18 October, 2019

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The UNP’s Primary Focus Should Be Preventing Split Before Election

By Rasika Jayakody –

Rasika Jayakody

A media report recently stated that 18 candidates have already expressed their intentions to run for the upcoming Presidential election.

The Elections Commission is expected to announce the election on September 30. Nominations will be accepted between 16-21 days after the formal announcement and given the timelines of the announcement of the election and the acceptance of nomination papers, the much-anticipated election is likely to be held during the last week of November.

Speculation is rife about the UNP’s delay in nominating a candidate. The party’s hesitation stems from the internal rift among UNP members on who the candidate should be.

While a sizable proportion of party members back Minister Sajith Premadasa’s bid to become the candidate, a number of party seniors and UNF constituent party leaders prefer Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Among the Prime Minister’s backers are the highest ranking officials of the UNP including the party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Muslim political parties have also indicated that they prefer Wickremesinghe to Premadasa, as the incumbent Prime Minister has made genuine efforts to address some long-running problems faced by ethnic minorities. However, he fell short of ensuring the passage of a new constitution in the current Parliament, despite setting up a Constitutional Assembly and holding public consultations for the first time in Sri Lanka’s constitutional history.

Civil society organizations pushing for political reforms are not in favour of Premadasa’s presidential bid. They also don’t see Wickremesinghe as a viable choice in view of the ‘Yahapalana’ government’s failure to take meaningful action against the wrongdoers of the Rajapaksa administration. They maintain the UNP must look for a ‘third candidate’ who will advocate for broad political reforms including the total abolition of the Executive Presidency.

Premadasa explicitly announced his intention to run for the Presidency days after he saw the electric atmosphere at the pro-Premadasa rally in Badulla last month. The UNP Deputy Leader jumped the gun when he said in no uncertain terms that he would run for the presidency later this year.

But he did not specify whether he would run for the Presidency on just the UNP ticket. This vague, but ambitious statement triggered speculations that Premadasa was planning to run for the Presidency separately if the UNP denied him the opportunity of becoming the Presidential candidate. This cavalier statement sent shock waves across the rank and file of the UNP.

By making clear his intentions to run for the presidency far too early, Premadasa heavy polarise the dialogue on the Presidency within the UNP. It caused a visible rift at the top tier of the party, even before the official declaration of the Presidential election.

Today, while a section of the key decision-makers believe that the party has no future without Premadasa at the helm, another group tries every trick in the book to prevent UNP Deputy Leader from becoming the candidate. President Maithripala Sirisena’s infatuation with Premadasa and their constant expressions of mutual affection have also fueled the suspicions of anti-Premadasa groups within the party.

Under the current circumstances, it is clear that the primary focus of the UNP should be to prevent a split in the party, which seems a strong possibility at this point. A split will be politically disastrous for the UNP and will severely affect the party’s prospects at future national elections.

Is there a candidate who will unite warring factors within the grand old party and secure the support of constituent parties and civil society groups aligned with the UNP? In my view, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya still remains a viable option. The Speaker has already made it clear that he is willing to consider the presidential candidacy, should the party make a unanimous decision on the matter.

Multiple surveys have made it clear that the number of bloc voters in Sri Lanka is dwindling. As a result, both parties will need fresh strategies to attract fence-sitters — largely urban and suburban middle-class voters — who will be a decisive factor in determining the outcome of the next Presidential election.

Jayasuriya, a senior politician who is not tainted with corruption allegations, cuts an appealing figure for the fence-sitters. He will also be a unifying factor that brings together those supporting Wickremesinghe and Premadasa. With Jayasuriya as the candidate, both Wickremesinghe and Premadasa can share the same stage, with ample support from constituent parties, minority groups and civil society organizations.

Fielding the right candidate, however, is only the first step for the UNP. The party is yet to formulate an effective programme of actions to address the key issues concerning the country. Many initiatives launched by the current government over the past four-and-a-half years are yet to produce desired results. In such a context, giving the country a fresh hope is a seemingly insurmountable task.

That said, we must not forget that 10 weeks is a long time in politics and many developments can still unfold changing the current equation. Where things stand at the moment, the winning candidate would be the one leading the broadest political alliance with strong support from swing voters and minority groups.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    “Where things stand at the moment, the winning candidate would be the one leading the broadest political alliance with strong support from swing voters and minority groups.”

