28 October, 2021


UNP Crisis: Everything Is At Stake

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The crisis of the UNP is not reducible to the enormous drop in its vote on Feb 10th, a vertical drop that is unprecedented for a long established party in government and at a local government election at which governmental patronage matters. The Feb 10th shrinkage of the UNP is the consequence, not the cause of the UNP crisis.

That crisis is one of long duration. The crisis of the UNP is a crisis of leadership and it dates back to the assassination of President Premadasa and other senior leaders by the LTTE. The UNP’s crisis is a post-Premadasa leadership crisis and it has lasted for decades.

Either the party resolves it this week or the crisis which has turned cancerous kills the UNP and probably the government.

Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has been the leader of the party since 1994.  No party in the democratic world today has had the same leader for almost quarter century—only Sri Lanka’s United National Party. That’s hardly an achievement and speaks very badly for the UNP.

What is worse is that the past quarter century of leadership by Ranil Wickremesinghe has been one of dismal failure. The UNP has never once led the country in these two and half decades. At best it has held No 2 spot. Put differently, the UNP has not been perceived by the electorate as deserving to lead the country so long as Mr. Wickremesinghe was/is at the helm. He ran for Presidency in 1999 and 2005 and lost. He ran a proxy in 2010 and lost. The fact that he had to run a proxy should have told him and the UNP something but it obviously didn’t.

He reluctantly backed a proxy in 2015 and won, but he forgot that a proxy is not a puppet. The very reason that enabled his proxy to win, i.e. his Sinhala-Buddhist, non-UNP, center-left base, has made that proxy behave autonomously and now demand his resignation.

It is understandable if a democratic party retains the same leadership for a quarter century if it has been successful, produced results. Mr. Wickremesinghe manifestly is not a success in that the UNP, once the Grand Old Party of governance, has not been at the helm of the Sri Lankan state; has not led the country, for a generation or more.

Can’t the UNP grasp the simple, self- evident fact that as long as Ranil Wickremesinghe is the leader, he, and more importantly the UNP, will never lead the country? Which part of that can’t the UNP get?

Why is the UNP not giving Ranil the heave-ho at this moment when it has a sympathetic President who would facilitate and enable the UNP’s blocked transition to a more nationally acceptable, electorally viable leadership? What does this say about the UNP?

If the UNP does not hit the ejector button on Ranil Wickremesinghe and produce an alternative as leader and Prime Minister later this week, it will be in a terminal crisis and that termination will not take long, nor will it be pretty.

The blockage at the moment dates back to a tale of fathers and sons. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s ideologue and chief political ally is Mangala Samaraweera. Both men have fathers with disastrous, interconnected political histories. When the UNP government of 1952 implemented economic shock therapy and was rewarded with a massive uprising in August 1953 known as the Hartal, the liberal PM Dudley Senanayake was sensitive enough to resign and therefore could make a comeback and form a government in the next decade. It would have been prudent for the UNP to shift to a profile which was more consonant with the social mood, but instead, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s father, Esmond, an ex-Trotskyist turned rightwing strategist and ideologue (a precursor of many neoconservatives in the USA who were ex-Trotskyists) urged a “stand firm” stance, just as Ranil Wickremesinghe is adopting today.

The shock of the Hartal of August 1953 was followed, not by a prudent policy pivot and retreat, but a far more strident pro-western, rightwing, hawkish style and substance in the form of Sir John Kotelawala. Ranil’s father Esmond was also the architect of conspicuously pro-Western, anti-Afro Asian tilt at the iconic Bandung summit conference of 1955. The upshot was that of still greater polarization than that which had triggered the Hartal of 1953. Cultural polarization and issues of lifestyle entered the picture powerfully. The moderate opposition, the recently formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party of Mr. Bandaranaike, shifted from social democracy to majoritarian nationalism and swept the UNP away at the national election of 1956, burying it for decade.

Mangala Samaraweera’s  father was on the correct side of history at that time but in late 1964 he had been persuaded by Esmond Wickremesinghe, the present PM’s father, to defect from the SLFP to the UNP. Mangala Samaraweera is now where his father wound up. It is social existence that determines social consciousness said Karl Marx. That probably explains why Ranil and Mangala are politico-ideological twins.

