22 May, 2022


What Is Ranil?

By Rasika Jayakody

Rasika Jayakody

The question should be ‘Who is Ranil?’ some might point out.  Identity, however is not only about lineage, gender, ethnicity, religion etc.; it is about ideological choices too.  As important is the ‘casting’ which is produced by decision and behavior, and this is what makes the ‘what’ of the title question valid.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is a remnant of the Senanayake-Kotelawala-Jayewardena-Wijewardena family circle that governed post-independent Sri Lanka for more than 25 years.

He was also one of the influential members of the J.R. Jayewardena cabinet which included eminent personalities such as Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, Ronnie de Mel and Ranasinghe Premadasa.

When Sirisena Cooray was offered the premiership of the UNP government after the demise of Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, he nominated Wickremesinghe as the most suitable candidate for the newly vacant position, taking the party’s political future into consideration.  His argument was that as Leader of the House, Wickremesinghe was ‘next in line’, even though Sirisena had far greater sway in the party.

Twenty years down the line, the United National Party, which was once the largest political party in the country, has suffered nearly 25 election losses under Wickremesinghe’s leadership. The UNP head-count in Parliament has gone down drastically with a sizable proportion of UNP Parliamentarians crossing over to the government at regular intervals. There is no unity at the top level of the party and as a result of that there is confusion in the rank and file when it comes to matters of national importance. Adding to the misery, a section of parliamentarians and provincial councilors who vehemently push for internal reforms flay the party leadership at open forums causing embarrassment to those who have voted for the UNP for decades.

The organizational structure at the grass roots level is in total disarray and increasing the membership-base of the party seems to be an insurmountable task. As a result of this ground level crisis, traditional UNP voters are reluctant to take the trouble to walk into the polling booth and cast their votes. This was reflected in the fact that UNP could not go beyond the 30% mark in most of the electoral divisions.

Wickremesinghe, needless to say, is one of the most erudite and experienced leaders in present-day political arena, with a sound knowledge on every aspect of politics apart from winning elections. Unfortunately his feudalistic mindset that makes him believe that the UNP is his own fiefdom is the biggest obstacle to the party’s comeback after a series of disastrous election defeats. Due to Wickremesinghe’s feudalistic approach of handling the party’s internal affairs, populist leaders of his camp who are actually “match-winners” have already crossed the aisle of Parliament.

Oblivious to the erosion of the party’s vote-base, Wickremesinghe is appointing district level leaders to spearhead the second tier of the party according to his own whims and fancies, without taking the populist factor into consideration. The UNP leader’s choices are personal and not political as they ought to be. This landlord behavior based on personal preferences has propelled underperformers into the forefront of national politics.

In stark contrast, the Rajapaksa regime has shown far more political maturity and astuteness when it comes to accommodating political opponents. Those who made jibes at President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was the Opposition and Prime Minister, those who attempted to backstab him in his run-up to presidency in 2005 and those who leveled serious corruption allegations at him over Tsunami funds now hold senior positions in the government, sometimes even stealing the limelight from traditional SLFPers who backed President Rajapaksa all along and against all odds.

When allocating positions, President Rajapaksa places immense faith in the populist factor, regardless of the particular individual’s previous allegiances.

In the recent interview with Al-Jazeera, President Rajapaksa himself acknowledged the multi-coloured nature of his cabinet of ministers referring to some of them as extremists: “Right wing extremists are there, religious extremists are there – the Tamils, the Sinhala, the Muslims – we have all these people in the cabinet. They are all working together and I have to manage them.”

In other words, the Rajapaksa government has covered all bases and developed the ability to manage perception among various sections of society, effectively utilizing the multi-dimensional elements in the cabinet.

Although the UNP Leader has some important resources in his camp one can hardly effective utilization. For instance, there is Karu Jayasuriya a flagship leader who has a strong Sinhala-Buddhist flavor and a clean track record as a politician who did not stain his career with corruption allegations and malpractices. Then there is Mangala Samaraweera who brokered the strongest political alliance – the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) – in the post-independent political history of Sri Lanka. There is Sajith Premadasa who has a solid support from the grassroots voters and excellent credentials of being a leader who can garner the support of the less-privileged sections of the society. Also, the General Secretary of the grand old party is someone coming from an ordinary, non-English speaking family in the hill country, who received his tertiary education at a state university thanks to the free education policy by C.W.W. Kannangara. Therefore, the UNP technically has all the resources which can create a broad platform for various sections of society to come together and form a strong opposition. But it is apparent that there is no cohesive plan to ensure their effective utilization and MPs are operating as individual entities without a strong focus on any long term or short term objective.

