalanaya is to be real, at least a few of our political leaders have to be ‘born again’ politicians. Ranil is definitely showing some signs of being a leader of a different kind. Of course, we all expect him to fail. But if yahapalanaya is to be real ……(I am repeating myself!).

      Young people like Uditha have every right to be optimistic about the future of the country. He writing, in my opinion, is his wishful thinking. There is nothing wrong with that.

      Ranawaka, in spite of his past record, is a good candidate for the type of politician we need – those who can change and with that change can change the culture of SL politics. He at least has the right education – for a start. Of course, more then once bitten, we are pessimistic.

    • 4

      Spring Koha

      Are you a sad, grumpy old man? I suspect you are feeling bit jealous about Chanpika’s contribution to this island and history.

      I believe you have over looked Champika’s achievements, he said Sinhala is the oldest language only second to Hebrew, his ancestors discovered zero, he was tough on Chinese, power station scandal and port city land grab, …………

      He stood up to the Tamil racists and single-handedly won the war against LTTE.

      He is celebrated as the next A J P Kalam of this island.

      Please read this:

      Kalam Enters Election Fray in Sri Lanka

      By PK Balachandran

      31st July 2015

      COLOMBO: The late lamented Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, former President of India and a much admired figure in Sri Lanka, has been drafted into the parliamentary election campaign now in full swing in the island nation.

      A group of professionals backing Patali Champika Ranawaka, the energetic Lankan Minister of Power and Energy who is standing for election from Colombo district, has put in a full-page advertisement in the Colombo dailies describing him as a “trusted companion” of the “great visionary” Dr.Abdul Kalam. The ad said that Ranawaka will bring clean and affordable energy to Sri Lanka and ensure its energy independence, just as Kalam did in India.

      The somber black and white ad is in two parts: The first, which has a picture of a smiling Kalam, declares: “ We salute you, Sir. One man with one mission brought energy security to his motherland, India, and lifted her to the level of world powers. His passion was to see his neighboring countries also reach energy independence and security, indigenously, affordably and cleanly, to ensure quality and value-added living.”

      The second part, which has a picture of Kalam and Ranawaka in earnest conversation taken at the international alternative energy conference held here in June, says that Kalam believed in “one man”, namely, Ranawaka, “a son of the island soil, Sri Lanka, to bring about his vision into a reality one day.”

      Addressing Ranawaka, the ad says: “We all professionals are proud of you, Hon.Minister Champika, for being a trusted companion of this great visionary and giving us the opportunity to be inspired by his great ideology just a few days ago before his departure for ever.”

      The reference was to Kalam’s visit to Colombo in June, which was his last to Lanka. The jam-packed hall at the Galadari Hotel listened to the iconic Indian with rapt attention as he spoke about the practicability of using alternative clean energy technologies in his inimitable simple and telling way.

      Groups from all over the island, especially, the Tamil north and the Tamil-speaking Muslim community, were eager to host him, but to their utter dismay, time was too short and he went away never to come back again.


      You are being very unreasonable to him.

      • 4

        N. Vedda,
        ” I believe you have over looked Champika’s achievements, he said Sinhala is the oldest language only second to Hebrew, his ancestors discovered zero, he was tough on Chinese, power station scandal and port city land grab, ………… He stood up to the Tamil racists and single-handedly won the war against LTTE. “

        You have forgotten the tons of petrol that he produced from waste polythene in 2010.
        And the vast amounts of gas coming from Mannar.

        • 4

          old codger

          “You have forgotten the tons of petrol that he produced from waste polythene in 2010. And the vast amounts of gas coming from Mannar.”

          Sorry I was carried away by this man’s achievements that I forgot to mention others as you mentioned. I didn’t mean to belittle his enormous contributions to this island, by my omission, one cannot remember his every thoughts, words and actions. My sincere apology.

          Don’t forget his active role in de-merging North East provincial council. Again it showed his tenacity, legal acumen, patriotism, quality of standing up to the Tamil bullies.

          Long live Champika, our next president.