So what happens if the UNP allows the Ranil-Mangala line to prevail? The same thing that happened in the 1950s and 1960s.  There will be a UNP-TNA government or a UNP government with a TNA prop. This will be a minority government in every sense of the word: a government of the minorities, by the minorities and for the minorities. It will be hemmed in by an unsympathetic and unhelpful president, and a vastly strengthened opposition which has two camps: the rising Pohottuwa-JO led by Mahinda Rajapaksa and a large chunk of SLFPers working with the JVP and a few UNP defectors.

A UNP-TNA government will mean that the whole ball game changes, or to change both metaphor and magnitude, the ground will shift dangerously.

The masses are in an anti-incumbency, anti-establishment mood. When that Establishment is a combination of pro-Western elitism, practicing neoliberal economics and supported by a federalist minority party, then the backlash itself reflects that composition of the ruling elite/Establishment but in an inverted form or turned inside out. As in 1955-56, the growing oppositional tide becomes ethno-nationalist and ethno-religious. That in turn makes for a particular kind of Presidential candidate late next year. Imagine a 1956 mood with a Presidency as the prize!

The tale repeated itself in 1965-1970, when the UNP, once again influenced by Esmond Wickremesinghe, entered a coalition with the Tamil parties (the defection of individual members of which he had engineered). The UNP-Tamil Congress composition of that government led to a ghastly swing in an ethno-populist direction not only of the SLFP but also the trade union based Left parties and even the embryonic JVP. The UNP lost the1970 election badly, with widespread arson and violence, sometimes lethal, visited on the losers.

The UNP is on the very verge of making the same mistake. It must take a moment to imagine the catastrophic electoral consequences a few months down the road, at the Provincial council elections, of a UNP-TNA government or Pact (in the 1960s, typical SLFP supporters would accuse the UNP government of a “secret packet” with the Tamil parties). This trend will climax late next year with a Presidential candidacy that both the Pohottuwa and the SLFP can agree on and will slam into the UNP like an offensive operation by the hard-charging, elite Gajaba Regiment. It will all culminate in a Parliamentary election at which Mahinda Rajapaksa wins, which would be a good thing, but on an ethnically edgier platform than we and he would prefer.

The UNP can avoid electoral extinction and even turn things around, if it does what it did in a politically similar though exceedingly violent situation in late 1988: change the profile, change course by opting for a conspicuously populist-patriotic leader who can read the mass mood and surf the social wave.

But the UNP must do so today, or rational UNPers must leave and form a new party–their own ‘Pohottuwa’–or join the moderate SLFP in a new centrist formation supported by President Sirisena. Everything is at stake. Never before in UNP history has “the fierce urgency of now” (Dr. Martin Luther King) needed to be felt, experienced and grasped more intensely.

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Latest comments

  • 12

    DJ, I thought democracy is da govt of da people, by da people for the people.Now you say, da govt of Sinhalese, for da Sinhalese by Sinhalese.People like you n MR r da curse of Sri Lanka n they wont realise as their IQ is only 79 n u fellows r exploiting. Have u ever suggested any thing to improve da lives? Sinhalese maids go to Middle East, men drink with their money n da families r disoriented,Do u care about it u racist rascal?

    • 9

      Dayan J Alzheimer is moving Heaven and Earth to get rid of RW. While I see many short-comings in RW, Dayan J Alzheimer’s child-like enthusiasm is hilarious. Get rid of RW to pave the way for Maria Kade Sajith P.? OH YES! All of Sri Lanka grave problems will then just disappear overnight. Mafia Killi’s master plan will come true. A corrupt media mogul as the deep-state, behind the scene, power-broker. Not least, Dayan J Alzheimer’s will land a plum post. It will be a WIN-WIN situation, isn’t it? Mahinda Raja and his cronies will walk-away from all corruption and murder allegations.

      • 5

        Ben Hurling

        The business is as usual in this island.
        Crooks protect crooks. War criminals protect war criminals.
        Liars protect liars.

        What is new? Why are you so upset?
        You should be happy the status quo remains unchanged.
        Isn’t it what the people want?
        People don’t have much choice have they?
        Old wine in new bottle.

