By P.Bertie Ranaweerage –
I was sacked by the UNP government whose Minister of Education was Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, for giving leadership to the teacher trainees in Teacher Training colleges in the general strike in 1980. For over three years I had to undergo a plenty of hardships. Some fifty strikers committed suicide . I have never voted for the UNP and never will. Yet I decided to write about Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the UNP, not to attack him but to appreciate him.
All the good people of this country had been searching for a good man or a woman as a common candidate to send MR and his cabal home until Maitri’s great renunciation. I also took part in that noble endeavour by numerous ways including writing to Colombo Telegraph from time to time. In fact I tried to promote the former President CBK as she was for national reconciliation through power sharing. I knew very well, as many others, that Ranil would not be able to defeat Mahinda as the UNP was thoroughly disorganized, demoralized and split. And it looked like at that time that Ranil was not interested in contesting the Presidential Election.
Many thought that Venerable Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera would contest the Presidential election against Mahinda as he had started a campaign against the executive presidential system but many doubted his ability to defeat Mahinda. Being a Buddhist monk he was unlikely to be voted by non Buddhists as well as the Tamils and the Muslims.
In the meantime our present day hero Ranil said that he would go to America to learn the latest trends in politics. President Mahinda sarcastically said that Ranil could learn politics at Medamulana (President’s home) instead of going to America to learn politics. In fact he had received an invitation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study on how to formulate a constitution sans an executive presidency while conducting lectures for students there on Asian regional issues. He left for America at the beginning of April this year and arrived back after a period of one month. Soon after his arrival in Sri Lanka he announced that he would contest the Presidential Election dampening all the hopes of those who were campaigning for a common candidate who could win.
Ranil’s announcement was a fatal blow to the campaign of Sobhitha Thera and to all those who were fighting for democracy, rule of law and good governance . We were very much disappointed because we knew that Mahinda would win again and remain in power for many years as Ranil was not a challenge to him. But a voice in me said that it could be a ploy of Ranil to strengthen his party and rally his members around him .
Now we know that Ranil had not been serious in contesting the election though he publicly said that he would. It proves beyond any doubt how politically matured he is and was. He knew better than us that he would not be able to defeat Mahinda. In 2010 too he allowed the General to contest as his chances were very very slim against Mahinda after the war victory. When we look back we can see that Ranil was able to strengthen the UNP to a certain extent after he expressed his intention to contest the Presidential election.
Ranil’s announcement was good news for Mahinda and his cabal but they still doubted Ranil’s new stand due to two reasons. On one hand Venerable Sobhitha Thera was campaigning hard to find a common candidate and on the other hand the UNP was split mainly into two groups, as Ranil’s group and Sajith’s group. As the UNP was divided it was possible, they thought, that Ranil would eventually not contest. Now it is in the public domain that an agent of Mahinda and Company, Tiran Alles and Tissa Attanayake held secret talks behind Ranil’s back to unite Ranil and Sajith. It was not that they wanted to strengthen the UNP but to ensure Ranil’s candidacy against Mahinda at the future Presidential election. When Mr. Ravi Karunanayake MP, revealed that Tissa was holding secret talks with the government Tissa first denied it but later admitted. The conspiracy succeeded as Sajith was convinced that it would pave the way for Sajith to realize his dream of becoming the leader of the UNP for Ranil would have to stand down and hand over the leadership to the next man in line after losing to Mahinda. Sajith came back to the party and accepted the deputy leadership and said he was even ready to sacrifice his life for the victory of Ranil at the Presidential election. Tissa Attanayake said he was so happy as he was able to unite the party through his hard work. ( It is the job of the UNP to launch an investigation immediately to find out whether Tissa Attanayake had been a secret agent of Mahinda cabal during the last few years for, on the nomination day Tissa joined Mahinda giving much needed oxygen to Mahinda.)
Now let us turn to Ranil. As he was a shrewd person he did not fall into the trap set by the conspirators. He knew very well that he was not popular enough among the voters to defeat Mahinda. By having secret talks with Chandrika either to field her or another as the common candidate Ranil has outmaneuvered all the plotters of his party and the government. Finally he has not only defeated all the conspiracies to oust him from his leadership by some UNP leaders such as Sajith and Tissa Attanayake but also attempts of Mahinda to remain in power for another eight years. Some may say that it is too early to predict the defeat of Mahinda as billions are spent on Mahinda’s campaign and seek blessings of gods not only of Sri Lanka but also of India. I talked to many in different parts in the country over the phone during the last two weeks. Almost all the educated people said that a change was necessary and they would vote for Maithri.
Now millions of people are eagerly waiting for the dawn of new era after January 8 next year. In the event Ranil decided to challenge Mahinda as his main opponent at the forthcoming election, there is little doubt that the little democracy we still have, would be buried by Mahinda during his third term. Even though Ranil’s uncle, JR Jayewardene‘s constitution and rule paved the way for the destruction of the country, Ranil did a great service to the country by his sacrifice and determined support to Maithri and agreeing to the road map of the Opposition for a better tomorrow. Therefore I do not hesitate to name Mr. Ranil Wicremesinghe as the Man of the Year. I believe tens of thousands of Sri Lankans would agree with me.