17 August, 2022


Is Ranil Checkmating Sajith By Making Fonseka Assistant Leader Of The UNP?

By Lankamithra  –

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

When one looks at the immediate future of leadership of the United National Party (UNP) with a keen eye, one comes to the inevitable conclusion that Sajith Premadasa is the natural successor to Ranil Wickremesinghe. But with the rumored entry of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka into the UNP as an Assistant Leader, another new and tumultuous chapter will begin in the storied Grand Old Party (GOP) of Sri Lanka.  Sarath Fonseka is a natural and real hero of the Sinhalese Buddhists. He is a person who has shown immense stamina to withstand the humiliation brought on by the Rajapaksas, resist their political witch-hunt, endure two and half years of jail time, and who had the guts and resilience to contest the Rajapaksas at their peak. With the entry of the former Commander of the Army who delivered the victory against the Tamil militants, the leadership-conundrum of the UNP will get muddier, to say the least.

UNP’s history of electing leaders

Unlike the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), whose leaders have arisen from one single family until, almost after fifty years of the emergence of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, the election of leaders In the UNP has been relatively transparent. A sensible observer would not fail to note that at each stage of leadership change, except when Dudley Senanayake succeeded his father D S Senanayake in 1952 after latter’s death, there has been relative calm and peace in the wake of each succession. And each succeeding leader had had the full collaboration and unstinted support of the entire party. Despite the grave difference between Dudley and J R in the late sixties up to early-seventies, when the latter assumed the leadership of the UNP, he managed to take full and complete control of the party and secure an unprecedented victory in the 1977 elections.

No political party has obtained such a resounding mandate from the voters thereto and since. Nevertheless, entry of a total outsider, not an SLFPer, but an apolitical national leader in the caliber of Sarath Fonseka might upset many an applecart. The traditional UNPers would find it extremely uncomfortable in the presence of Fonseka. When leadership in political parties is in play in the main arena, all lofty ideals and inspirational rhetoric are thrown out the door. The lowest levels are stooped to and character assassination comes out as the principal tool in the hands of opposing contenders. Such loathsome political machinations manifested themselves in 1952 in the form of a short booklet, ‘Premier Stakes’ whose authorship was attributed to Sir John Kotalawela. However, it is most unlikely that such drastic and radical means would be adopted by any of the contenders in the field for leadership of the UNP today.

Sarath Fonseka is no unremarkable politician. His resume is rich with unparalleled achievements. He joined the Sri Lankan Army as a second lieutenant and rose to its zenith as Commander. His rank at the time was Lieutenant General. The rigid discipline of the army became part and parcel of him and he never hesitated to display that. Amidst an utterly undisciplined gallery of politicians, such a disciplinarian would unvaryingly stand out. In addition to his professional prowess, one outstanding quality that is associated with him is ‘strong-man’ image. In the narrow context of strong man, amongst the past UNP leadership, D S Senanayake, J R Jayewardene and Sir John Kotelawela stand out. The ‘Strong-man’ image is associated with two diametrically contrasting qualities. One is respect and the other is fear. Some leaders are respected by their followers as well as their adversaries while others are feared by their followers but loathed and disrespected by their adversaries. . All three aforementioned leaders, Sir John with his numerous weaknesses, were respected by their followers. Fear was never an emotion that was connected with that sentiment. R Premadasa belongs to the category of leaders who were feared but very seldom respected.  In political leadership, both sentiments, respect and fear, do play a very significant and crucial role. But those leaders who were feared by their own followers represent a very mean and base weakness of humanity- feared by the followers because these leaders hold power over them.

