22 August, 2019

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UNP’s Gaping Leadership Vacuum; Is There Anyone Ready To Fill It?

By Vishwamithra

“There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.’’  ~Arthur C. Clarke

They say that crises are challenges clothed in hard choices. The current crisis in the country, the lack of clear, decisive and unfaltering leadership, more generally in the country and specifically in the United National Party (UNP), is one such challenge clothed in hard choices. That challenge is more to the younger and up and coming second-tier leaders than to the one who is at the helm at this moment in time. Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure has been under the microscope for a long time and what appears at the end of the tube does not auger well for a leader of a leading political party that has had more than an average existence among some of the worst political scoundrels in the country.

United National Party’s history shows no dearth of replacement leaders as and when the need arose. Those leaders of yesteryear may have had many deficiencies and may have been found fault in making timely planning and execution of government policies; but they all had tremendous character and poise and unwavering inner strength. That character is usually attributed to many dimensions of human element. Stern upbringing or what one might call breed, formal education which leads to logical reasoning and sound judgement, self-evaluation which is a hard discipline one could ever possess and, of course, inherent strength of self-confidence. When all these elements come together- barring many a psychiatrist’s arguments- a fairly reasonable leader comes into being.

Let us begin at the beginning: When DS Senanayake died, as per his wishes, the Governor General at the time, Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Viscount Soulbury called Dudley Senanayake, DS’s son, to form a new government. However, history has shown us that naming his son as his successor was not only nepotistic, in the context of politics, it was an immoral and a tremendously ill-conceived decision. It was immoral because there were more competent and deserving men around him who had served the UNP in a much more meaningful way. Secondly, it was ill-conceived because Dudley himself was an unwilling player in the game of power politics. By showing sometime before his death that DS wanted his son to succeed him, D S made SWRD Bandaranaike, one of the most consequential leaders of our country, leave the UNP and form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). That SLFP became the main antagonist of the UNP and Bandaranaike nearly killed it for good in the 1956 General Elections.

Yet the writer’s argument is that the UNP, even after the departure of SWRD, had within itself, in the wake of the demise of D S, inarguably first-rate talent and those who possessed that talent were not second-tier, but first-tier men. JR Jayewardene and Sir John Kotelawala were amongst these men who had enormous inner strength and especially in regard to JR, a vision for the country. Nevertheless, DS was known to be a fair-minded leader. But family hegemony overtakes everything and DS was not spared of this evil human folly.

After the defeat of the UNP in ’56, with the virtual departure of Sir John, J R as Sir John’s second-in-command, galvanized the UNP once again. J R as a man-of-the-UNP, until his peaceful death, dominated not only his UNP, but the country’s destiny, right throughout its history. There was no gaping hole in the UNP leadership then.

After J R became the first President of the country, the survival of R Premadasa and the immediate entry of bright stars like Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and Nissanka Wijeratne ensured that the party men and women need not fear of an oncoming vacuum in the event of the departure of the prevailing leader. Gamini and Lalith proved beyond doubt that they were not second-tier but first-rate talent to lead any political party to success.

When J R, just before ’77 General Elections, unofficially made it clear that R Premadasa was the Deputy Leader of the Party, the UNP once again showed that there did not exist any vacuum of leadership. Not only Ranasinghe Premadasa, both Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali were immensely qualified and ready to take over the leadership of the party. No gaping hole, no dearth of talent, period.

Alas, the death of all three gentlemen. The leadership of the United National Party passed over by default to Ranil Wickremesinghe. For twenty five years, after being at the helm of this political party that brought Independence to the country, the Party that introduced the process of free school books to our children, that party that conceptualized, planned and executed the most stupendous irrigation program- Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program- the party that initiated the Mahapola Scholarship Scheme for our undergraduates, the party that built Gam Udawa Housing Program, is yet to field a candidate of its own for Presidential Elections, except in 2005.