        After the local government elections do you think Dr Mahinda (LLD + PhD X3) got the powers to appoint his ministers and Ambassadors?

        The media has completely forgotten the cardinal principle
        “comment is free, but facts are sacred”.
        Or perhaps never had any.

        Smart ass super patriot Brigadier Priyanka Fernando can walk tall, thanks to Sirisena. He will fondly remember you for your support for his heroic gesture.

    • 1

      Thero is liar. JR created NM Perera’s 1953 Hartal with his Korean War time Budget. 1953 Hartal blew the horn of Wijeweera’s Birth and call for the blood and flesh. Wijeweera Birth blew the horn for the war against Lankawe communist Lefts and wipe out of them. SWRD started his destruction with his Pancha Pala Vegaya. Pancha Pala Vegaya’s first casualty is Tamils in 1958 and 2nd one is SWRD himself in 1959.

      JR killed UNP’s prospects in 1952. It is Jr who is still keeping UNP out of power by promoting 8th grade rowdies into parliament with his 1978 PR system.

      It is Thero Naive cheating to avoid getting into Communist Castro and Stalin by wording like ” It is understandable if a democratic party retains the same leadership for a quarter century if it has been successful, produced results. ” Even Tito held the power of Yugoslavia from 1940 to 1980. If 20 years of Ranil’s leadership is wrong then what about a person’s futile efforts, which tries to uphold 200 years old man’s, world abandoned, Economics theories? Japan had 40 years of single party government and kept growing up. Singapore is almost that is what doing. Mugabe, Trudeau Sr, Gandhi, Nelson all are worldwide example.

  • 9


    • 3

      “Sinhalese Nation Only”

      Where? In North India or Bangladesh?

      In Sri Lanka, SWRD Banda tried ‘Sinhala Only’ and got bowled and finally killed.

  • 5

    agreed that ranil must go but the only acceptable person before 2020 is mangala
    he will have to hold the fort and contest the presidency for the unp
    but who is going to be the pohottuwa candidate as gota will not give up his us citizenship.
    why dont you join the pohottuwa and ask raja to nominate you to compensate for the multitude of writings in his favour

    • 0

      That zombied out- high on something all the time man??

      You’ve got to be pure mad !

  • 7

    This fellow Dayan Jayatilleka is a neurotic. He keeps writing and writing hoping Ranil will go and UNP will die. He must be spending hours at his computer all day. Even dreaming his way until morning. His feverish writing are signs of neurosis

    • 4

      DJ is a full blown psychotic beyond any medical redemption. Neurosis is a minor psychiatric illness which can be controlled. He is suffering from Hallucinations and delusions which are hall marks of major psychiatric illness. He is paranoid about Tamils. His writings demonstrate confabulations (concocting to fill gaps in his memory) and disjointed thoughts . Looks like he is also suffering from insomnia.

  • 1

    Dr Dayan Jayantilike has not yet an identified the key missing points of which UNP political history of recent past (forty years) since 1977. By and large JRJ -UNP carrier-out of an introduced Neo-Liberal policies of nexus to Neo Colonial system in an Island .Matter of fact that the failing orthodoxies of Neo-colonial -Capitalism by JRJ-UNP ‘s that range of policies from 1977 and bourgeoisies democratic of new realties revolutionary possibilities today we live in similar times of great tumult.

    The last 40 odd years our nation was under the system of Neo-Liberal political-economy-social order was key guidance state policies of the Republic . Even despite under the UNP regime since 1977 to1994 growing dissension and polarization of our society, that we have spend very little serious efforts has been made analyzing nature that critical underlying factors that have led neo-liberalism of neo-colonist and its acrimonious.
    While neo-liberalism can be understood from various political perspectives, none is more important than the democratic revolution led by People of Sri Lankans.?
    In fact Neo-Liberalism is the UNP defining dynamic of our time last 40 odd years except 2009 to 2014 December by MR alliance in power of SL. Under the UNP -JRJ, R Premapala, later CBK -1994 to 2004 that look next great economic growth of an advancing capitalism of society and as a way of improve the lives of people has gone nowhere. …. Sri lanaka.