In the writer’s opinion, strong men in UNP were D S Senanayake and J R Jayewardene. They were respected by their followers and feared by their adversaries. Whereas Sir John, although the public perception of him was that of a strong man, his erratic conduct in matters of the State and politics came into question and criticism. Dudley Senanayake commanded the respect of his followers more than any of the UNP leaders, including this writer but he failed the ultimate test of being calm and collected in a crisis. Both the 1953 Hartal and when he reneged on the DC (District Council) Pact in 1968 cost him much respect from his friends and foe alike. Dudley was loved by the people but he was never reckoned as a strong man. Of all the UNP leaders, J R not only radiated an image of strong man, he also acted as a strong man. He commanded colossal amount of respect and awe from his followers and was awfully feared by his adversaries.

On the other hand, R Premadasa was a totally different leader. He was indeed feared. But that fear dwelled in the minds of his own followers more than in his political enemies. While acknowledging that Premadasa did command some respect, especially from his closest supporters in his Cabinet of Ministers, one cannot disregard the fact that he was the only political leader against whom an impeachment motion was contemplated and planned by some very senior Ministers in his own Cabinet. The trio of Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and G M Premachandra represented the very core of the UNP; their opposition to Premadasa is in direct contrast to what went on in the Rajapaksa government.

When Mahinda Rajapaksas was acting in the most undemocratic fashion, impeaching the then Chief Justice and allowing one of his brothers in Defense Secretary to run riot and the other to hold the country’s economy hostage to his alleged corrupt and dishonest practices and yet allowing his eldest son to hold car races in front of the Temple of the Tooth, there were no dissenters from amongst his Cabinet members until the Presidential Elections in January 2015.

So leadership matters in times of crisis. Therefore, when reckoning as to who should succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe in the UNP, it is crucial to judge the present contenders in light of these arguments. Inserting Sarath Fonseka into the leadership tiers in the UNP certainly changes the picture. It is naïve to assume that insertion of Fonseka would be taken quietly by all other contenders, for Fonseka possesses some vital characteristics a strong leader should possess. Specifically in the sphere of ‘strong-man’– notion Fonseka is miles ahead of any other UNP leader at present. But does he command respect from his followers or his adversaries. The writer’s opinion is: he does.

But Sajith Premadasa’s claim for leadership in the Party has very significant pluses and his position as Minister for Housing and Construction and Deputy Leader of the UNP has already buttressed his status, if not as the natural successor to Ranil, at least to be amongst the leading contenders to succeed Ranil. Except in the instance when Gamini Dissanayake defeated the present leader Ranil Wickremasinghe for the position of Opposition Leader, the UNP has always adhered to the principle of party loyalty and seniority. So in the context of seniority and loyalty, in addition to his being the son of R Premadasa,   Sajith is a way ahead of any other contender, in the leadership of the UNP. But one must not forget the fact that Grand Old Party in Sri Lanka is an organism that came about as a political entity that embraced all communities in the country. It is true that the country’s priorities and political landscape may have encompassed other different contours, yet the fundamentals have not changed and the most glaring example of those fundamentals was the results of the last Presidential Elections. And what is that fundamental? It is that if any candidate obtains an overwhelming majority of the two main minority voting blocs, for him or her to secure victory at the elections, only 35% of the Sinhala voting base is sufficient.

For the last few years Sajith Premadasa has been actively engaged in securing the confidence and trust among the Buddhist Temples in the country. His father too had almost the same program of helping the Buddhist Monks in the country. In fact his father’s program was much more intense in that he could do that as Prime Minister of the country. He is the one who introduced the Poya Day Buddhist Talk (Dharma Desanaa) at the Temple Trees.  Sajith is a way behind his father in that category but he has shown that he has the potential to get there. But if Ranil Wickremasinghe introduces Fonseka into the equation, Sajith has a lot more to do.

The writer is available at lankamithra1955@gmail.com              

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Neither Sajith Premadasa nor Sarath Fonseka will emerge as the leader of UNP, at any stage.

    Ranasinghe Premadasa was a fearsome foe. The Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and G M Premachandra, trio were no match. Son Sajith doesn’t have the clout to match dad Ranasinghe. Dad was known as Premadasa not as Ranasinghe; Son is known as Sajith not as Premadasa. That’s the difference!