The political party that swept the country in 1977 on its own merits and credentials has withered away and it is looking for coalition candidates to assure its power within governing ranks. Something has gone wrong somewhere and nobody in the Party seems to have realized its gravity and consequently nobody is prepared to address this issue of the ‘gaping vacuum’ inside the party.

What is the second tier of the UNP today? It consists of Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premadasa, Navin Dissanayake and perhaps Harin Fernando. As at present, Karu Jayasuriya is the Speaker of Parliament; Sajith Premadasa is the Deputy Leader, Navin, National Organizer and Harin Fernando, a Cabinet Minister. Some of the grassroots supporters of the UNP now talk about Sarath Fonseka as a late entry into the second-tier of their beloved Party.  But they remain essentially second-tier, thanks to the sole occupant of the first-tier, Ranil Wickremesinghe. The vacuum, the hole is gaping; its emptiness is calling for a straight, steadfast and a winning candidate and who amongst the aforementioned second-tier leaders could fill that?

The writer in his previous columns has gone to a fair extent to grade these second-tier leaders; ranking these second-tier leaders is of no use unless it is supported by empirical evidence justifying the different assessment that each of these gentlemen is placed in. How each of these candidates fared in the last few election cycles, both Presidential and General, is of unique value; its significance cannot be disregarded as non-consequential. A candidate who could not win his electorate, leave alone a district, when the Party suffered loss after loss prior to 2015, cannot be trusted as a winner at the next Presidential Elections. Why? Because he or she has not been able to convert the non-UNP voter to vote for the UNP solely because of his or her stature of candidature. The most glaring example was the 1994 General Elections. When the UNP lost the elections, it lost all districts and Provinces except the Kandy district and the Central Province. Why, because of Gamini Dissanayake. When the non-UNP voter could not gather strength to vote UNP in other districts and provinces, the Kandy voter viewed through in a different prism; they wanted to vote for Gamini Dissanayake first and the UNP second. Gamini Dissanayake was a winner all the way. Gamini Dissanayake and many enemies, both within and without, but equals none.

Maybe, voters are looking at his son through the same prism. One has to look at the election results and results alone justify the survival of politicians. Which electorate, district and province the UNP won and lost in the last Provincial Council Elections will be a reasonable and justifiable guideline. The ‘gaping vacuum’ can be filled with the necessary talent and foresight. The writing is on the wall. Yet those who refuse to see it, don’t see it. That is the real tragedy of the ‘gaping vacuum’.

The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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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

  • 21
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    UNP’s Gaping Leadership Vacuum; Is There Anyone Ready To Fill It?

    Yes, Mangala Samaraweera!

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      Any country that has no courage to think beyond family hegemonies; whether it is Bandaranayke, Rajapaksha, Kabila, Bhutto, Gandhi or Kims ( Ii-Sun to Jong-Un), Samaraweera or Dissanayaka stay in abject misery. Smart nations when they realized a family may be too powerful, made constitutional monarchies and moved on to achieve wonders. In Sri Lanka, we have not shown to have that imagination or courage…….to date.

      We need a name. Not a surname.

      • 8
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        After jumping from MR govt. to the UNP, in a press conference held on 2 December 2014, Mr. Navin Dissanayake then MP and the former Minister for Public Management Reforms in the MR government, charged the former President Mahind Rajapakse, stating

        “We know and the Urban Development Authority too knows that a kilo meter of road construction costs only $2 million. The President, as the Minister of Highways should tell the country how the cost of constructing a kilo meter of road increased from $2 million to $16 million”.

        What has Mr Navin Dissanayake done about this serious allegation against the former President Mahinda Rajapakse?

        It appears that either Mr Navin Dissanayake was lying about his serious allegation or he had done a “Deal” to drop his charges against the former President.

        Dishonesty is not a Leadership quality.