          • 2


            One would not forget his ‘selective’ visits on families affected by Aluthgama riots ignoring muslims.
            Unfortunately he is a saint in comparison with Weerawansa and Gammanpila

            • 2

              ken Robert


              My friend the old codger is looking for materials on ancient and medieval navigation and shipping in Sri Lanka and South India.

              He is interested in technical vocabulary used by the navigators and ship builders in Tamil and Sinhala.

              Please let me know if you come across articles and books on those two topics.

              • 0

                I will try

                • 1

                  ken robert


    • 0


      You are mistaken. Perhaps it was you who were floating?

  • 4

    General public are only interested in principled politicians. They are the ones who get both the respect and the vote. Voters are not philosophers and they wont tolerate opportunists who pretend as philosophers.

    By looking at the trail left by Ranawake, people understand who he is. He got votes this time because of the change that came in with Sirisena and the UNP. On top of that, he knew of all the mechanics that were playing underneath of ensuring the victory for Yaha Palanaya because he was privy to what was discussed during the planning stages behind closed doors. So he became more vociferous and spoke without fear.

    By looking at this politician, people can understand his path, type of politics he will play to ”get there”, that is the top. He probably is comparing himself to S.W.R.D, but he is day dreaming if he does so and sadly mistaken. He is simply not made out of the right material to gain such prominence. A true leader is a leader who display an entirely different set of qualities, and people do not see those in Ranawake.

    He has time to reform and set himself correctly in a political party, if he is to progress as a credible politician. However, the question remains., Whether a politician who started his political career with extreme racist political views misleading a generation with racist venom is able to rehabilitate himself fully and truly become a part of a multi cultural multi ethnic political landscape of Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    I give 100% marks for Uditha’s article. Patali can be a dangerous man. Both Prez and PM be aware. Do not tread on the wrong path. He is an educated person and can be an asset in the parliament, just like Harsh and Eran.

  • 2

    Knowing PCR since his university days, and, if he is the type of politician that Sri Lankans want then good luck folks. I am not underestimating the votes is obtained but I suspect he managed to attract certain percentage of votes by showing up with decent people like Harsha De Silva. etc. Many years ago there was politician by the name “Harischandra Wijetunga” who was using SB card to attract votes. In one of the open discussions PCR carried out a scathing attack at this individual. Although not a fan of Nalin De Silva read above to see what he has to say about Nalin DS.

  • 0

    Uditha does not explain what his stand it.

    Only thing is he quotes every thing from thing from the west.

    Every one wants to westernise Sri lanka. That is why Sri lankans are lost.

    Any way, Uditha give some good points, If champika Ranawaka wants to read this article.

    Ranil is a brown -european. Mahinda Rajapakse was just a dumb thug who was lucky to be at the right point at the right time. He lost his luck and now he is home.

    Udita first have to develop his own stand, then start writing. Otherwise, we cannot understand what you are talking, I mean it is useful to whom. What is your objective etc.,

    People on the fence are not useful to countries.

  • 0

    Udita Devapriya:

    You can psychologize, criticize every thing in this world.

    But, what do you expect from that ?, your goal, objectives ?

  • 0

    I would like to look at it differently. PCR always wanted to be active at the top. He is born with talent. Got a Second (Upper Division) Pass at BSc (Engineering. Tried to become a student leader thru’ JVP. When failed joined “Ravaya”. Saw the opportunity to lead Sinhala Buddhists and got it through “Sihala Urumaya” first and then through “Jathika Hela Urumaya”. Joined MR by helping to draft some chapters of “Mahinda Chinthanaya” and entered parliament again through UPFA. Got the wind of adverse campaigning by MR loyalists and joined UNFGG. Now he is cornered in the Western Province. He will definitely find his way to broaden his influence beyond Western Province across all nationalities. Could end up leading the UNP with a philosophy of “Nationalist Capitalism with Spiritualism”. SLFP would have to choose “Nationalist Socialism with some -ism” to include all races.

    • 2

      The Professional

      Your comment sums up who this racist is.

      “SLFP would have to choose “Nationalist Socialism with some -ism” to include all races.”

      National Socialism was the stuff that Hitler thought best served the country.

      Are you implying that Champika the Aryan would be the future Hitler of Sri Lanka?

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