    The position to which Sarath Fonseka is being promoted goes to prove that Ranil Wickremasinghe has something up his sleeve!

    Ask DJ. He is the authority on this subject!!

  • 13

    Your green slip is showing, Lankamithra!

    In other nations, when one loses an election the leader resigns.
    Ranil w steadfastly held onto the leadership with no shame.

  • 5

    You are talking about old boys club type of politics. Sri lankan politics has to change and restructure. Outside the box politics is the new norm, Trump is a result of that and Trump is not the only one who came like that.

    If Sri lankan political parties cannot change, they will lose.

  • 3

    Ranil it is said asks for their caste of potential candidates when he interviews them. He might fear that Premadasa will make the UNP lose votes.

    But Sarath Fonseka? The Finseka who claimed at the time he was Commander of the Army that “the country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people. … They can live in the country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

    The TNA once endorsed Fonseka for President but it was a special time. In the future I do not see how any Tamil would vote for him. That would mean the loss of more votes than from those to whom caste is important.

    If this story has any merit, Fonseka over Premadasa is the slippery road for the UNP.

  • 12

    When he was the leader of the Opposition, Ranil, if I am not mistaken, has told in the Parliament that Fonny is responsible for the murder of Lasantha. Now simply because he is sitting behind him in the Parliament, can Ranil turn around and say, ‘I am withdrawing my statement.’ The answer is “NO”. At any cost, Ranil has to stand by his statement. This statement has serious implications. Can Ranil appoint a murder suspect to a high position in UNP? Oh! I forgot. Anything can happen in my Paradise Island.

  • 10

    Ranil Wickremesinghe’s (RW) dictatorial behavior is nothing new. He has ruled the UNP with an iron-fist since 1994. He has created a situation that it has become very difficult to challenge. He has masterfully manipulated the constitution of the party and the working committee to suit his agenda.

    Check the link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR4yDF8P2Lo

    Sinhalese off-course only have a memory-span of a few weeks so they acted as if RW is 2nd coming of Jesus.

    The fact is the Sinhalese don’t have suitable leaders to run SL. There are very few young politicians coming out these days. Even people like Harin Fernando who literally started the down-fall of the Rajapakshas with the 2014 UVA PC elections are quite depressed.

    Off-course the Green Blooded UNPers whom I refer to as the ‘Green-Goblins’ never admit fault. Just ask them about the 1983 riots and their reaction is “No no no! That was the JVP”. And don’t forget the allegations about ‘Batalanda’. The UNP killed more Sinhalese in a span or 2 years (1987-89) than Prabhakaran and the LTTE ever did!

    If we look at the current political landscape in the south, UNP, SLFP (both faction), JVP, JHU, etc one really has to wonder what future this country has.

    If there ever is an Independent Tamil homeland, please take me in as a refugee.

    • 6

      At the end of the day, we have ONLY MR…dont we?

  • 1

    Respect and Fear are not the criteria for good leadership, there are much more to leadership.First of all, the people of the country should accept the person, and the members of the party should accept and respect him unanimously. He should be able to project a good image to the international community and the whole world. I think in the recent past, no person as leader emerged in Sri Lanka. Most of them are corrupt, greedy for wealth for position.

    We need a self – less, a charismatic leader for our country.

  • 9

    You call J.R.Jayawardene a ‘Strong Man’. You may be right in the context of UNP leaders. But as a Sri Lankan I beg to disagree. If he was a strong man, he could have told Rajiv ‘Sorry my dear friend, I am not going to stop the operation against Prabhakaran at Vadamarachchi and I am not going to sign this agreement in which you are suggesting to amend the constitution to introduce Provincial Councils’. Probably there could have been some consequences but that is the risk a strong leader has to take in the interest of the nation as demonstrated by President Rajapakse. If JRJ had the guts to say that, he could have become the hero who crushed LTTE and Sri Lanka would not have got this rotten system of Provincial Councils. Also that would have given a strong signal to Tamil extremists ‘Don’t come to fk with me’.