    • 9
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      Well said Sharmini

      Yes Mangala is the man of the hour!
      A brilliant politician.
      Our punnakku eating village idiots cannot understand his way of thinking

  • 1
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    Dear Vishwamithra,
    .
    Skimmed your article. Agree. However, I had imagined that you would deal with the Dammika Perera phenomenon.

    • 0
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      Vishwa!
      On what basis do you consider DS as a fair minded leader? Is it on his Face Value which was partly eclipsed by his long and broad mustash’ If he was really fair minded he would not have disenfranchised the upcountry Tamils and commenced colonization of the east with Sinhalese to change the texture of the Tamil population and reduced their representatives in the Parliament . If he was fair minded on what basis did he bring his son Dudely to the forefront over more deserving cases like SWRD. If he was fair minded SWRD would not have started a Sinhala only party and brought communalism to the fore, thus creating a situation where by no other political party could win without a communal flavour in their manifesto. It is DS’s subtle racist policy which had a cascading effect of racism in all Sinhal political parties without which no Sinhala party could win. His doings resulted in the birth of LTTE and perhaps the Wahabism thus resulting in a putrid Achcharu politics from where there seem to be no escape.

  • 7
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    UNP never had a leader since DS or Sir JK. All the rest were Colombo business community members who came to protect their elite .After DS it ran as a home and home affair.
    Ranil became senior with the unfortunate demise of other greats like Gamini, Lalith or Ossi Abeygunasekera . Then most of the rest, in fact who ran the UNFA Rajapakse Govt. or in Pohottuwa today are ex UNPs. Ranil in fact ruined the UNP. Such a prestigious and a power packed party. People always liked the UNP since it made cash in hand for masses. Businesses use to boom under a UNP Govt. The main cause for this failed state of UNP is the leader. A man who cannot speak proper Sinhala, cannot touch the heart and soul of the common man, shows no empathy or cannot deliver what he promises in blank numbers. It’s no brainer that a Leader who cannot win people or his own team or genuinely stand with the party vision, who can only survive an election on a free ride marketing an independent candidate; It’s curtain down time for UNP if you hang on any further please Change your mindset from an Auctioneer mode to a patriotic people centric leader. You can do neither, so it’s time to push eject and get a new vibrant person to lead( not the man who keeps offering match box houses to villages as if he is giving out of his pocket) Tell that bimbo it’s tax payers money. At least thank the people who pays for it. It’s so cheap and very unlikely to see from a grand party like UNP

  • 6
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    ..What vacuum? There is no vacuum, It is Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe spread all over like a 6 foot concrete slab.

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    Vishwamithra, how , much of Finco money looted from out people for decades by Gamini and Srima Dissanayake was paid to you for writing this crap article?
    Navin Dissanayake who left the UNP in is most crucial moment of crisis to strengthen Mahinda Rajapakse?
    Navin Dissanayake whose brother Mayantha knelt on the floor and worshipped Mahinda Rajapakse?
    Before doing a DNA on Sahran’s child we should do a DNA on Navin Dissanayake to see if this loser is Gamini Dissanyake’s son or SB Dissanayake’s son!
    Navin Dissanyake who just one day ago defended terrorism fostering Bathiudee?
    F**K you Vishwamihra.
    F**K you Navin Dissanayake.

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      How did Gamini decide to ‘CREMATE’ the Jaffna library with 97,000 books?. Is it because he was educated?
      At the house warming ceremony of Gamini house’s at Colpety, JR appears to have commented that the Mahaweli was flowing through his house. If so how and why?

    • 2
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      Mahaweli flowed to Trinco thro’ Finco!
      Navin Dissanayake may have heard of this famous saying from the 70’s about his father and Dr. uncle!

  • 5
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    This filthy bas***d Navin is defending Bathiudeen.
    This bu***r whose father was a victim of terrorism has the guts to come out and defend terrorism.
    Who is this fu**ing donkey who is writing this article to inflate that spineless piece of political faces who belongs in a sewage pit.
    Go to hell Navin.
    You are finished.

