2 June, 2020

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Media Attempting To Keep Ranil Politically Alive To Weaken Opposition

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

Ranil Wickremesinghe is probably the most disliked politician in the country today in the reckoning of people crying out for a strong opposition. Although nationwide he is electorally irrelevant and toxic to democratic governance, influential sections of the print and electronic media in the country are doing their damndest to keep the rump of the UNP led by him politically alive to weaken the opposition in general and de facto opposition leader Sajith Premadasa in particular to serve their respective business interests and agenda. An exception to this is a popular TV network with its own baggage of controversy supportive of Premadasa. Under Wickremesinghe the UNP has lost a record number of nationwide elections and also lost thousands of exasperated party faithful. On the other hand, Premadasa then UNP Deputy Leader was largely a mere spectator until he recently formed the UNP breakaway Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party. His leadership is still not convincing.

In this milieu the print media seems to be the most active led by Wijeya Newspapers Limited (WNL) followed by Upali Newspapers Limited (UNL). While in the case of UNL it is not a surprise given its consistent stance over the years, it is indeed baffling in the case of WNL which at least has pretensions to be ‘independent’. WNL is owned by Wickremesinghe’s maternal uncle – Ranjit Wijewardene who is also its Chairman. Wijewardene’s son Ruwan a laid-back politician has preferred to remain in the UNP rump led by his first cousin Ranil rather than join the vast majority from the UNP who are members of the UNP breakaway SJB led by Sajith. The SJB was the logical outcome of Ranil’s refusal to budge from the UNP leadership despite almost singlehandedly bringing it to virtual ruin. His links when PM to the scandalous bond scam has done immense damage to the UNP.  It is widely perceived that Ranil’s political leaning for a considerable period even during the time when he was PM in the so-called Yahapalana government was not in sync with the majority of the UNPers who were getting increasingly frustrated.

Wickremesinghe

WNL influence on the print media of the country is such that when Wijewardene’s son Ruwan was appointed Minister of Mass Media by his cousin PM Ranil with access to information and influence over all competitive media, there wasn’t a whimper of protest from any of the competitive media. A lucrative business of Lake House Printers & Publishers PLC virtually owed by Ranjit Wijewardene is the printing of cheque leaves and security documents for State banks

It is amazing that Ranil and the rump of the UNP he leads is being given ‘star’ status by the media while ignoring the real opposition led by Sajith and his SJB! It is unbelievable that the media is ignoring the implications of 80 former MPs of the UNP dominated UNF in the previous parliament throwing in their lot with the Sajith led SJB. 

Media Games – Examples

Is it not astonishing that the media knowing fully well that the UNP is today little more than a name board and worse may even be in cahoots with the ruling dispensation is giving it and its electorally toxic leader Wickremesinghe top billing? Consider the following examples:

i) Not a time to play adversarial politics-Ranil Wickremesinghe

‘Daily Mirror’ 4 May 2020

ii) Ranil writes to Germany and Norway:Hails moves taken to combat COVID-19

‘Daily Mirror’ 24 April 2020 

iii) Those who left UNP might rejoin:Akila

‘Daily Mirror’ 20 May 2020 

iv) Rumours rife over SJB members trying to join UNP

‘Daily Mirror’ 24 April 2020 

v) Only interested in forming our own government:UNP

‘Daily Mirror’ 12 May 2020 

vi) Legality of SJB Chairman and Secretary challenged

‘The Island’ 20 May 2020 

vii) Sajith violated WC decisions, responsible for split ahead of polls-UNP

‘The Island’ 20 May 2020 

viii) For sheer audacity it is difficult to beat ‘The Island’ of 21 May 2020. While the most prominent news report on Page 3 is Ranil Wickremesinghe lauds Kerala Health Minister’s efforts in letter,  probably the most inconspicuous on the same page at the bottom is  Sajith wants Parliament summoned as EC says no to General Election on June 20

Sajith Premadasa

Premadasa should never have allowed matters to drift and allow Wickremesinghe and his cohorts which now include powerful sections of the media to wrest the initiative from him and his Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party. In the context of the constitutional conundrum surrounding the impending General Elections in the midst of Covid-19, should not the SJB have taken the fight to the SLPP? The issues presented by the SLPP on a platter to the opposition would have been manna from heaven to any vibrant opposition in another country. If Sajith and his SJB cannot stand the heat they might as well fold up and call it a day instead of simply going through the motions of just being an opposition. 

Would not the fallout from Covid-19 particularly in terms of an uncertain future have tempered the bravado and unreasonableness of those concerned in the population to accept the truism that survival is only possible in a united country with all communities living as brothers and sisters? Is this not a powerful starting point for the opposition? Why is this not being effectively marketed? Why is the opposition letting others to set the agenda?

The SJB has missed ‘full tosses’ such as the blatant call to welcome foreign remittances irrespective of the source even if only for 3 months. The media have merely reported this without comment.  Does this not have money laundering implications?  Does not the country already have a major problem with illicit drugs? Does the link between money laundering, illicit drugs and funding of terrorism need elaboration? 

Why is the opposition not demanding a stimulus package which gives due attention to vulnerable sections and makes any corporate bailout contingent on reforms pertaining to social justice, environmental protection and others? The Rs. 150 Billion Strategy to Revive Economy proposed by former CBSL Governor Nivard Cabraal – now Senior Adviser, Economic Affairs to PM Rajapaksa and the recently released “Multi-sectoral approach for post-COVID-19 economic revival from Ceylon Chamber” demonstrate a deficiency in these crucial aspects.

Conclusion

The opposition must demonstrate a far greater resolve than what it has done so far. 