    • 5

      Eagle Eye/SL Citizen/Dr Clean/50%/33.33%/25%/other

      “If he was a strong man, he could have told Rajiv ‘Sorry my dear friend,”

      The difference was Hindia opposed JR’s stupid foreign policies at the time and CBK & MR agreed to Hindian foreign policies since early 2005.

      MR & Gota were just obeying Hindian orders from 2005 to 2009 including the mode of war, killing of the surrendered LTTE leaders, objecting to US plan to evacuate VP and his merry men, and providing Hindian diplomatic protection in the International forum.

      Remember Gota did his MSc in Madras, at a recruiting agency for Hindia.

    • 4

      Eagle Eye/SL Citizen/Dr Clean/50%/33.33%/25%/other

      Listen Little islander, even though Pakistan had two powerful friends in the world, namely the USA its mango friend and the other China all weather friend it was forced to abandon its Eastern wing, Bangladesh.

      Whatever you think or do would not prick Hindian’s ego.

      The only way forward is to treat your family well.

    • 2

      Well said Eagle Eye! Clap Clap!

      • 3


        “Well said Eagle Eye! Clap Clap!”

        Bull isn’t it?

        Do you know according to Nalin De Silva Aluth Avurudu was first introduced by Sinhala/Buddhists in this island which later spread like a forest fire to South East Asia and India particularly Southern India.

        He celebrates Sinhala New year while the Tamils in this island and elsewhere celebrate Hindu New Year.

        Do you know why?

  • 5

    Lankamithra –

    Sajith is a politician and is a minister only in a country such Sri lanka where voters are blind, deaf and numb.

  • 4

    jimsofty dimwit

    “Sajith is a politician and is a minister only in a country such Sri lanka where voters are Sajith is a politician and is a minister only in a country such Sri lanka where voters are blind, deaf and numb. .”

    They are not only blind, deaf, numb, dumb but tribal too.

  • 6

    At a recent Royal/Thomian match (I think), Ranil in one his unguarded moments said that his efforts are to “stay in power”. To be fair this is the main reasons why politicians are into politics – to enjoy the perks of power. In Lanka those in opposition also wield as much power!

    “Is Ranil Checkmating Sajith By Making Fonseka Assistant Leader Of The UNP?”
    Sajith is nowhere as hard working as dad RP but is patient and cunning. He was always a threat. Fonseka is somewhat daft and will allow manipulations.

    “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson
    To share courage one must have some of it in the first place!

  • 0

    Do not underestimate Ravi K as a potential. He plays the ideal flanker. Ravi K will be a dark horse in this race. Literally.
    RW knows RK is a good ally. RK is one of the few ministers in government who gets on with most of the strong arms of opposition. And of course RK and MS get on famously.

  • 5

    Thanks, Thanos,

    You’ve given us a link to make us think. I hope others, too, will. That was followed (automatically) by this:


    In case we miss the point of your link, the one I have given may make it clearer.

    We got rid of MaRa; now how do we get rid of this guy, Ranil? A manipulator with no popular appeal. I was never an admirer of Premadasa “père”, but the son appears here to be a more restrained and dignified man. He is denied the public exposure he deserves, and he will probably make a better leader than his Old Man.

    Given the record of Ranil within the party, how can we expect him to deal fairly and justly within the country? We know where we stand with Maithri (disappointed though we may be with his lack of firmness a few months ago). But this guy will never allow us to decide for ourselves.

    In the 2010 Presidential Elections, we ALL knew that MaRa was going to win. I also knew that only my FIRST preference would count. How to convey my protest vote was the question? My “other” votes would be seen only by the one guy counting my vote – but never mind; it was better than spoiling my vote.