  • 6
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    Navin? to fil. the void of UNP leadership? He defended Rishad Badiudeen- the terrorist.
    Even Ranil is better than navin. Atleast Ranil did not leave the party.
    Bloody ass, Navin- destroying the uNP among the people evne more.

  • 5
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    “This is a paid advertisement by the P. O. N. Dissanayake family , courtesy Victoria Dam” Haha.
    Does this author think we are fools?

  • 4
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    “This is a paid advertisement by the P. O. N. Dissanayake family , courtesy Victoria Dam” Haha.
    Does this author think we are fools?

  • 5
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    Vishvamithra obviously hasn’t got an invite to Dr Ranil’s Vesak Bana at the TT.
    Otherwise he wouldn’t have rubbished Dr Ranil for lack of Leadership.

    Venrable Palitha who tied Pirith Nule on Colombo Elite at the TT after the Bana Ceremony, praised Dr Ranil as the best ever PM in Mahavamsa.

    Ven Palith even assured the Elite Dayakas there that he will make sure Dr Ranil becomes the next President.

    I think the Ven Plitha got a point, considering the names which Vushwamithra has presented.

    Uncle Karu is like an Old Labrador , Little Bark no Bite, But Loyal to the Masters …..

    Who is Navin I wonder?.
    If he is the Son of that Dissanayaka ‘ who burned down the Jaffana Library, Abraham and Sampthar would have a bar of him.

    Junior Preme from Keselwatta is a good entertainer with his Sinhala Love Songs ,
    But will the Colombo Elite like them or even Him?.

    That leaves Mangala Samare of course who is full of charisma like Dr Ranil.
    And have similar life styles.
    Colombo Elite love Mangala Samare the same way they love Dr Ranil…
    Our Tamil bros in Colombo can’t have enough of him.
    Matara Muslims certainly will send him back to Kotte again… .

    I think Samare is the pick of the Lot.
    Will he puts his hand up?…
    .

    • 2
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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “Will he puts his hand up?…”

      Is it a stick up?

      • 0
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        Dear Native.-

        You ought to ask Mangala… Mate…
        I didn’t know even Shamini proposed Mangala Samare..
        How cool..

        No wonder Shamini called Dr Ranil a Pig Headed Loser…..

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          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

          Will you be interested in contesting the next presidential elections?

          If you were what would be your main theme?
          How much racist verbal attacks do you think sufficient for you to get through the electoral barriers?
          What sort of racist policies would you put forward in your manifesto?
          Can I help you drafting it?
          If you need more scum, please include Eagle Blind Eye, Taraki, Hela, Champass, somass, ……………. in your campaign team.

          Wish you well.

          Will Muslims sell their businesses and properties for pittance and move to the west where they are relatively safe practicing their religion (New Zealand is exception)? Australia might be a dangerous place for Muslims as you find lot of Sinhala/Buddhist refugees are living in their own Ghettos.

  • 0
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    There have been no greats in post independent Sri Lanka except DS to a certain degree. The greats were Mahasen and Parakkramabahu the Great. They understood the misery of the great masses and uplifted their lives by aiding their development. Agriculture those days. Recent politicians have all been self-centred, selfish ,short-sighted and shameless fools. Mangala? No exception at all, still a fool.

  • 0
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    Sarath de Alwis in his recent article in these columns titled: Mangala’s Mistake
    said, “..It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.”

    Serasinghe, a few others and I offered ourselves to be crucified along with Mangala– because we agreed with de Alwis – that Mangala was right.

    Just imagine, Mangala as head of UNP entering the race as candidate for President. This man, by far the most suitable, honest, “no skeletons in his closet” candidate will be ‘pilloried’ – to use de Alwis’s language again.
    All because Managla’s statement (paraphrased) that Sri Lanka belongs to all those who are citizens of Sri Lanka and it is not the exclusive enclave of Sinhala Buddhists.

