7 December, 2023


UNP Changes – Band-Aids Or A Surgery?

By Vishwamithra

We rise by lifting others” ~Robert Ingersoll

The United National Party (UNP) needed surgery. A creative experienced surgeon would have used his scalpel with precision and cut and sutured the fragments that have been malignant, creating a dangerous disease that shrouded the whole body, paralyzing the limbs, penetrating into the marrow and benumbing the critical chunks. Yet it looks like the changes that entailed a dismal performance at the recently concluded local government elections were not a result caused by the scalpel of such an experienced surgeon. It looks more like a procedure in between surgery and Band-Aids, performed by an amateur, still learning the fine art (or in this case science) of prescribing a sure remedy for a protracted malady.

The UNP’s woes are many. And they are varied. There is no one-off solution. Ungraspable concepts of 21st century-politics remain as it is for most of the decision makers of the Party, ungraspable. With the advent of the social media, the alacrity at which information travels from its source to the Smartphones or laptops has transformed not only the volume of information; it’s affected the initial quality of data and substance of matters. Gossip soon became gospel and before the real truth comes out another string of gossip and rumors has followed with the same intensity and latent power such gossips and rumors contain within themselves. Authenticity and veracity has been the unintended casualty in this process.

A very few amongst the present crop of UNP-parliamentarians have grasped that and those who understood that power, were elected to the new Politburo of the Party. Yet in the context of these unique innovations in technology, there are some fundamentals of politics that have remained relevant and crucial to the present day dynamic of power politics. Specialization, distribution of labor and delegation of responsibility with corresponding authority as superior management principles have not been replaced by any of this modern-day gadgetry. If one wants to succeed in politics of any era, such fundamental principles need close attention from those who try to exploit the varying vagaries of the profession.

The UNP, stuck in a morass of an abysmal performance at the LG elections, with a devastating effect on its leader who has managed to overcome a no-confidence motion, once again has made an unambiguous attempt, more on the sustenance of its leader than itself. It is almost beyond dispute that the general feeling among a vast majority of UNPers that a change at the helm is part of the package of changes they were expecting. But it is quite inane of them to expect that. Ranil Wickremasinghe is going nowhere. His maneuvering and navigational skills have reached their zenith. Ousting him from the Party leadership is not going to happen. They had better resign themselves to that reality now, not later. However, whether Ranil Wickremasinghe is going to be the next Presidential candidate from the UNP is altogether a different subject. That is the hub these Party rebels need to concentrate on now.

As much as the ordinary voters in the country vote to elect a President or a Member of Parliament, the elementary mindset of the Working Committee of the UNP is not different from any other voter in the country- they are all just voters who want a ‘winner’ as against a ‘loser’. Electing a nominee for the forthcoming Presidential Elections in 2020 is another matter altogether. In a real sense this proposition of electing a nominee is a making of Ranil Wickremasinghe himself. Having failed to place confidence in himself as a plausible and ‘winning’ candidate- Sarath Fonseka in 2010 and Maithripala Sirisena in 2015- Ranil has given enough and more reasons to UNP members, at grassroots level as well as District, Provisional and national level leaders that the slot of nomination is an open, not a closed decision. 

This is where the focus of Sajith Premadasa and Navin Dissanayake, the only two second-tier leaders in the Party in whom much of confidence and surety by the Party membership has placed, should be. A battle to dethrone Ranil Wickremesinghe from Party leadership is not a realistic proposition. It will tear the Party apart. But a fight for nomination to contest the Presidential Elections would appear to be a more legitimate contest. Ever since Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the Party after Gamini Dissanayake’s untimely death in 1994, he, as the Leader of Party declined to contest on his own Party’s ticket on two decisive occasions, 2009 and 2015. That is an extremely adverse precedent to set for a Party leader. Most of the criticism aimed at Ranil Wickremesinghe is centering on that precedent set by him. For a Party leader to forego an opportunity of such significance and magnitude could be construed as a betrayal of the Party’s principles and core values.