    I do admire the blunt honesty of Sarath Fonseka, but I didn’t consider ever giving an Army man my vote for the Presidency. I’m glad he’s in Parliament. I had almost to the end thought of giving MaRa my THIRD preference, but then gave it to an old man named Suraweera (who had made a prediction that came true three months later. He died!)

    My FIRST and SECOND preferences? I could tell you, but why not try to work out who else there was. There WERE honest people! I think that we, Sri Lankans, must learn to vote strategically.


    In 2015, there was no ambiguity in my voting. The first time in a Presidential Election when I cast only one vote. But I did give Chandrika my first preference the second time she won. The first time I was one of those making a modest foreign remittance from abroad.

    I don’t really regret it. We can never do much at actual voting. We can only discuss with a few people even in the lead up. We are not going to be heroes, but we must proclaim what we feel. I wonder what train of thoughts will be set off among about fifty people who may read what I have written? These are the modest contributions we can make.

    At this moment what I feel is that Sajith should be given a CHANCE of taking on the leadership of his Party. The manipulation within the UNP is most disappointing.

  • 8

    All Ranil’s tricks have exploded on him .

    Remember how Colombo ended up having a taxi driver as our mayor because of Ranil’s clever moves!

    If Fonseka became president in 2010 that would have been the most undemocratic and craziest government in Asia.

    Ranil is a fool who thinks he can out smart everybody.

    He thought that his Bond scam will not be detected as there was no victim( personal)Although the whole country was robbed Ranil thought the 20 million fools will not detect it.

    Today we all know what a devious crook this man is.

    • 2

      Harry Hatton
      Agree totally . Maybe his military skills will come in handy if things get really bad and some ‘uprisings’ need to be quashed .

  • 3

    Before anything send Sajith for a thorough mental check-up. His speeches are all about Rajapaksha, from beginning to end. Rajapaksha, Rajapaksha. Invite him for a children’s prize giving. he speaks of nothing but Rajapaksha. “Swarnawahini” Sinhala channel has one minute reserved daily for him on their 8.00pm new bulletin towards the end which I never fail to watch. It is real fun. See for yourself.

    In true Yahapalana fashion he is a master hate purveyor.


    • 4


      “In true Yahapalana fashion he is a master hate purveyor.”

      Not to worry, I have included his name in my list of people to be expelled to Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto.

      You are rest assured yours is the first in the list.

      Like you he wanted to enforce Buhmiputra system of governance in this island. Whether you like him or not he has already reserved a place in your ghetto.

      • 0


        Hope your Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto will be reserved only for Sinhala Buddhists. This is what will happen anyway when the proposed ‘homelands’ are implemented.


        • 0


          “Hope your Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto will be reserved only for Sinhala Buddhists.”

          Trust me, my word is my bond. You are rest assured Sinhalese and/or Buddhists will not want to live in your Sinhala/Buddhists ghetto. Leave them alone.

          “This is what will happen anyway when the proposed ‘homelands’ are implemented.”

          Please note all your worries will disappear in no time only if you trust me.

  • 1


    Trust me, you will have your own 10 Square miles Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto exclusively for the use of Sinhala/Buddhists and no other human being will be allowed to enter it nor live in it.

    This area will be protected. Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara will be appointed the Chief security officer of the ghetto.

  • 1

    Sajith Premadasa as next Leader of the UNP?

    He lied through his Teeth about his degree at the London School of Economics!
    Anyway,bringing in Sarath Fonseka may appear to be an exercise to checkmate Sajith but it has bigger dimensions,especially in view of the UNHCR Resolution.
    It must be remembered that the PM-RW.DOES NOT PLAN FOR THE SHORT TERM!

  • 1

    Sarath Fonseka often tends to say and do wrong things all the time. He on his own can not muster 5000 votes and only way he can survive in politics is to be aligned with a party such as UNP. Besides Sarath Fonseka does forget people who help him and not long ago in public meeting he was saying things bad about Ranil Wickramasinghe. There are enough people in UNP who can take over and certainly not Sarath Fonseka.

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