10 August, 2022


The United National Party Has A Historic Responsibility For The Country

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

“I remember Ranasinghe  Premadasa (one of the party’s icons who heralded the metamorphosis of the UNP from a dominant feudality into the era of the common man) saying that a future leader must first learn to follow before he leads. I have my serious doubts that his son, Sajith, is following that wisdom” 

Historic Role

If one has an honest look at at history of the Grand Old Party founded by DS Senanayake one has to reckon that the UNP has been a potent political force for national construction. The party had its roots in  the Ceylon National Congress; it  helped spearhead the independence movement, and achieved political independence for the island nation. UNP leaders have given leadership to outstanding developments beginning from Gal Oya, through  various other irrigation schemes like Mineirya, Kawduluwewa, Giritale, Parakrama Samudraya, Mahweli Development, colonization schemes, health, Maha Vidyalayas, free education and a range of hospital and medical care across the whole country. For a long time, it ran a sound Public Service and a great judiciary.

The party has gone through difficult political vicissitudes many a time. But, perhaps having emerged in auspicious times or perhaps driven at the start with honest intentions by men of calibre, the UNP has continued to dominate the political scenario in our country. Ranil Wickremesinghe currently bears the mantle of that great heritage and it is his historic task to keep the party as an instrument for the island’s further development and internal harmony as a nation. Only one’s political prejudices can dictate that he isn’t doing it right even against the very difficult situations he has to contend with. His key problem now are numbers in parliament and a capricious president hostile to him and the party. Ranil’s management of these precarious tribulations and his skill in walking the rope represents a unique leadership quality of a different type. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership isn’t the charismatic punchy and brawny type but a brainy and strategic type more in accord with Max Weber’s ‘Legal-Rational model.’

Lesson for the Younger Generations in Party

Younger generations have necessarily entered the party;  they have been products of a different cultural upbringing. This explains the sharp variances in their responses in the face of multiple challenges that Sri Lanka face today. Seniors must recognise that. However, these new generations  must adhere to the core values that have made the UNP the great party it has been  and the productive force it has been. Essentially, there must be discipline. Barring a few years of rule under the impressive mountain that was JR Jayewardene when it appears that some elements of the party were taking the party astray, the United National Party has been disciplined. Younger members must learn to follow before they lead. I remember Ranasinghe Premadasa (one of the party’s icons who heralded the metamorphosis of the UNP from a dominant feudality into the era of the common man) saying that a future leader must first learn to follow before he leads. I have my serious doubts that his son, Sajith, is following that wisdom. 

Sajith Premadasa

I say this from empirical evidence of his observed political behaviour and from the many assertions of policy he has been announcing on the public stage recently. While as a senior public servant I watched in parliament how Ranil Wickremesinghe, the present leader and Prime Minister, openly defended R Premadasa on the floor of the house during the infamous impeachment that preceded the latter’s untimely death at the cruel hands of an assassin. I am rather disconcerted to notice that from the commencement of his political career Sajith took a different course. Sajith has been afflicted by a neurosis born of a strange hunch that he has a right to replace Ranil as soon as possible.

This explains why about 15 ears ago, when he was barely 35, Sajith chose to challenge his leader during the dark years of the UNP when the party was thrown into limbo for a long time by Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Rajapaksa family.  Mahinda kept inducing UNP members to cross over offering them all portfolios and other forms of bribery and Ranil stayed cool with his characteristic unruffled Buddhist composure. 

Ranil-the EQ man

Ranil Wickremesinghe has  displayed a rarely high quality of emotional intelligence that has kept him on the survival wings despite all sorts of impediments. Daniel Goleman in a landmark book captioned “Emotional Intelligence,” has brought out the point that the critical thing for a leader is emotional intelligence, which he rates above traditional IQ. Goleman calls this EQ. It is Ranil’s EQ, even more that his political foxiness that has kept him on top. Prabhakaran publicly asserted that he feared Ranil because he was “a fox.” On the other hand, in politics one must have a foxiness to succeed and, hence, that characteristic cannot be regarded as a negative in a leader. In his classic book on advice to rulers Machiavelli made this point quite bluntly. I believe it was more a case of EQ rather than alleged political cunningness as far as Ranil is concerned.