Against such a convoluted backdrop, development of other personalities, specifically those of Navin Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa whose fathers, Gamini Dissanayake and R Premadasa respectively who literally gave their lives for the Party, is a natural progression of political dynamics. But one must remember when evaluating Navin and Sajith, albeit it’s provocative component to compare the personalities of the two fathers and their respective contributions to the Party and the country, they must be evaluated completely independent of their fathers’ achievements. What R Premadasa and Gamini Dissanayake did for the UNP and Sri Lanka’s socio-econo-political development is unmatchable.

Yet it’s inescapable that those who would like or hate Navin and Sajith, would factor in their respective likes and dislikes for their fathers and the tremendous work of their fathers will have an unequivocal effect on their final choice. But there remains one singular factor which would not change. Especially in the context of what was mentioned earlier in this column about voters electing a ‘winner’ as against a ‘loser’, the performance of Navin Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa at the LG elections concluded in February, 2018, does matter.         

Let’s do an analysis of the LG Elections results for Navin and Sajith:

The UNP has been clearly swept in the Hambantota district! Despite the UNP winning the Hambantota MC, it failed to form the council which again reflects badly on Sajith’s organizational skills. . 

A close scrutiny of the above statistical table reveals that the unconfirmed yet widely rumored stories by media and other interested parties that Sajith Premadasa has a better and firmer hold on the electorate, especially the Sinhalese Buddhist faction, is shattered. Sajith Premadasa has found a very credible and a better results-producing competitor in Navin Dissanayake. The irony, however, is that until about two months ago Sajith had a free field as far as successors to Ranil Wickremesinghe were concerned. The LG Elections coupled with Navin being the UNPer to receive the highest number of votes at the election of the UNP Politburo among its the Working Committee Members cum Parliamentarians has catapulted Navin Dissanayake to be a force to be reckoned with. It was also reported that at this meeting when some Member suggested another name for Deputy Leader position in the Party, Sajith immediately got up and stated that he would resign from his Deputy Leadership position if that happens. This selfish rush to protect his turf is not a sign of a good, self-confident and secure leader.

Sajith is known to be a loner. Yet his dedication to his Ministry work and Buddhist temples has cut quite a unique figure among some of the neoliberal Ministers in the UNP-led government. His tireless work in the Hambantota district and adjacent districts, especially among poorer class of people reminds the work done by his late father, R Premadasa.    

On the other end of the spectrum, Navin Dissanayake too seems to be fairly conversant with, among others, parliamentary procedures, political strategizing and tactics and above all ‘winning’ votes. A ‘winning’ politician, apart from substantiating the confidence people have in the competitors, has some other remarkable side to it. That is its unique character of standing out as an enabler of optimism among the supporters which generates enthusiasm to work harder and go to the polls. That unique character in a ‘winner’ cannot be transformed into a contagious trait among many unless and until a unique and remarkable campaign based on modern and scientific political campaign principles is launched and executed to its finality. Beginning from branding, choosing its unique selling proposition (USP), multi-tiered delegation, precise scheduling, more than adequate transport facilities, more than significant amount of money and manpower and ability to change course midway without causing damage to the original plan and objectives etc. are all parts of a good plan.

But execution remains the most critical and game-changing element of the whole campaign. Whoever has the edge on these crucial parts of the equation wins the game. Both Navin and Sajith have a fight to fight. 

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com  

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Latest comments

  • 13

    Nonsense. Hambantota is a 100 percent Sinhala area while in N’eliya the estate workers determine the winner.. If you decide the better leader on the basis of votes in an electorate then RW must be very good as many minority and lumpen votes go to him in Colombo.Rosy also must be of national importance as she won in Colombo !

    Under RW the UNP has become perverted . No body knows what is right and wrong in that party. RW planned and executed the Bond scam.Mahendran was only his collabarator..But the UNP is taking this as a case of if Rajapakse can rob why cannot the UNP also rob ! They are competing to rob the country.

    Under the RW leadership can you imagine any thing wholesome coming up in the UNP ? RW will only encourage jokers who make him look good. Both Sajith and Navin are disasters waiting to happen.