What the UNP needs at the moment is an effective plan for utilization of resources and a modern leadership model, replacing the feudalistic approach of the party leader which is entirely based on personal preferences. Parallel to the replacement of the party leader position, there should be an inside-out change in the party at all levels. It is important to realize that the party should operate in a corporate-like manner, covering all elements of its traditional vote-base and consolidating everyone’s strength into one common ground where the party can re-invent itself.

This is something Wickremesinghe’s feudalistic mindset is not willing to entertain even in the face of a series of shameful defeats. Even the minor reforms he makes in the party from time to time reflects his feudalistic mind where benefits accrue only to stooges and unconditional supporters, leaving critics and dissidents out of the equation, resulting in further erosion. This is where the UNP Leader puts himself in a highly disadvantageous position, not in terms of retaining leadership in his party, but in terms of securing power at elections.

So ‘what’ is Ranil and what can Ranil become?  As things stand, he is a feudalist and if he cannot re-invent himself, then he must be removed (he doesn’t seem likely to resign) or the UNP must reconcile to defeat after defeat after defeat.

*Rasika Jayakody is a journalist who may be contacted at rasikajayakody2@gmail.com 

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Dear Rasika Jayakody,

    “UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is a remnant of the Senanayake-Kotelawala-Jayewardena-Wijewardena family circle that governed post-independent Sri Lanka for more than 25 years.”

    Who is Ranil? A Fossil.

    Why is the Fossil still there? Fossils stay where they are until moved.

    Why is nobody moving the fossil? Most fossils do not move each other.

    The neighbors, the UPFA, is happy as long as the fossils stay as fossils, like Opposition fossil etc.

    May be, an Earthquake will topple the fossils. Any indications of seismic activities?

    • 0

      Rasika you need to have a little more imagination and think outside the box. Both karu and Sajith are useless and we need to look beyond them and at WOMEN for Ranil’s replacement…

      Rosy Senanayake would be a far more effective leaders of the UNP than the moron Sajith!

  • 0

    A Puppet on a string ! and nothing else worth describing.

  • 0

    Microsoft is headed by an introvert. How did he manage to succeed? Indeed how does any introvort meet the challenge of the extroverts? He needs to mobilise a team of extroverts himself to do his bidding while remaining dark and mysterious in the background.

    • 0

      Bill Gates is no introvert, he is a first rate opportunist. Read the life story of Bill Gates first, you stupid. Ranil cannot even gauge the opportunity let along grab it, its the unexpected events and few magnanimous people like Sirisena Coorey who put the leadership of the UNP on his lap. And that’s all.

  • 0

    Spot on. This Ham Putha mentality of the UNP must end. In todays Sri Lankan society those social barriers are long gone. Like it or not UNP must accomodate the new wave of youth from the villages and rural schools. Selection must be on merit, honesty, character, grass roots work and popularity. If RW cannot step down he must step aside, take a back seat, and allow suitable people to resuscitate the party.

    • 0

      Safa see for yourself where the ones who came from the downtrodden and the Villages have ended up today? Your cry is similar to the ones heard before the system of Education was turned to the Vernacular. It was all anti- English Educated, anti- Elite, anti- Western, anti-Rich etc. etc. See the Poor/Vernacular Educated who came to correct the System by turning it in to society friendly system have done? A good eg, the JVP a set of youth from the University Qualified. Where are their Morals? Honesty? Integrity? and Leadership?

      To be frank Ranil never harps on this ‘Hamu’ mentality, but all those who took over are basking in it. Remember Premadasa once he became President he got two new Thrones and two foot stools. Guards like in the Buckingham Place outside the President’s House? Today MR the self proclaimed King is no better as all these who climb the social ladder have a sense of Inferiority with their small beginnings and they believe they can bluff the masses that their ancestry was rich by behaving with false pretenses. Ranil Wickremasinghe has none of this, as he was born to class and has no reason to flaunt falsely.

      • 0

        This stupid basement living idiot always thinks speaking in English is a must for any ruler to succeed. He doesn’t see that no French, Russian, Chinese, Brazilian leaders give their speeches in English. Yet their countries have progressed beyond imagine.

        Indian, Pakistani, Kenyan and many african leaders speak very good English. If English is a criteria for success then those countries should have achieved at least some success. Truth is, those countries slog in their march to progress. Why? The common ailment for all those countries is using a foreign language [English] in to pedestal and thereby look down on the mass that speak the vernacular.

        In Sri Lanka less than five percent speak good enough english to communicate effectively using the language. How we be successful if leaders look down on the majority that understand and use the vernacular. All the leaders of said countries that slog in development has put into the mentality of the mass that not speak in English means uneducated. That what kept us down.