Sajith Premadasa

The EQ is about the first thing Sajith should have observed and learned form his leader when he joined the ranks. The second thing is the need to develop a broad understanding of public policy issues that are  critical for a political leader. This, too, Sajith could have learned  from the leader had he decided to be a more humble  apprentice rather than a man waiting to usurp as of right. The first stance would have made Sajith a man of political wisdom; the second stance converted him into a youngster with a grudge. Sajith has the great and eloquent voice of his Dad but not the wisdom and learning that he could have gathered from his leader. 

The result: we observe with embarrassment  many juvenile and unschooled expressions Sajith makes on stage these days. To refer to only a few: Sajth states that he will ( once in power) give money to families that hand over their kids  to the temple for ordination. Next, he will give everyone a minimum income of Rs 50,000. Third, he will give everyone a plot of land. Fourth, he will take from the 20% who have wealth and share that ‘excess’ with amenities for the rest. And now he swears to die for his country. 

The aspiring UNP leader sees nothing of the central economic problem at the bottom of Sri Lanka’s society that is driving the country into total dysfunction in every aspect of life. This is the need for structural reform that converts Sri Lanka into an export economy out of a dependent import economy. He could, surely, observe his leader fully focused on this issue and talking everywhere about economics. Sajith should learn his economics. This is learning time for him and not leding time. Sajith should have learnt the crucial need for export policy and employment from his Dad, too. R Premadasa’s noticeable national contribution was not his ‘Gam Udawa.’ That was  mere hype. Premadasa’s economic policy contribution had been  the development of the garment industry.

Sajith’s housing policy has been criticised by me before. He will never make even a small dent on the housing problem by diverting scarce revenue resources from the treasury onto the construction of houses. That revenue extracted from the treasury has a serious opportunity cost to health ,education and other vital areas of social life. A housing problem can be solved only out of a grown economy and banking system acting in conjunction.

Yet, Sajith has locked himself into the narrow area of housing ever since he got Minister status. Consequently, he gathered no experience in complex thinking about broad policy issues. He has not grown out of challenges. His mental  focus has narrowed instead of grown. His Dad used to famously say that he learnt his law out of the old cases thrown over the Hulftsdorp parapet walls! Although  he was joking , he was really evincing the need for learning.

We do not observe Sajith Premadasa making any policy advancements toward the other critical national problem of reconciliation and nation-building. Hence, he doesn’t address the burning issues of the Tamil and Muslim groups in the island. These don’t seem to cause any concern for him. How could he, then, be a national level leader and be acceptable by all communities? He has to get the latter’s votes if he is to win.

On the whole, I observe an old-style policy attitude in this aspiring leader. This is essentially populist and belongs to Sri Lanka’s misguided and disastrous years of handing out doles like free rice to every man and woman. He keeps worshipping at temples in the old style of the Bandaranaikes. I fear that if ensconced in power Sajith Premadasa will convert the grand old party from being  the potent force for private entrepreneurship and freedom that it is into a chaotic, autocratic and moribund SLFP-type

How come Ministers like Harsha and Eran and Mallik back Sajith?

Against this bizarre political behaviour, I have wondered how persons we assume know  their economics, like Harsha, Eran and Mallik take the upper hand in the pro-Sajith campaign to oust the leader and endanger the steps already installed to set the economy right. A Lanka E News columnist, raises this very issue thus in its Sinhala version:

හර්ෂලාගේ එරාන්ලාගේ ආර්ථික දැනුම අපට ප්රශ්නයකි..