    Sirisena did not stab RW in the back. For all his faults the president who is a simple man knows a country must have a Prime Minister who is honest and not a pervert who thinks being devious is a virtue.Therefore he is desperately trying to find a new PM. The UNP by voting for RW at the no confidence has shown how corrupt, hopeless and limited they are

    • 2

      I agree100% with Kolla.
      Why should not be a young well educated person with the CORRECT ideals/Ideas lead a NEW POLITICAL PARTY at the next Presidential Election in 2020.
      I have completely lost hope with the ALL the current lots of Politicians

  • 2

    Navin is a hard working result oriented politician where as Sajith is a media balooned politician. Has anyone wondered what leverage Kili maharaja would gain if Sajith becomes president?

    If Ranil does decide to step down then he should call for contestants for the leadership post and he would help the UNP and the country by publicy endorsing Navin as heir apparent before the leadership vote at the caucus.

  • 5

    Present RW supporters will bend towards NV. That is class consciousness. Rural and North will support SP. As there will be only one for the race anyway either will get all the UNP votes excepting disillusioned absentees. But don’t bother – neither will be a match for GR for majority Sinhala Buddhist votes.
    (I am a Sinhala Buddhist and a Rajapaksa supporter.)

  • 6

    Dont know much about Navin. But Sajith is no leader. His singular policy stand is to build foxy little houses all over the place. Are these schemes ever been vetted by any planning professionals?

    • 0

      And poring out anti Rajapaksa venom.
      Invite Sajith for a school price giving. He speaks only of Rajapaksas. His father adopted the same technique against Bandaranaikes.(older generation may remember his ” this cow and that cow” talk referring to Indira Gandhi.) He is mistaken to think he can build a flatform on R Premadasa policies. There were more firecrackers on his death than that of Prsbakaran. He needs a mental check-up before being considered for presidential nomination.

  • 2

    One cannot blame the MP’s alone. People are not fools. Their only opportunity to vent their feelings are only at an election, otherwise politicians are immune to the comments. However I observe that neither of them has leadership qualities. Bakeer Markar has better leadership quality than most of the youngsters other than the senior most MP’s. One needs patience, tactfulness, not discriminate in handling any issues.

  • 1

    Ravi Karunanayake will be a better leader than these two. He was a staunch UNP er like Ranil, who never ever backstabbed the Leader. Ranil safeguarded President Premadasa for which Sajith doesn’t have an iota of gratitude. Navin left the Party and joined the disabled MR to strengthen his hands.
    Ravi is highly qualified (Only parliamentarian with an FCMA) and that’s why he’s being targetted.
    If not for Ravi and Ranil there won’t be a UNP today.
    Sajith for the things that he has done in Hambantota, he should always get a vote more than 70% whereas he would have visited at least 80-90% homes in that area

    • 3

      RK is a highly qualified crook, no doubt about it { reminder:- BOND SCAM-).
      Time to get rid of “Uncle Nephew Party” attributes of the UNP and find a bright young
      new spark; there are many to choose from, in a democratic way i.e. secret ballot in a party convention with multiple candidates.
      This is still doable and very good for the country.
      The UNP can gain power hands down if a leader is elected transparently.

  • 3

    It is interesting to note the varied views on Ravi Karunanayake and Navin

    Ravi was named and shamed over the bond scandal. With devious forces
    at work, those responsible will go scot free, perhaps with a scratch or two
    for which they won’t need any medicine. However, Ravi Is a hard worker
    and has remained loyal to the UNP.

    How about Navin. He left the UNP and joined Mahinda Rajapaksa. Known are
    the many occasions when he met with Mrs Shiranthi Rajapaksa to get plum
    cabinet positions. During that period, he back stabbed Ranil Wickremesinghe.
    He went around speaking very ill of him. In 2015, however, he developed an unholy
    relationship with Sagala. That is how he weaned his way back. The backbenchers
    call him depita katuwa. At first he tried to promote his father in law as Prime Minister.
    He realised it was not working.