    In my view that UNP’s ultimate Neo-Liberal dominances over the state of affairs in society almost 40 odd years and as a means of Neo-colonial that out comes which has deepen gap between Rich and Poor. By politics of UNP which ballots has shifted into the Politics of WAR by battle of GUN RULE ; War footing become dominated factors under early period of UNP in governance since 1977 to 1994. Gradually last 40 years under that UNP democracy norms has been upside-down?

  • 6

    UNP has never been trust worthy. Tamils have been cheated by all Sinhalese Political parties. But UNP from the inception has been cheating the Tamils.
    1.Taking away the voting rights of the upcountry Tamils.
    2.Colonization of The Tamil areas with Sinhalese to to change the texture
    3. Marching against the Chelva/Banda pact
    4..Voting for the Sinhala only act
    5 Abrogating DUDLY/CHELVA pact
    6. Causing the 1977 riots against the Tamils
    7. Causing the 1983 Riots against the Tamils
    8 Burning the papers of Chandrika’s effort to to come to an agreement with LTTE.
    9. Bringing division among the Muslims and Tamils of the East
    10.Pulling out Karuna from LTTE
    11. Preventing action against Mahinda and co after winning the elections and many more
    He is the personification of a FOX

  • 0

    DJ, UNP has beena disaster to itself and to the country. but, did you read else where, villagers label the parties as Thieves group 1 and thieves Group 2. did Mahinda Rajapkse do anything that solves the problems of the country except work for him. All others in SLPP are those looking for holding employment and positions that is where dough is. Why you cannot understand that Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil one and the same. Maithripala Sirisena is from teh same gang. So, far he is relatively good. there are so many Army fellows who reamiend loyal to teh country and looked capable why they ar enot suitable. gotabaya Rajapakse’s problem is he is a Rajapkse and he can not be clean except in Ranil’s govt.

  • 1

    A definition of insanity states that it is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Where in the democratic world is a multiple and serial loser allowed to lead a party for nearly of a quarter century? The UNP powers that have kept this loser at the helm have not only harmed the party but also the country by not presenting a credible leader. The previous common candidate and MS is a loud acknowledgment of this fact. MR shielded RW from the contest at Sri Kotha and pampered him with holidays abroad as in Venice on taxpayer funds. So is it surprising that he had protected MR and his family. His cynical use of the Thajaudeen murder shows his true colors. UNP unless you want the country to vomit over you again in 2019 and 2020, dump this bumbling incompetent loser NOW!

  • 2

    Aiyo Sirisena and now where is Aiyo Shaymon Maama with his Melbournish comments?

    so here is a comment from a friend in Kalutara District. Hope Ravi and RW acolytes read this column. ARROGANCE is something seen in RW’s inner circles a lot.

    I was talking to a mason from ratmalana today. Asked him why some UNP voters who voted in 2015 general elections , did not go to vote this time around , based on his watta people.He surprised me by mentioning Ravi K s name , saying that people are fuck mad with him for the pompous way he took everybody for fools , in his cover up story regarding the apartment rent he got from alosious. my mason and his family watches TV in the watta they live in and knew all about bond scam !. I think if he just admitted and said Sorry they may have had more sympathy !!.

    After all sri lankans know the rajapakses are rogues but pretty cool with it.

    • 0

      Mahinda Rajapakshe is a very good actor/humbug. Even though he is genuinely not patriotic/nationalist (we have seen how he, his close relatives and his cohorts abused the country’s wealth), he knows very well how to act like one (very crooked). He is also known as the people’s president/leader because he knows the art of fooling the masses (carrying the children, extending both hands to appease the old people, etc.), he is extremely good at acting like a real father of the nation and an expert in hoodwinking not only the masses but to all those whom he gives promises (false promises). He is a double tonged leader who can never be trusted.

      On the other hand, Ranil Wickramasinghe is straight forward (not an actor) and does not know anything about public relations or rather, he does not know how to fool the masses. Even on a stage, he will wear his western attire and sit with the legs crossed (don’t care type) showing disrespect to the public (not intentionally). He may be cunning at politics but he does not know how to appease/attract the people. Even after losing around 30 odd times, Ranil has never learned how to hoodwink the masses. UNP desperately needs not only cunning but also a crooked leader who knows how to be a good actor in front of the masses (an expert in fooling the masses), an expert in playing to the gallery. Either Ranil should learn these crooked tricks from Mahinda and apply it in full scale or quit giving the UNP leadership to a genuinely patriotic/nationalist looking actor/crook.