ආර්ථික ඔස්තාද්ලා ලෙස පෙනී සිටින හර්ෂ, ඉරාන් වැනි අය මේ [deleted]යෝජනා ගැන තම මතයන් කිව යුතුය. මේ යෝජනා ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම මගින් ඇතිවිය හැකි ආර්ථීක ප්‍රතිඵල ගැන කතා කළ යුතුය. නැතිනම් ඔවුන්ගේ ආර්ථික දැනීම ආපසු ප්‍රශ්න කිරීම් වලට ලක් වීම වැලැක්විය නොහැකිය. ලංකාවේ සමාන්‍ය ජනතාවගේ දැනීම් මට්ටම මෙතරම් බාල්දු නොකල යුතුය. මෙවැනි යෝජනා ඉදිරිපත් කරන අපරිනත මිනිහෙක් ජනාධිපති කිරීමට මොළයක් ඇති කිසි කෙනෙක් ඉදිරිපත් වන්නේ නැත. පොහොට්ටුවෙන් ඉදිරිපත් කර ඇත්තේ ඔවුනට සිටින හොඳම අපේක්ෂකයා බවට සරත් ෆොන්සේකා ගේ ප්‍රකාශය පිළිගත හැකි ප්‍රකාශයකි. ‌වෙනකෙක් ලියා දුන්නක් වුවද  11 වෙනිදා ගෝඨාභය සිදුකළ කතාව සැලකිය යුතු මට්ටමේ පරිනත කතාවකි. ජවිපෙ අපේක්ෂකයාද අඩු තක්සේරු කළ නොහැකිය. මේ ශක්තිමත් අපේක්ෂකයින් අතරේ එජාපයෙන් ජෝකරයෙක් ඉදිරිපත් වුවහොත් ප්‍රතිඵල ගැන අමුතුවෙන් කියන්න දෙයක් නැත.”

(English Translation: Persons like Harsha and Eran who pose as economics pundits should hold themselves responsible for [such inane utterances by Sajith]. They should explain the economic consequences of Sajith’s promises. They shouldn’t under estimate the knowledge of the ordinary man about these matters. No person with any brains will back a person who makes such proposals. Pohottuwa has presented its best candidate-according to Sarath Fonseka. The JVP leader’s knowledge cannot be put behind. It is not difficult to predict what will happen if an immature leader like Sajith is pitted against strong opponents like these two)

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Latest comments

  • 2

    What a piece of partisan writing by this writer. It is no exaggeration that UNP under visionary leader DS Senanayke, was patriotic and ruled the country with development projects and strategic plans for the genuine interests of the country up until JR Jayawardene was elected with an overwhelming majority in 1977. This man was the chief destroyer of democracy in Sri Lanka and future generation for decades to come, if not for ever, have to live with his dracornian constitution of executive presidency. so many presidents came to power promising to abolish executive presidency but once tasted power, no president including current incumbant, were willing to abolish it.
    It is a moot point whether current UNP leader indeed has any leadership qualities. In western democracies, it is customary for the leader to step down after loosing an election. Needless to say how many election RW lost but still clinging to power despite his advancing age, not allowing younger and strategic leader to emerge. Writer states that RW is brainy and strategic,( perhaps in appointing crooks and corrupted as governers to rob nations banking system), and stayed cool with characteristic buddhist composure. It is common knowledge among Sri Lankans that he was a born Christian and later converted to be buddhist for political expediancy. There is also mention about converting country from import economy to export economy. Certainly there is a valid argument for stopping importing mountains of waste from developed countries!
    Sajith Premadasa’s rhetoric is hollow and empty and I agree that he has not got the wisdom of his father. It appears that his manifesto is going to be, government funds to
    families who give children for ordination, plot of land and minimum income of Rs. 50,000 income for families. Where the money is going to come from is debatable and imply lack of economic policies.

    • 0

      Precisely. You have stolen my thoughts.
      The INDIVIDUALS who destroyed our country are:
      1) JR Jayawardene
      2) Rohana Wijeweera
      3) Velupillei Prabhakaran
      4) Mohammed Zaharan
      in that order.
      The destruction caused byJR far exceeds that of all others’ put together – irrecoverable.
      May he rot in hell.