Romesh de Silva PC was spot on when he reportedly told the Supreme Court that the opposition had “betrayed” parliament by its undertaking given to the President not to “overthrow” the government if the ‘dissolved’ parliament is convened. 

It is beyond one’s comprehension that there are still some persons in the SJB who are kowtowing to the electorally ‘toxic’ Ranil Wickremesinghe. This ambivalence sends a signal of weakness and bodes ill for the electoral prospects of the SJB.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    2

    In Todays politics there is no SLFP, there is no Left political parties, There is no Bandaranaiyake family, there is no Senanayake family, there is no JR Jeyawardena, Mahinda Rajapkse family destroyed the SLFP, Ranil destroyed the UNP. Mahinda Rajapakse Family emerged as a Sinhala Buddhist heroes. They represent Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism. Over the seven decades of the independence the influence of Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism based on violence, injustice destroyed the economy, Buddhist culture and Civilisation and after seven decades Srilanka has become a country of poverty, country of violence, country with no law and order.
    The country and people need a strong opposition to Mahinda Family. If there is no strong opposition, there is no democracy, no rule of law, no freedom. Srilanka once again become a military state. Opppressing people through military with poverty means no food, no lights, no media, no judiciary, people unrest, international isolation which may lead to another invasion of foregin military into our country.
    The political parties have a duty to save this nation urgently. The people have to understand the reality of life and make sure that they need to save the parliament, save the democracy and another bloodbath. The country had enough bloodshed and it cannot tolerate another bloodbath and violent oppression. It is time for people to create a strong opposition to stop the country become another Ethiopia.

    • 3
      0

      Amrit M writes “that when Wijewardene’s son Ruwan was appointed Minister of Mass Media by his cousin PM Ranil with access to information and influence over all competitive media,”
      Yes, quite true, but was there even one attempt to muzzle the likes of Derana and Hiru? Even the State media were at their freest in years. The racists at Derana /Hiru had free rein to spread their venom.
      Mr.M, it is not power that matters, it is what you do with it. I believe Ranil could have done more. Be thankful that you can carry on with your agendas because Gota hasn’t yet decided to ban CT.

  • 9
    2

    For once I can agree with Amrit M ,Ranil’s place is in the dustbin of history.He has ruined the country and his party.In his last two terms as PM he showed he has no brains
    WNL attitude shows blood is thicker than water.

  • 7
    8

    Please be aware that “SJB” and its Leader are NO OPPOSITION quality at all. Simple as that.

  • 5
    11

    The current state of affairs shows the absence of forward planning by SJB. The established United National Party is better organized to face the election. Sajith should have practiced the 3C’s of President Premadasa and arrived at a compromise solution, without getting stranded in no man’s land.

    • 11
      0

      LdeM
      What do you expect from a man who is readily manipulated by a media magnate cum big businessman?
      *
      Ranil is someone whom I never trusted, but he knows the rules of the game and plays accordingly.
      Sajith is still a novice handled by puppeteers. He wasted his time attacking Ranil when his target should have been GR.
      Having wrenched key concessions from Ranil, he could have avoided confrontation at least until after the presidential polls.
      He loses the election, threatens to quit, and then forms an alliance with the approval of the UNP only to transform it into another political party.
      Has he any programme than to pander to SB chauvinism more effectively than the Rajapaksas?
      *
      The weakness of the UNP is its 17-years of misrule far more than anything else. The UNP’s support base has not expanded since 1994, and Rajapaksa’s claim to defeating the LTTE further knocked it down. No leader could have salvaged the UNP from successive defeats that are blamed on one by rivals to escape admitting their share of the guilt.

  • 2
    1

    When Old king was bringing in 18A he thought he had crowned himself for Lankawe and nobody can defeat him in the future. Ranil made a magic by bringing New King from SLFP, destroying SLFP and defeating Old King.
    But Ranil was too greedy. He had all support to make EP=Parliament=SC. But he only secured PM’s chair by 19A, while he was dreaming to become EP. So he left unwanted powers in New King’s hand. He did every effort to save all War Criminals (named War Heroes). He protected New King, Old King & King’s popularity. He discarded law and order to save these heroic ones and distanced himself from public people, who elected him to bring in rule of law. He even saved all of them from the October 2018 coup. As the last action, he resigned his government after November election for Old Royals to run it in their way. Royals don’t like Ranil’s idea. So, now it is being an uneasy co-existence. Ranil still like to form national government with Old King.
    Vaalaiththodam Jr is a baby or novice, has no idea about Ranil’s movements. He did serious damage to Ranil’s plans by splitting UNP. Sadly he is now dependent on Hakeem and Rishard.

  • 2
    3

    RW, aka The Pimp. is a political dead horse, but has managed to keep him self alive by his own politicking skills. Does he really needs a media ????? The oldest profession ( and the dirtiest ) has no retirement age .

  • 1
    0

    In so many words, the author tells us that keeping RW alive is in the interests of the present government for he alone cannot win elections. TRUE! That is why even MR as president did some fake road construction near UNP headquarters for the advantage of RW. But that principle is true for any opposition leader doomed to fail in the hustings. The breather that the UNP got in 2015 after string of electoral defeats was a possibility upon creating a division in the UPFA through the apparently sudden breakaway of MS. MR has gone on record to say that he welcomes the leadership of Sajith (SRP) because he too cannot win elections and therefore what is true of Ranil can be true for SRP as well. Obviously the UNP cum SJB shouldn’t be a formula for electoral failure, to result in no checks and balances in politics.. Therefore it is in the interests of the sensible citizens to coax the opposition to gather strength in the face of a landslide defeat in the coming parliamentary elections an play the role of a vibrant opposition just as much as the UNP did from 70-77.

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