    The vultures are waiting by the Cross and won’t hear of any resurrection of Mangala. Every one of those politicians who bogusly thump their chests claiming they are the true protectors of Buddhism in Sri Lanka will rake Mangala through mud and drag him tied to a horse cart around every single temple ground in Sri Lanka – to remind him that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist Country – and he better not forget it.

    That is the loss Sri Lanka has to suffer – like thousands of losses we suffered since independence.

    We will end up electing somebody totally unsuited – because people get the government they deserve!

  • 2
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    KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

    “I think Samare is the pick of the Lot. Will he puts his hand up?…”

    and surrendered to the Sangha

    Sangham saranam gacchami
    I go to the Sangha for refuge.

  • 3
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    why go through all this BS speculating who is the best candidate for the leadership.Just follow a internal democratic process and elect the leader.IF you can’t follow a internal democratic process,how are you going to win at a external countrywide democratic process?So just ask all the card carrying members of the UNP to write down on a piece of paper the candidate of their choice.Without all this speculation and paid articles we can see how many want ranil,sajit,navin,harin,mangala,karu,fonseka,arjuna,akila,etc etc etc.We can see future leaders too.

  • 5
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    At this moment of time it is my opinion that the UNP HAS NO LEADER capable of taking the party and the COUNTRY from the its present morass to levels higher. Ranil’s days are gone, in fact they went sometime back but he refused to see it that way and just clung onto the position. Their are many aspirants for the position from within the Party but they are not strong capable leaders who would fit the bill, who would be what the Country is looking for, who would stand out as a man, and hold his own in the International World of Politics redeeming Sri Lanka’s lost position.
    The man who will lead the UNP must not only be a leader of the Party but must also be a Leader of the Country a capable man in the eyes of the world as he will need to play a very important roll internationally.. So whom do we have? A bunch of mediocre politicians who lack maturity and capacity. So lets not bullshit ourselves there is none. The Country must look elsewhere for such a man if ever there is , as for a leader of the UNP any of the pretenders will do for now.

  • 0
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    Karu may be old but showed immense courage in defending democracy which came under threat from the Maithree/MR combine during the 52 days. I suggest that Karu contest as an independent candidate, having resigned from the UNP. Ranil should announce that he will give up the UNP leadership after the Presidential elections. Ranil should also announce that he will not offer himself for the post of President or Prime Minister. Such an announcement would enthuse UNP caders into action and hope. Once elected President, Karu should dissolve Parliament. Let the new Parliament throw up the UNP’s new leader. Karu should strengthen Parliament by spearheading constitutional reform and leave the political arena in one year. Only Karu would do this.

  • 1
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    Vishwamithra, you haven’t mentioned the alleged role of Gamini Dissanayake in destroying the Jaffna Public Library in cahoots with the allegedly blatant racist Cyril Matthew.

    What kind of “leader” (first, second or x-rated) would do this with the intention of destroying one of the largest libraries in Asia containing over 97,000 books and manuscripts and described as one of the most violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the 20th century in the world? And based on some of the comments above, how can such an alleged perpetrator’s son claim any right to any position of authority in Sri Lanka without first confessing to his father’s crime and then atoning by committing to change the viciously racial political system in the country?

    Quote: Nancy Murray wrote in a journal article in 1984 that several high-ranking security officers and two cabinet ministers were present in the town of Jaffna, when uniformed security men and plainclothes[6] mob carried out organized acts of destruction.[7] After 20 years the government-owned Daily News newspaper, in an editorial in 2001, termed the 1981 event an act by goon squads let loose by the then government.[8] Unquote

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Jaffna_Public_Library

  • 3
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    Go to the grass roots. Let the ordinary U.N.P. member choose a leader after a due process. A nation cannot be governed if only less than 55% support the national leader. Ideally, a voter base that takes a definite part in choosing the ultimate leader, is bound to support that leader as the leader was chosen by them.