      • 1


        You missed out SWRD Banda, Suriname Banda and of course the Para-Sinhala Para-“Buddhist” monks who corrupted Buddhism and are are insult to the Buddha.
        Para-Sinhala”Buddhists “, mean IQ 79, cannot figure it out.

        In the meantime the National debt is $60 billion, mostly foreign, and adding about $5 billion every year.

        The politicians are still prostrating to the low IQ, 79, saffron clad imbecile monks, who were recruited at age 7, to be abused by the senior monks, the Monk training and treatments.

    • 0

      ” government funds to
      families who give children for ordination, “

      already the monks must be getting an erection thinking about it.

  • 3

    Yes, of course!

    But you mean to say Ranil is UNP and UNP is Ranil!

    Ranil is only an insignificant, small part of UNP.

    Why not allow the internal democracy in UNP flourish and find out how the real UNP think, feels and speaks

  • 2

    Andare, Don’t insult the English !

  • 2

    “Better late than never” so goes the good old saying, unfortunately we have taken donky’s years to come to this reality and still some keep singing praises to present and past leaders of hue and cry. An unbiased analysis of UNP leader RW. portrays a test case of a stubborn and indifferent traits, He totally failed to stem the rot in UNP. virtually every body had a free hand. If only he had the wisdom to caution the UNP caucus in 2015 to adhere strictly to honest conduct devoid of any form of corruption and had put the law in motion to bring all perpetrators before the Law our country would have been a different one today, but alas, what did we hear instead, the great Central Bank fiasco that put UNP upside down , and perhaps never to raise it’s head again. Let us forget grooming new Leaders but think of ways and means to recuperate our Country with justice to all alike,catering to the needs of the weakest members of the society, keeping our valued traditions intact,
    Rally round people with all walks of life to usher in a era of radical change in the Governess in SL. We have had enough and more of our different party leaders who were and are a law unto themselves. We will do well to accept that there is a spiritual dimension to politics and I believe that there is a supreme Legislator who will supersede human power.

  • 2

    Ranil will go into history books by January 2020. We do not see any tangible result is his show of fox and lion qualities.

  • 1

    I wish that the incumbent prime minister Ranil will come forward to be the presidential candidate and I am sure that he will secure a resounding victory. He is the only person who understand what a body politics and a nation state is. So let him contest and please Mr Premadasa get out of his way.

  • 0

    These are Palm husks soaked at the same pond; of same quality (ஒரே குட்டையில் ஊறிய மட்டைகள்). Shaymon has no hesitation to defend Ranil, irrelevant of Ranil’s 40 years of political failure. We don’t know his role in Batalanda camps’ torture. We don’t believe he is a murderer like Vaalaiththodam Sr., Sirimavo, JR, Old Royals, New King……..But it doesn’t make him an amicus curiae in the parliament.
    His election promise of 2015 was “No Leader, No Commander, and No Soldier Will Be Prosecuted”. He, in the last 4½ years, has earned a name of master in impunity granting for criminal. There is no, one, single, high profile case has managed to get out of Ranil’s hand. He blames New King, New king blames Ranil. That was the game played in Yahapalanaya’s Tamil Churched attack with hired ISIS. Right after the attack, Ranil immediately said he didn’t know it because he was not invited defense meetings. But honestly Ranil was excluded from defense meeting only for 4 months. But the Yahapalanaya’s preparation on the Tamil Churches was for one or two years. Ranil’s answer on was suspected by the mass as preplanned. Other Ranil’s major election promises were repossessing Colombo Pong Cing from China, abolishment of EP, forming a national unity government to sole National question. Other than the impunity for war criminals, Ranil did not honor any other promises. He sold Hangbangtota to China, in addition with Pong Cing. For that, he fooled the West and latter broke up with West. In Oxford, last year, he condemned West and their policies, in favor of China. The 19A was formulated solely to save his PM position from New King. He helped Old Royals escape with the loot of $18B, foreign deposits. He looted CB to get money instead sue Old Royals have it refunded.

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