  • 0

    I appreciate your thoughts. I am sure we have heard and read telling accounts of so called politicians but have these individuals cared ta pence for public criticism. Have they admitted any wrong doing, leave alone any criminal offence. All politicians especially the so called leaders are egotistic and self centered and move heaven and earth to retain their position of power. Voice and suffering of citizen is not their priority. Even the country’s constitution is manipulated towards this end and the helpless citizen has to grin and bear. The flag bearers of course have a field day. Regret I have to end this comment abruptly. Thanks.

  • 0

    It is amazing that a man like Ranil still remains in a leadership position given his record.His tiny band of followers keep repeating that ranil is honest, he is clever etc. They are using the word honesty ( integrity ) in a very narrow sense. True, ranil has never been convicted of taking a bribe or cheating in a court of law. Then, which other political leader in this country has been convicted of such an offence ? Do we use different standards for those who come from Colombo and speak in english ?Has any one explained to us what Ranil does with various donations he receives ? Does he show accounts ? Who funds his and his wife’s foreign travel ? Has anyone seen these accounts?When he is in foreign countries who meets those expenses ? Himself, Sri Lankan government, NGOs or foreign governments ?
    Integrity is also many other things. In certain countries when there is a train accident the minister for transport resigns.The UNP has been made into a dishonest, unpopular and irrelevant party under the leadership of this Johna.The top ranks of this party are people like Ravi Karunayake, John Amaratunga, Tilak Marapone, Dinesh weerakody, Attanayake, Mangala Samaaweera etc. Are they a picture of honesty ? Commissions, bribes, thuggery, running with the hare and hunting with the wolf ! If ranil has any integrity the list of his failures and sheer unacceptability would have made his resign long ago. People like Dudley and JR had charisma and general acceptability. What has Ranil to offer? Johna culture ?
    What about his cleverness ? Look at the results of his activity and you can judge his cleverness.Only a fool who equates english or snobbishness to cleverness will think so. Has any one read his recent book on buddhism ? Read that book to understand the lowness of a totally unprincipled mind. If he is a buddhist why cannot he simply let go ? What about the theory of ” Thanha” which is fundamental to buddhism ?
    This most hated and unpopular leader is arguing that he will let go if there is a suitable leader to take over. Who will decide the suitability of this leader ? Ranil and his working committee ! !
    I invite all these foreign backers of this Johna to consider the democracy within the UNP. Before ranil speaks of democracy for any one Ranil should make the UNP democratic.
    I think now Mahinda Rajapakse will have to save ranil. What MR should do is to get the Government papers to attck Ranil a little. Then Ranil will argue, ” See the government is now attacking me because they are afraid of me. Ha Ha Ha”

  • 0

    @ Rasika Jayakody
    Ok, so you wrote an article titled “What is Ranil.” Thats fine. Now if you have the guts. would you please write an article titled “Who is Mahinda?” and post it on CT by next week using that laptop that was given to you by Mahinda? :-D

    In your article will you let us know:
    1. Is MR a crook and a compulsive liar who stole tsunami funds?
    2. Is MR and his Goat brother responsible for the deaths of Lasantha and countless other journalists?
    3. Did MR and his family bribe the LTTE with 800 million into preventing the Tamils from voting in the 2005 presidential elections?
    4. Is MR a megalomaniac like Prabahakaran?
    5. Is MR a racist who with his Goat brother is stirring hatred amongst the Sinhala Buddhists against the minorities using groups like BBS, SINHALA RAVAYA & RAVANA BALAYA?
    5. Is MR and his family trying to install a RajaPassa dynasty that will rule SL forever and ever Amen?
    6. Did the RajaPassas’ get massive kickbacks from arms deals after they did away with tender procedures?
    7. How many millions do the RajaPassas’ pocket from the loans taken from Chinas Exim bank?
    8. How many Tamil civilians did the RajaPassas’ kill during the last days of the war?
    9. Is MR turning this country into a pariah state?
    10. Is MR a better human being than Ranil?


  • 0

    Rasika Jayakody says, ‘When Sirisena Cooray was offered the premiership of the UNP government after the demise of Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, he nominated Wickremesinghe as the most suitable candidate for the newly vacant position, taking the party’s political future into consideration. His argument was that as Leader of the House, Wickremesinghe was ‘next in line’, even though Sirisena had far greater sway in the party.

    How naive people could be?

    Sirisena Cooray stood aside after he gave a parcel containing a bomb to Babu, who did not know what it contained, to be delivered to RP and detonated when he did so. If as alleged the story that was speculated that Babu was an LTTEer and committed suicide is all poppy cock. If Babu wanted to kill RP he had ample opportunity to do so without taking his life, living at Sucharitha itself. It was Sirisena Cooray who was having connections with the Colombo Municipal Council that he got the place washed to say that there was no trace of a suicide jacket because there was none anyway.