    All candidates will promise the moon to swing voters and minority groups. History has shown otherwise post election. The country needs a young leader and not one with one foot in the grave.

  • 6
    0

    havent you forgotten karus age?
    harin has called him narki seeya

    • 4
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      I think Ranil doesn’t want Sajith to win. Whether Sajith or Ranil himself getting defeated is not going to impact Ranil as he is going to be the party leader & opposition leader, a post Ranil seems to be very fond of.

  • 2
    3

    UNP should not field a candidate this time if/as they don’t have one.

    The real issue is that.

    UNP supporters who hate Gota, can cast their vote; together with Tamils & Muslims to seemingly immediate (non-UNP) follower of Gota to make him the winner.

    Might be an opportunity for sb like Nagalanda.

    That’s the only available way to defeat Gota.

    • 3
      2

      Real Revolutionist, we will agree with you, if you can elaborate why you want Gota defeated.

  • 4
    0

    The picture says it all . The man is living in his own little dream world.

  • 5
    3

    If Tamils and Muslims ‘en bloc’ are going to support one party the Sinhalese ‘en bloc’ should support the other. Reconciliation is a far off dream.
    Minoriy leaders are not interested. En bloc voting based on ethnicity and religion is NO democracy. It is subjugation of free thinking and self respect of the individual. Let us live the day as it comes. Sangha should take the lead for the Sinhala side.

    Soma

    • 1
      3

      Soma,

      “Sangha should take the lead for the Sinhala side.”

      Which Sangha, cricket or monks? :-)

  • 3
    2

    A political party has an obligation to nominate suitable candidates for Parliament but in SL, it is a matter of promoting a candidate that appeals to the voter, even though it may be the village thug & not necessarily a capable person who will work for the benefit of the constituents. This extends to the Presidential candidates & if I am not mistaken, in SL, the President elect will automatically be the party leader, therefore, Ranil will have to step down if someone else is nominated from the UNP & wins the polls, a chance he is unlikely to take if he has aspirations to continue as leader. In this context, Premadasa jnr. self acclaiming as the UNP Presidential candidate has, in effect, carried out a coup to oust Ranil, & whether Ranil is fit or not to be contesting is another matter, but this action of Premadasa indicates he is not a person of integrity, a quality expected from a leader of a country in the eyes of the world. In any developed country, such a rebellion would inevitably result in the rebels being expelled from the party. If, on the other hand, the leader is ineffective & unable to lead the party, the members can force the leader to resign, as in the case of Margret Thatcher, & elect a leader from those who come forward as contenders. Each contender will spell out their vision for the future & the strongest will remain after several rounds to fight in the final contest. Therefore, Premadasa jnr should have faced any challengers & has to be elected officially by the party before he nominates himself.
    Ranil’s laid back approach & protecting cronies has not gone down well with many & it is time he faced reality & handed over the reigns but I am not sure if Premadasa jnr, his obvious

  • 4
    1

    cont.

    ….. successor (as deputy leader), is the right person to contest as the next President of SL. Since I live abroad, I have no first hand news of the political situation but from what I understand, in contrast to GR’s impressive political manifesto (whether it’s pure hype or not), Premadasa jnr.’s vision of donating land to to the homeless, high income for poor, etc is just pie in the sky or, at best, not sustainable but his promise to promote Buddhism by giving incentives for parents to ‘donate’ children to the sangha is plain stupid. He has not realised that it is enticing poor parents to ‘sell’ their children & not allowing children to have a choice in their future at a tender age is unacceptable, in fact, such action amounts to child abuse. It seems to me that Premadasa jnr has not benefited from a LSE education & if this is what he has to offer, he is no better than his uneducated old man who squandered public money on useless projects & even committed treason by arming the LTTE.

    That leaves only Karu J as a viable candidate. He is respected in business & diplomatic circles, has an unblemished record when it comes to corruption & nepotism but though his age may be against him, a mature senior politician of good standing is preferable to a stupid young upstart, riding on his old man’s appeal to the village vote base.

