30 September, 2020

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The UNP’s Abdication-Fixation

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The United National Party (UNP) has not won a Presidential Election since 1988. That’s 26 years. In a could which saw frequent baton-changes between the two major parties, i.e. the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or at least coalitions led by one or the other, this is a serious state of affairs.

Now it can be argued that Ranil Wickremesinghe was robbed, so to speak, both in 1999 and 2005. In 1999 a close election went the incumbent’s way when she lost an eye in a terrorist attack, the resulting sympathy translating into a vote-sway. Moreover, S.B. Dissanayake once claimed that he had ensured that 400,000 හොර ඡන්ද (illegal votes) were cast in her favor. The claimant of course late switched sides and was the UNP’s National Organizer for a while before crossing party lines again. It is also claimed, frequently enough, that Ranil would have won in 2005 had the LTTE not stopped Tamils in the North and East from voting.

It seems to have gone downhill thereafter. The brief UNP-led Government with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister was roundly defeated in 2004. The UNP suffered another major defeat in 2010 when the UPFA retained power in a Parliamentary Election. Between 1994 and 2014, except for a brief high in local government elections in 2002/3, Ranil’s UNP has lost so dozens of elections. It must be said, however, that the provincial and local government elections generally go to the party holding power at the centre and thus Ranil was always handicapped, not to mention the fact that the ruling party used the staggered-elections policy so that state resources could be more effectively (and illegally of course and as has been done by all ruling parties, the UNP included) employed to secure victory.

Sajith Ranil maithriFor all this, the UNP’s manifest inability to field a credible candidate at presidential elections is a serious indictment on that party. In 2010, as the ‘Common Opposition Candidate’ Maithripala Sirisena observed, it was a tough ask for anyone. He said he was surprised that the former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka polled the numbers he ended up with. This was, as he said, just after the country was rid of the terrorist menace after three long decades of bombs, bullets, suicide attacks and bloodshed. Naturally, credit accrued to the man under whose leadership the battle was won. No one who says ‘all power resides with the president’ courtesy the constitution can really argue that credit should go elsewhere.

The 2010 election was therefore going Mahinda Rajapaksa’s way anyway, whoever the UNP fielded. And yet, even in unfavorable conditions, those in the weaker camps have not twiddled thumbs, either in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. Hector Kobbekaduwa in 1988 and Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1988 fought the good fight. Left candidates always showed spirit. They all lost, but their respective parties gained, at least to the extent that they managed to periodically re-energize their ground-level networks.

The UNP on the other hand threw in the towel almost immediately after the bell was rung for the first round. In 2010, Sarath Fonseka was not a proxy but a sacrificial lamb. The support was lukewarm, the outcome was a foregone conclusion and the only consolation that the UNP got was the right to say ‘we didn’t contest, so we didn’t lose!’ That’s as weak a brag as you can find. If the UNP wounds of 2004 and 2005 were close to getting healed, the January 2010 victory of Mahinda opened them up. In April, the UNP bled and continued to bleed to the point that the regime was able to secure a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

One would have expected the UNP to learn some hard lessons, but this time around too the party was unable to put forward a credible candidate. Instead, it now supports a renegade of the party’s principal political enemy, expecting to get some tidbits should he succeed in defeating the formidable incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

For all the talk of the Prime Minister for Ranil (for services rendered) in the event Maithripala Sirisena wins, for all the calculations about Maithripala needing the UNP’s Parliamentary group after January 8, 2015 (if he wins, again), the UNP has shown abysmal understanding of political realities.   On Day 1 of a Maithripala Presidency, he would not just be the all powerful Executive President, he can count on the entire SLFP to turn its back on Mahinda and back him instead. The political future of all SLFP MPs, after all, would thereafter be tied to the fortunes of Maithripala and not Mahinda. It is not impossible to think that he could even get the support of two-thirds of the MPs and institute constitutional reform without any support of the UNP!

Where would that leave the UNP? Where would that leave Ranil Wickremesinghe? In short, in the event of a Maithripala victory, Ranil and the UNP will be totally dependent on Maithripala’s generosity. To place one’s political eggs in a basket of a man who still claims to be the Secretary General of a rival party is utterly naïve.

‘In the larger interest of the country,’ Ranil and the UNP can claim. ‘If only politics was a fairy tale!’ someone would respond.