  • 0
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    People don’t have good peoples’ names in visibility for leadership.

    They don’t have good political party names as well in visibility to lead the country.

    A fresh must surface as an independent unless no hope for him/her.

    Good to advice the seemingly surfacing DP, not to come with the blessings of RW as a common.

    That’ll be the end.

    (People will sing “pem kakula pipi ena witama wage eya parawa giya……)

    Come as an independent; he’ll be common, but have a hard work to surpass rajapakse.

  • 0
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    The God of Thirupathy will/has to decide, as all are going to him and asking for the same thing – political favours.

    • 0
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      Justice.

      Do Modi and Sampathar go to Thirupathy?……

  • 0
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    There is leadership vacuum not just in UNP but critically – the country lacks leadership and there is no one in the stature of Mandela to step forward.

    Kumar Sangakara may be but he seems to be set to develop his career in international cricket administration…he is the Next President of MCC – the only non UK President ever and he may be setting his eye on International Cricket Council

    he doesn’t want to get involved in gutter sri lankan politics

  • 0
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    Don’t know why Vishva omitted Ponseka, who in fact has at least one year experience in Presidential Elections.
    And is a staunch UNP Heavy Weight who put his hand up always to look after and protect the Inhabitants.

    In fact, 66 UNP MPs in Kotte demanded in writing that the Prez give Ponseka the Police and Law & Order Ministry to eliminate the Muslim Terrorists.
    But nothing happened.

    Ponseka now says the Sinha Army (Army of Lions ) which he Lead and beat the Tigers, is now commanded by a Camel.

    And Ponseka says it will take two years to Eradicate Muslim Terrorists.

    Major General Senanayaka, is telling our inhabitants to send their Kids to School .
    And the Parents to report to work because everything is cool now…..

    After Bathudeen , now this ..Poor Major General Senanayaka ..

  • 0
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    What about Dr Harsha DeSilva?

    • 1
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      Colombo Man – “What about Dr Harsha DeSilva?” What about Venereal Gandasara who was pardoned and released by President GONsena?

  • 2
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    Yes, there are a lot! Go see the Ambewela farm!!

  • 1
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    Minister Mangala Samaraweera or Speaker of the House Karu Jayasuriya. These two are very sensible and visionary politicians. Further , they are not RACIST.

  • 0
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    Upali Guna, Bentara etc Congratulations for speaking out
    frankly. I won’t insult monkeys for they are intelligent
    creatures. But this monkey Navin Gunaratne is a deranged,
    opportunistic monkey jumping from tree to tree, branch to
    branch. If you want to know more, ask Rienzie Edwards.
    Don’t trust this kind of crooked politician with a craze only
    for green backs. See his house at Alfred House Gardens. Its
    multi storeyed now.

  • 4
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    Ranil has made the UNP in to a Royal College based non representative party run more by manipulation than popularity.Can anyone say that Malik is fit to be the chairman of a national institute . He is a classmate of Ranil !

    RaviK, Mangala, Sagala, Mahendran, Sajith are all old Royalists ! The second tier, Sajith, Navin etc are men with no character and even less claim to leadership. Sajith claims it on the basis of his father ! Same with Navin. This is the real UNP that Ranil has created !

    All those secretive guys who hover around Ranil are crooks . When ever they get appointed to a Board or a directorship they get busy earning commissions and benefits for themselves and their families.

    Ranil has dirtied the minds of all UNP guys. This party must be disbanded and a new party to represent true liberal democracy must emerge.

  • 1
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    Vishwamithra wants to know {“UNP’s Gaping Leadership Vacuum; Is There Anyone Ready To Fill It?”}
    The short answer “Yes. RW”

  • 1
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    UNP will not have a leader for another ten years. After next presidential and general election which UNP will perform badly , Ranil will be opposition leader ith the help of MR.

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