18 October, 2017

Curious Case Of UNP – Battling The Enemies Within

By Rasika Jayakody

Rasika Jayakody

Rasika Jayakody

It is impossible to believe that the newly appointed leadership council of the United National Party will translate into a meaningful reform. The leader who spearheaded nearly 25 election defeat is still at the helm of the party and Karu Jayasuriya has been offered the top post of a council that is gravitated towards the party leader’s line of thinking. Technically, there isn’t any real change in the internal governing structure of the party and the membership at the bottom rung does not feel any difference!

Sajith Premadasa, who emerged as a leadership hopeful at one point has now been reduced to an Internally Displaced Person of the same party of which his father was once the leader. Premadasa’s voluntary resignation from the leadership council failed to elicit any significant response from the party members and the decision finally played into the hands of the party leader who always wanted to get Premadasa out of the equation. In the end, the UNP has gone round and round and returned to the place where the party feels more at home – Square One.

Considering the present state of affairs, it is almost impossible to believe that the party would be able to secure any significant victory at any national level election, scheduled for 2014. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already alerted the rank and file of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that there will be a presidential or parliamentary election in 2014 and electorate organizers should work towards that.

Without any tangible party reform, the UNP is stepping into the battle field with a bagful of problems. It is clear that Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe does not want to re-strategize ahead of a national level election. By maintaining the status quo he is only accelerating further the deterioration of the party. Karu Jayasuriya, one man who can resurrect that the party and restore public faith in the opposition, is vested with a leadership council that pulls him backwards. Sajith Premadasa has isolated himself in his own little cocoon.

At this juncture, the second tier of the United National Party – primarily the members of its parliamentary group – are facing the most serious crisis. Realistically speaking, they cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. No success is visible in the foreseeable future and they are pressed between the ordinary party members who are sick of being in the opposition for nearly 19 years and the top echelons of the party who have strangled themselves with their personal agendas. Most of them, as this writer perceives, are not bothered about who and who should be positioned at the helm. They need a clear strategy. In the absence of a clear strategy coming from the top tier of the party, there is a growing frustration among them.

So what is the solution?

Solution, at this point, does not lie with the top tier as it is extremely busy with solving its own problems. The only party that can reverse this disastrous trend is the second tier of the party who can collectively take the party towards a different dimension, without letting it stuck in the mudpool of the long-drawn leadership battle. The second tier should form a new centre of power in the party that is completely free of personal agendas and image boosting of certain individuals. They should base themselves only on key issues faced by the people on the ground and not on internal party matters.

Going by recent media reports, this writer can identify one such individual attempt initiated by Dr. Harsha de Silva to raise awareness of serious economic problems faced by the people as well as the government. But individual attempts suddenly spark and fizzle out without creating any tangible impact and that is exactly why a collective effort is needed. Regardless of what is happening at the top level, the second tear should stick to its plan and carry out its activities focusing on core issues faced by the people.

The best example for them is how the second tier of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) emerged in the  early 90s after a series of shameful and disastrous election defeats. The SLFP top tier, just like the UNP today, was struggling hard to sort out its own crises and frustration was visible among the members of the second tier. The Leader of the party was frail and old, but was very reluctant to let go of power. It was in this context that some key members of the second tier – most of whom entered Parliament in 1989 – formed a new center of power in the party focusing only on vital problems on the ground, without getting involved in the leadership battles. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was then a prominent parliamentarian of the opposition, played a pivotal role in this regard and spearheaded several successful campaigns such as paada yathra and janagosha which actually restored people’s faith in the Opposition. That laid the foundation for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to regain political power in 1994 after 17 long years in the opposition.

Therefore, the strength of the second tier of the United National Party should never be undermined. If the second tier is mature enough to understand the task lying ahead of them, the UNP is not so far away from regaining its original strength.

*Rasika Jayakody is a Sri Lankan journalist who may be contacted at rasikajayakody2@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Ranil cannot ever hope of defeating Mahinda Rajapske.

    That is why he has jumped in bed with LTTE rump hoping a “regime change” will give him a chance at the helm. Its ironic though given it was the group that robbed him an election previously. LTTE rump must be now hoping Ranil delivers what he was trying to do in 2002.

  • 0
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    success breeds success.
    failure breeds failure.
    It is like blaming Zimbabwe opposition after each & every election loss.
    When MR have so much power, money, judiciary under him he can even get powerful opposition person like Karu to join him/UPFA.

    Just don’t waste your time in hair splitting arguments about opposition, UNP, JVP, SF’s party.

    Rajapakse’s going to rule the country for next few decades. Get over with it. If possible just join Rajapakses and be a winner and rob any country wealth left around.

  • 0
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    Rasika,we all thought that with the appointment of your beloved mentor and savior, Karu Jayasuriya,as the head of the UNP council,that the UNP was on the path to victory.Now whats this hard luck story?
    Quote: “Karu jayasuriya,one man who can resurrect the party and restore public faith in the opposition,is vested with a leadership council that pulls him backwards”.:Unquote.
    Rasika,have you gone nuts?The public having faith in this serial double crosser Karu?The whole country witnessed the inaugural baptism of the leadership council that took place at Srikotha! The first task of the leadership council led by your Bodhisathwa Karu Jayasuriya,was to beat the hell out of Buddhist monks.A bloody hell of a path to victory!I am sure that we will have more of such public confidence building measures being undertaken by the UNP leadership council.May be get Mangala’s Kurundu Polu brigade to smash up the Dalada Maligawa.
    Anyway no point in wasting my time on a bunch of confidence tricksters.
    The answer is in black & white on Saturdays Mawbima newspaper.Titled,”Hakke Budu Ras Bokke Dada Mas”.

  • 0
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    There seems to be writers in the payroll of big wigs. We are trying hard to revive the UNP and some folks are all out to destroy it. There is no perfect solution. Leadership council is the best solution at this moment. We cant just throw away all those who have worked hard for the party for so long. We must all help the council to lead us to a good country.

    We Sri Lankans have a defeatist mentality. We think only those who have a big image and who can talk big can rule this country. We think that however much corruption and violence goes on, if we have a larger than life figure to rule this island, we shouldnt care two hoots. We don’t want to accept a leader with honesty, integrity and good values!!!!

    WHEN DO WE CHANGE THIS DEFEATIST MENTALITY?

  • 0
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    Madam Chandrika Bandaranaiyake Kumaratunge is the ONLY hope for Sri Lanka at this time.

    She MUST return to politics – clean her tarnished image by getting honest people with here – and above all SAVE THE PEOPLE OF LANKA FROM THE RAJAPAKE FAMILY CURSE on Lanka today.

  • 0
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    Problem with UNP is well known, its the leader. No point going round the bush trying to hide it.

    Get RW out, things will fall into place….

  • 0
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    Only way for UNP to regain lost confidence.

    1) Build a 2nd tier of attractive young politicians. Mahinda is not building a 2nd tier of leadership in SLFP so he could hand down the throne to his son. UNP should capitalize on that weakness.
    2) Be more responsible about national security. Atleast take examples from US, UK, etc if they are not sensitive to grass-root sentiments.
    3) Make the case that economic growth under this regime is not enough and only a 8% growth will make us catch lost ground and that UNP is best suited to handle the economy.

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