  • 1

    This election victory is like only a jail break for Old Royals. There is no improvement yet on the prison term to the appeal to judge. There is no change in the voting pattern from 2015. Thero like imbecile acolytes shouting hooray but the criminal’s own attorney is putting his hand on his head seeing what his client has done. The criminal has come out of the jail, but have no idea where to run. He is standing on the prison door and still wondering. He was never knows as strategist, with a clear long term polices, but only as an opportunistic, pickpocketer.
    Old King was not in the election. His family’s star candidate stayed out of the election campaign. He was not even in the country. That person openly claims that he has no idea of standing for EP or PM positions in election.
    Old King did not get mandate for anything. This is a Local Election. There is nothing to recognize any Central government policies.
    Old King is not the any party leader. There is no indication he is sincerely willing to accept any party’s leadership and manage it. Slap Party did not exist; Slap Party is not existing; no indication of Slap party becoming to exist. There is never any polices set on a new party so people might have had experience on it on a smaller scale so that they can go and vote on large scale like this. So Slap Party is nothing other the famous “Grease Monster” of Old Royals. I have repeatedly asked many questions on this, Neither Thero or nobody else is interested to answer me on this

  • 1

    Old King is a member of SLFP. His party faced the biggest loser. He purposely induced that heavy loss for his party. That is in line with he robbed and induced many damages to Lankawe economy by installing White Elephant Projects and taking commissions on those, during his tyranny.

    This election result is anti-Yahapalanaya vote. Old King got 4.8m votes in 2005 election. That vote was” SLFP Policy” votes, before Lankawe had any experience on Old King. This election result is, comparing to 2005 election, not in any way different from 2005. That means, it is a confirmation that, unlike 2005, Old Royals are no longer will be elected as Presidents by Lankans as Tamils and Muslims will be voting against that family for decades to come.

    UNP – SLFP combination mis-interpreted the 2015 election. They failed that the Jan,2015 election included minorities in the election. They ran a government completely in contempt to minorities’ wishes. They purposefully saved the anti-minority elements, guarded, fed and nourished them. In no electorate the Yahapalanaya government campaigned that Sinhalese will have to live in harmony with Tamils and Muslims. But naively they prosecuted two Tamils hoping that will quench the racism Yahapalanaya promoted. That was not enough to deter the Sinhala Buddhists ignoring their need to answer to the question of their food and water problems but go ahead and to the question of “You want unified country or divided country?”.

    The major mistake Yahapalanaya did was sweeping under the carpet the need of forging a constitutional deal with Tamils They failed to bring out the need that Lankawe will have to get into war crime investigation. Ranil, UNP and Yahapalanaya never brought the people that it was extremely serious loss for the country selling Colombo Pong Cing and Hangbangtota Port to China They is, even after losing this election, not ready to do that.

  • 1

    When Slap Party was placing Central government policies on the local government election, purposefully Yahapalanaya stayed out of clarifying the mass on the trap they were being allured into. They did not explain Old King is handicapped Person in international Political, Diplomatically, Trade, and Defense deals. UNP-SLFP team never brought the fact that Ranil’s and New King’s Magnificent War Hero is a War Crime Pariah in the IC’s eyes. They rather falsely claimed they have established that their hero is and innocent Worker for Humanity and tried put it as their achievement, in the election. So they could not warn Sinhala Buddhist that there is a chance their endeavors of seating Old King on EP seat will go only in vain. This is how, many times, Yahapalanaya a consulted the voters to throw their precious coins in to the rivers and water fountains as it is luck.
    What Yahapalanaya substantiated are:
    1).Chinese white elephants project good (or turn-able into good). It was an election mistake of 2015 Yahapalanaya to campaign against those projects.
    2).Country is not involved in any war crime. It was an error in the IC’s opinion. Because of their basic biased nature of being against Old King, they refused to listen to his explanation. But IC has heeded to the Yahapalanaya’s explanations and this resolved.
    3) There were no internal crimes of Old Royals like Corruptions, White Vans, Grease Monster, Journalist murders or something similar. Even if there were anything like is complained of, it is not attached to Old Royal administration. It might to some untraceable small individual criminals, not organized or unhide-able massive proportion.
    4) Yahapalanaya was not willing to point out to the mass that whoever wins the election (either Yahapalanaya or Old Royals,) will have to undertake the responsibility of solving minority problems to Minorities and IC’s satisfaction.