    The reason for Navin’s mood change is because he is a chronic diabetic. Once
    he assaulted a clerk in a government office. Then he picked up a fight with Thilanga
    Sumathipala. Navin is now where near his father Gamini Dissanayake when it comes
    to intellect and real politics. He is a glorified buffoon.

    Sajith on the other hand prefers to live in a one storeyed house. He has no upstrairs in
    every sense of the word. Yet, a useful asset for he can sing, play the drum (including bera)
    and wash dirty linen in public.

    The time will soon come when Navin does another dance and goes back where the gravy
    is in abudance. If you want to know more details please ask Rienzie Edwards. He has all
    the secrets that are revealing.

  • 5

    neither navin nor sajith are suitable candidates for the presidency
    neither of them are a patch on their fathers
    the unp will have to look for a popular personality outside the party as they did with fonny and maithri
    ranil is a disaster waiting to happen

  • 0

    Both of two guys are Sajith and Navin are children of R.Premapala and Gamani Dissanayake of that dead UNP leaders. Both of them are hard core Neo-Liberalist by products of rise in 1977 of UNP -JRJ politics manipulated by Western hegemonies…. that .Neo-colonialism .
    Current ongoing political, economic and social crisis our Republic are root cause goes back to JRJ wrong doing anti- Democracy ranges of policies re-introduce last 40 years back by JRJ-UNP!
    Under leadership of UNP- RW which is now newly moving for burn -down all past norms of Executive Legislative and Judicial operation on aim at undermined whole order democratic basics exist 70 years by RW of UNP while dismantle STATE of SL since 2015 January 8th?
    Present UNP’s leadership of RW,MS & CBK are growing towards for Authoritarian State to by discarded &
    de-franchised People’s sovereignty to be replaced Neo-Liberal-authorities rule by disable the ongoing Rule of Parliamentary governances .
    Indeed UNP currently in progress of scraped Executive Presidential system of governances by JVP proposal of 20th Amendment of SL Republic Constitution which to pave way for Separatist for Tamil Homeland?
    Undoubtedly , TNA and JVP are anti-establishment political out-fits who were had been undermined order of democracy remain 67 years .
    They were [TNA & JVP ] part of sources of political of war by undermined rights of people sovereignty of Island. Knowing that historical facts of UNP ‘s RW + MS =CBK, that all has been joint hand JVP+TNA with “new constitutional changes of Presidential system” of Island leads new to suspension RULE of democracy in our soil?

  • 0

    Neither Band-Aids nor Surgery. Plain expectorant (cough mixture as layperson will put it). Same level of ‘science’ involved in treatment as in the cabinet reshuffle.
    The real treatment is in the Ruwan Wijewardene Committee recommendation ” The Strengthening Of Sinhala-Buddhist Base Of The UNP”. This is the c c c colleaaage term for “Bring back the language/religion-divide” or “Go back to square one”.
    Here we go again.

  • 2

    Band Aid or Surgery?
    what is the cure for waking up with hangover every morning and clueless all day?

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  • 0

    UNP is political party of vested interest of Western- of USA UK, Japan , EU and Indian hegemonies to be surrender nation political and economy sovereignty to foreign capital by the policy advice of team work of IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
    The whole nation development is ruin by team of US /UK advisers of IMF and World Bank . They[IMF & WB] purposely destroy ours values of civilization 2600 years by given wrong advices to UNP and SLFP leadership since 2015 January 8th?
    Which is the slogan that so-called “good governance” and “rule of law” ,by the way of corruption had double last 40 months .
    But IMF kept silent on fully of that Central bank scam engaged by leadership UNP regime in political power?
    UNP policies of politics that re-introduce by IMF and WD called is that the Regime change by new wave of democracy of Island ?

    IMF set out monetary polices by budget proposal which is aim of want homegrown-economy and its agricultural base could be destroy by which is that review by USA, UK, Japan, EU and Indian multination companies..in Sri lanka.
    The role of UNP of RW nothing else by destroy whole foundation of our nations values and its economy coming years.

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