  • 3
    0

    After election horse-trading will take away the glamour of splits.
    Splits right now , though a setback, may in fact be good.
    Split during the hot pre-election husting may be bad.
    Horse-trading during this period will benefit SLPP

  • 6
    1

    For 25 years, no President at all from UNP, it became terribly weak owing to the split of some of its strong leaders like Gamini, Lalith etc, and elimination of them by the LTTE. But in this election there is a strong possibility and all indications are there, that they should win for there is no chance the minorities would vote for Gota, without which no chance for anyone to win the election. Hence, it’s very vital and hugely important for the entire UNPers to get together and face the election as one rock solid block. At this eleventh hour, its not time for confrontations , conflicts and commotions. It’s time for do or die battle to win it. It’s paramount that Ranil, Sajith and other leaders, and the leaders of all their Allied parties should sit together, and work it out to get over the problems and issues at hand. With strong mutual understandings and agreements Ranil could be the Presidential candidates, along with Sajith to be the PM,
    with strong assurance from Ranil and the party that he should give a big and leading roll to Sajith in affairs of the party and government. All hope this would solve and be a good outcome for all the issues holding up UNF from moving forward. Else. they fail in this endeavour, it going to be the biggest calamity and disaster for the UNP, all it’s leaders and the country as whole.

    • 2
      0

      Siri – If only Ranilpaksha could step down and GFH??

    • 3
      0

      Siri
      “But in this election there is a strong possibility and all indications are there, that they should win for there is no chance the minorities would vote for Gota, without which no chance for anyone to win the election. “
      .
      If Tamils and Muslims ‘en bloc’ are going to support one party the Sinhalese ‘en bloc’ should support the other. En bloc voting based on ethnicity and religion is NO democracy. It is minorities who benefit most from democracy. It is subjugation of free thinking and self respect of the individual. Sangha should take the lead for the Sinhala side.
      .
      Pre election promises made for the minority vote base by minority of majority are just that: pre election promises. Majority of majority are not obliged to honour them.

      Soma

    • 3
      0

      Siri,

      “Ranil could be the Presidential candidates, along with Sajith to be the PM”

      I guess it should be the other way around. Ranil didn’t prove anything during his premiership for last 4+ years. All he proved was, an ineffective leader, tarnished his own Mr. Clean image with Bondscam. The opposition can easily use these for their advantage.

      Sajith doesn’t seem to be smart, but the opposition doesn’t have much to talk against him. Plus, Sajith has already won the hearts of villagers who hate Ranil like no other politician. Urban voters, minorities don’t like Sajith, but would prefer to Gota.

      Sajith has more chances of winning than Ranil.

  • 3
    1

    If one take into consideration that Sri Lanka should be the focus point in global affairs coupled with the aspirations of the Sinhalese and Tamils in general, I am of the view that Ranil Wickremasinghe should be given preference and an opportunity for Sri Lanka to march towards the path of glory again. The West and India are eagerly awaiting Ranil Wickremasinghe to take Sri Lanka to the front in international affairs. Sajith Premadasa is not known to the West and is not familiarized with international disputes where Sri Lanka is a party. Moreover, there bitter lessons for India with the dirty dealings of his father, R.Premadasa. Both the West and India are fully aware of the evil motive of Maithripala Srisena who is instigating Sajith. Mention should also be made that after the Ceasefire Agreement, it was Chandrika who misled the people and spoilt Ranil Wickremasinghe’s opportunity. Ranil Wickremasinghe is one who can restore democracy and especially press freedom to the maximum if he becomes President. Above all, Ranil Wickremasinghe is acceptable to all communities. It is also time for Ranil to keep Vijayakala at a distance and move closely with D.M.Swaminathan and the TULF to win the hearts of the Tamils which is in the best interests of the country.

  • 2
    0

    Yes, the rascals are already started to destroy the UNP. The actions they are taking against Sujeewa and Ajith are like cutting the neck and legs of the party, instead of solving the issues peacefully and amicably. All are utter lunatics and dumb idiots, and it going to be all over for the UNP, when things are like this. Ranil is an indecisive man, instead of facing things head on, and finding the solutions for the problems, he lets things go beyond redemption.

    • 0
      1

      Idiot you cant take on the spot decisions on key factors. You must sit and wait and ponder. Ranil is right.

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