  • 1

    FRCS cabal=Former Royal College Students Cabal. ARROGANCE ARROGANCE ARROGANCE

    Why did a close relative of Ranil’s become High Commissioner to Britain? What are her qualifications? Political science degree? Why has she not protested banned Eelam Tamil terrorists waving a banned flag? We shouted when MR appointed his cousin the light fingered man to USA and his ethically challenged nephew to Russia and Ukraine, why can’t we talk about this lady? Elite Colombo 7 English speaking Walawwey haamu. Yahapaalanaya ammagey redda.

  • 1

    These omissions enabled the biggest ammunition of Old royals’, the question of “You want unified Country or Divided Country”. That practically made the local government election into a referendum on never drafted or not existing Constitutional Change. Further that referendum call went ahead without being challenged by UNP-SLFP combination. This solidifies anti –Yahapalanaya votes to Slap Party- but necessarily as the gratitude of war winning of Old King.

    But in North, there was a different situation, before TPNF launch a very damaging attack on TNA, it quickly reverted its position back to CV’s 2013 provincial election promise of Internal Self Determination. Earlier last month, TNA had started the election campaign with “Unitary wording ok, no “Federal “formalities necessary, Buddhism only is ok. An error correction like that not attempted by Yahapalanaya in south. But rather Yahapalanaya individual elements they went on vicious attack on each other as the election is only within them.
    Let’s recoup:
    Nothing is existing as Slap (SLPP) Party. A dangerous Pipe Piper of Lankawe was blowing his pipe and attracting the innocent foolish minds and was taking them to zero reality “Black Hole” He has steered people into a Ponzi scheme or emptiness with a leaderless party. He is not taking responsibility for the rape children he fathered in Local Election. These candidates are now leaderless. Creation of Slap party and cheating the 5 million people is a crime as big as his war crime.

  • 3

    MS/RW are no angels but they proved that it is possible to govern without white-vans. Journalists need not be pulped. Eliminating a rugby player is not the way to win a match.
    SLPP on the other hand proved that the language/religion-divide still is hot currency. This delights you.
    Somewhere you say ~ “………….Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s father, Esmond, an ex-Trotskyist turned rightwing strategist and ideologue……….”.
    You have changed from a Tamil liberation fighter to a rabid Tamil hater.

  • 2

    Isn’t there a bigger crisis in the SLFP.

    • 2

      Biggest is in Salp Part!

      Who is the Chairman of the Slap (SLPP) party?

      Does the Election Commission know what the heck is named as Slap Party?

      Old King scared to accept any governmental political positions; leave alone Slap Party leadership.

  • 0

    UNP TNA Government !!!!!!.
    Post Election Derana map with the Kurakkan will be out dated.
    Will they by pass the referendum?….

    • 0

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekere

      “UNP TNA Government !!!!!!.”

      How about UNP, TNA, JVP, …… and buy few MPs from SLFP and Joint ass Opposition and Wimal and the gang, if Sambandan could persuade him to join RW/RS/AKD coalition? All his sins would be forgiven. Well Champa has to let him go.

  • 1

    Tamils’ option to gain any political solution to the conflict is to hope for Rajapakasas to come back to power. When that happens, West will make sure to proceed with war crimes trials, isolate Sri Lanka economically and politically. India will join the West.
    TNA has no option but to join UNP or support them to stay in power till the next Parliament election. The
    Sinha-Buddhist will take to the street. Sri Lanka may implode before the next election.

    • 0


      Are you hoping for the second coming of the IPKF?

  • 1

    Thero is running around and setting fire for everything because, just like Gunadasa, he too may be thinking that he would be dead and gone before Old King came back to power.

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