Is it a personality issue? Something wrong with Ranil and not necessarily the party? Perhaps. The fact remains though that the party hasn’t been able to fix the problem if indeed this was the problem. So, as things stand, this side of the ‘national interest’ thesis, the party doesn’t stand to gain in the event Maithripala wins. Is this the explanation for the lethargy of the UNP’s electioneering machine on the ground? After all, there seemed to be a lot more enthusiasm in Badulla during the Uva elections, with Harin Fernando leading the way.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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  • 1
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    .
    So what are you trying to say Malinda? Do you really want someone stronger than Ranil so that they can beat MaRa? Are you giving ideas to UNP to win the election?
    Are you on the fence too?
    I did not expect this from you……

    :-)

    • 3
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      aratai

      “Are you on the fence too?”

      Nopes, he is in the pit. Throw him a rope let him come of it. Be warned once he is out you will be in hence avoid close contact with him.

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    Has Ranil finally scored ?.

    Has he destroyed the SLFP ?..

    Ranil and the Elite missed out ruling the inhabitants and collecting commission cheques for 26 years.

    That is all because of the SLFP.

    Maithree ,the loyal servant of the Bandaranayakas’ has finally fulfilled the UNP dream of demolishing their Opposition.

    Now Maithree and his Madam are calling an urgent meeting to form their own SLFP.

    Will this give the Sinhala Buddhist inhabitants and the other minority members the chance to get behind Rajapaksa and form a new party which will work to lift the stocks of the great majority..

    And jettison the riff-raff who willjoin the Sira party..

    Peple who have brought all the problems to the current Govt are either ex UNP members or the old SLFP members.

    Ethanol Mafia, Rice Mafia, Sand Mafia, Mervyn Sylva, Drug Mafia , Duminda Siva Hirunika , Predeshiya Saba Presidents, Bathudeen, and many more come from these two political parties.

    These crooks are responsible for tarnishing the image of the Govt and its President who liberated the country from Tamil Terrorists.

    And developed the Economy to a remarkable level despite all the obstacles which were put i place by the Diaspora backers in the West in collabaration with the UNP,

  • 0
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    Not sure what the heck you’re trying to say My Linda….. what’s the matter with you? [Edited out]

    IN case you didn’t know, Ranil is NOT the candidate, it is Maithripala; and yes, he probably feels he was cheated. Like Al Gore. Such adversity has caused him to join the coalition of forces of good against the evil of your heroic regime in power and support Maithripala, who presents an altogether unexpected and very credible challenge to the incumbent.

    May the force of change for the better work against His Glorious Eternal Excellency, the Rt. Honourable Mr Mahendra Percival Jarapassa, and may you have that last long sniff between you know where before the fat lady sings and victory is declared for My3.

    May all governments in future be national governments and may there always be vigilance by the people to never, never again allow shameless, greedy, uncultured bumpkins like the current regime and their cronies to be given the ‘dali-pihiya’.

  • 0
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    Malinda may be disappointed that the horse he was betting is not on the lead. The strategy played by Ranil, Chandrika,together with Maitre is gaining momentum against the strong ruling candidate. Malinda is finding difficult
    To gulp this and therefore he is wasting his and the readers time to analyse weaknesses but he must accept that they would have a better plan to handle the post election era and Malinda can

  • 0
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    Malinda is disappointed the horse he is betting is not on the lead whilst the strategy Played by Ranil,Chandrika,together with MITHER is likely to succeed. Similarly they would have a plan to handle post election era and Malinda could wait and watch which may be sour to him.

  • 0
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    Malinda is disappointed that the horse he was betting on is not on the lead but the strategy played by Ranil, Chandrika, together with Maithree is on the winning lead. Similarly they would have plans to handle the post election era and Malinda has to wait and watch so it may be sour to him.

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    Malinda,You are Soooo disappointed due common op manifest ability to forge together as one and now it’s the entire Lanka against Rajapakse hora boru & pacha family.

    It’s not UNP anymore or JHU etc its about economic growth for all,law & order,a “Land Rover defender less” culture.

  • 0
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    This [Edited out] creature to see it only one side to achieve his calculable agendas is more than pathetic. MS will loose everything in the days to come if you would utter things this way…

  • 0
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    Hmmmm…???

  • 0
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    Malindaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

    After Hon Mithripala Sirisena Wins As President of Sri Lanka on next month 9th,
    Are you definitely going to Run away from Sri lanka, With your Bosses and patrons.

    Tell them As Buddhists philosophy and beliefs, No body can Run away or hide from Their Fate and Sins.

  • 0
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    Is it correct that you work for Rivira Media [The Nation] which is owned by THE RAJAPAKSHE FAMILY?

    Sam

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