    Sirisena Cooray’s plan was to allow RW to become the PM under DBW so that no one will point a finger at him over RP’s death or suspect him. But the family of RP made some accusations to that effect. Sirisena Cooray believed once DBW was pushed out, RW could have been promoted as the President and then for him to secure the PM’s post. Thereafter it would have been chicken feed for RW to fall victim to an LTTE suicide bomber for Sirisena Cooray to be the President. But unfortunately for Sirisena Cooray, Gamini Dissanayake had other plans. It is for this reason that Sirisena Cooray fought tooth and nail to prevent GD coming back to the UNP. Alas it was not to be and Sirisena Cooray is history today.

    This writer believes that Sirisena Cooray had a bigger sway than anyone else in the UNP. Is that why Sirisena Cooray polled some two thousand votes and lost at an Election contesting the Colombo Central? Knowing who Sirisena Cooray is, RW prevented him coming back to the UNP fold.

    So individuals as Rasika Jayakody should do more research before putting pen to paper and grow up.

    • 0

      I am interested in your take on Premadasa’s assassination, having long had doubts about who dunnit. I remember one press report was that RP was so badly mangled that he couldnt be recognised, but I saw at least one photograph of his face in which he was clearly identifiable. I was also surprised at the hasty clean-up of the site. Apart from being absolutely the wrong thing to do until forensic investigations had been carried, that was also a time when Scotland Yard guys were over here investigating Lalith A’s killing (another one laid at the door of the LTTE that many suspect was not one of theirs), and they could have been called in on RP’s. I thought it must have been Ranil who ordered the immediate cleaning of the bombed area. I remember even Bradman Weerakoon, who was abroad at the time, expressing bewilderment that the LTTE would have killed RP just then, as he/”we” was giving them all sorts of things they wanted.

      I am surprised there has never been a full account published of what really happened after all this time. People here dont seem to be interested and have very short memories.

      • 0

        Manel what made you think it was Ranil who ordered the murder scene to be washed? Any fool knows that you do not disturb a murder scene. So Ranil is no fool to do so. Sirisena Cooray was the longest standing Mayor of Colombo who wielded power over the CMC. It was Ganeshalingam who was the Mayor of Colombo and once he openly said that he would step down only if Sirisena Cooray requested and no one else he would listen to. The scene was washed because there were no fragments of a suicide jacket to prove that Babu wore a suicide jacket. Realizing this, since the bomb was a parcel bomb and it was speculated that Babu wore a suicide jacket and unable to prove without fragments found, the best was to wash the scene. It was Sirisena Cooray who got the scene washed using the Fire Brigade that was under the CMC then.

    • 0

      Gamini reads the RP assassination well. Maru Sira had grand plans
      but eventually most of it came out within sources close to the UNP. The Premadasa family did not take him head on because he knew all the secrets of the Kehelwatta mafia – the millions stolen from the Lotteries Board via fake tickets, the rackets of Plantation sales with Pasky as frontman, Mrs P in cohorts with Muslim smugglers bringing in Singapore goods by the dozens of Containers each week, the purchase of the Kurunegala Estate and many more. All that is history now. Question is how is Maru Sira and the extended family living as millionaires in expensive Australia for so long.


  • 0

    If ‘UNP leader’s choices are personal and not political’ how could you say Ranil is ‘the most erudite and experienced leaders in present-day political arena, with a sound knowledge on every aspect of politics….’ I am afraid, I disagree with you for that part of your writing.

    I think Ranil has shown, he is an absolute mismatch for politics and in particular for the leadership of the unp from the days that he was spoon fed and escorted in to politics by his uncle, the old fox JRJ. Ossi is a man who said what he has to say regardless the consequences. Besides he never liked the filthy and dirty tactics of the our WOGs. That’s why he left JRJ’s UNP and later joined it when Premadasa became the leader.

    I remember Ossi telling me once that during the sathyagraha organized by the UNP in the 1970s at N’Eliya, young Ranil said to have had breakfast in the grand hotel with his Colombian wog clique in the morning first and then come to join the fasting crowd with a neat rollcollar pull over on. Ossi told me that he told Ranil and co that pony races are at racecourse and not there at the sathyagraha. No wonder Ranil cannot feel or understand the mood of the mass.

    • 0

      Patriot judging from your comment there seem some chip on your shoulder. I know what it is, but I do not wish to insult you, but you have to live with it. We have no control over our birth. Imagine if Buddha was born to a Dalit family, do you believe people would have embraced Buddhism?

  • 0

    Mind NUMBINGLY boring ! At least make your articles readable, otherwise you won’t get paid by your masters and the professor.

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