18 September, 2020

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WikiLeaks: Despite criticism,no clear alternative for Ranil

By Colombo Telegraph-

“Long-standing UNP members have also criticized Wickremesinghe’s election strategy, though mostly in private. In a May 10 meeting with the DCM, for example, former Interior and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said the UNP had lost the election due in part to a lack of charisma on Wickremesinghe’s part. Amaratunga stated: ‘You have to at least give the impression that you are willing to die for what you stand for.’”the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Despite the criticism, Wickremesinghe seems set to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear challengers to his rule at this time

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeak database. The cable classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” analyses UNP internal crisis just after the 2004 April election. The cable was written on May 24, 2004 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead.

Ambassador Jeffrey  wrote “During the May 10 UNP meeting, Amaratunga related that one party member had complained to Wickremesinghe’s face that his constituents were unhappy that the former PM never smiles and they wonder why they should vote for the UNP. Amaratunga said Wickremesinghe did not respond, remaining stonefaced. In a conversation with Ambassador on April 8, former minister Milinda Moragoda remarked that Wickremesinghe “did not have the common touch.” Moragoda, who is a close adviser to Wickremesinghe, compared him unfavorably with former President J.R. Jayawardene, who ran a series of strong UNP campaigns in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.”

Under the subheading “Despite criticism, no clear alternative” ambassador Jeffrey wrote “Despite the criticism, Wickremesinghe seems set to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear challengers to his rule at this time. In the May 10 conversation with the DCM noted above, for example, former minister John Amaratunga said that he had recently been in several UNP meetings at which there had been “frank discussions” as to whether Wickremesinghe should be replaced. Amaratunga said the conclusion from the meetings was that Wickremesinghe should not be forced out right away. He also said he felt that former Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya — who some interlocutors have recommended as a possible replacement for Wickremesinghe — was “not a viable option.” Amaratunga noted that he was not impressed with Jayasuriya’s organizational and leadership abilities, for example. Party dissidents themselves, such as Premadasa and others, have also failed to name a definitive alternative to Wickremesinghe. In the meantime, in his meeting with the Ambassador, G.L. Peiris indicated that he did not think that efforts to remove Wickremesinghe would go anywhere. He added that reported tensions in the party were ‘much exaggerated.’”

The Ambassador wrote “Premadasa, who is the son of former President Premadasa and a former deputy minister, told poloff on May 12 that he had introduced a proposal in a May 10 UNP parliamentary group meeting that all party officers be elected. (Some press reports state that Premadasa wants a “secret” ballot, but he did not confirm this. Currently, the party leader appoints all the party’s officers.)”

“In a May 12 meeting with the Ambassador, G.L. Peiris, a former minister, derided Premadasa’s proposals, asserting that the party leader had to have authority to make decisions and should not be constrained in doing so by a committee structure.” he further wrote.

Placing a comment ambassador Jeffrey wrote “Wickremesinghe’s image has suffered serious damage in recent months. Most particularly, he has suffered in comparison with longtime rival President Kumaratunga, who is widely seen as dynamic and passionate. That said, Wickremesinghe should be able to weather the storm for now. In the mid- to longer term, if the party is to improve its standing, however, it will have to open up to a new generation of leaders. There is a view that UNP leadership circles have become a bit stuffy and are not open to new blood. Humbled by its recent defeat, the UNP is going to have to adjust to get out of its current political trough or face further defeats down the road.”

To read other US diplomatic cables related to UNP internal crisis click here 

Read the cable below for further details;

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000770

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, INR/NESA

NSC FOR E. MILLARD

E.O. 12958:      DECL: 05-12-14
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL CE
SUBJECT:  After recent election defeat, UNP leader
Wickremesinghe under fire from within his party

Refs:  Colombo 760, and previous

(U) Classified by Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead.
Reasons 1.5 (b,d).

1.  (C) SUMMARY:  UNP leader and former prime minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe is under fire from members of his
own party who are seeking to clip his wings and/or
remove him as party leader.  The discontent stems from
the view of many party members that Wickremesinghe led
the party poorly in the April election in which the UNP
was defeated.  Despite the heat, Wickremesinghe seems
set to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear
challengers to his rule at this time.  In the mid- to
longer term, if the party is to improve its standing, it
will have to open up to a new generation of leaders.
END SUMMARY.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Dissension in the UNP
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

2.  (C) The United National Party (UNP) has been roiled
by internal dissension since the party lost the April
parliamentary election.  The dissent is a bit unfocused,
but its main aim is to clip the wings of Ranil
Wickremesinghe, the UNP and Opposition Leader, and/or
remove him as party leader.  (Wickremesinghe was prime
minister from December 2001 until the UNP's defeat in
the April election.)  Two main challenges to
Wickremesinghe's leadership of the party have emerged
recently:

-- In the first challenge, Sajith Premadasa, a UNP MP
from Hambantota District in the south, has proposed
changes to how the UNP selects its party officers.
Premadasa, who is the son of former President Premadasa
and a former deputy minister, told poloff on May 12 that
he had introduced a proposal in a May 10 UNP
parliamentary group meeting that all party officers be
elected.  (Some press reports state that Premadasa wants
a "secret" ballot, but he did not confirm this.
Currently, the party leader appoints all the party's
officers.)  Premadasa also proposed that a committee
structure be set up to make policy decisions.  Premadasa
told poloff he had made these proposals out of "a
genuine need for reform within the UNP on several
levels," and because he felt the UNP needed "more
internal democracy."  Although he stressed to poloff
that his proposal was not anti-Wickremesinghe in thrust,
Premadasa has been known to have had a tense
relationship with the former PM for some time.
Premadasa said his proposal had been well-received by
many party members, though the party leadership had not
yet formally weighed in on them as of yet.  The UNP was
scheduled to have further meetings later this week to
review Premadasa's proposals as well as other issues.
(In a May 12 meeting with the Ambassador, G.L. Peiris, a
former minister, derided Premadasa's proposals,
asserting that the party leader had to have authority to
make decisions and should not be constrained in doing so
by a committee structure.)

-- In the second challenge, UNP party member and Sri
Lanka Telecom (SLT) chairman Thilanga Sumithapala
spearheaded an effort to replace Wickremesinghe as party
leader last week.  Sumithapala, in making this move,
claimed that Wickremesinghe had failed the party and
needed to be removed.  Nimal Weeraratne, a UNP official,
confirmed to Pol FSN on May 12 that Sumithapala had
tried to oust Wickremesinghe and asserted that
Sumithapala had also attempted to convince several UNP
members to cross over and support the United People's
Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government.  According to
Weeraratne, members loyal to Wickremesinghe had told the
former PM of these machinations and the effort was
quashed. (Contacts have told Mission that Sumithapala,
currently on bail for his alleged involvement in an
immigration scandal, may be forced to resign from his
position as SLT chairman shortly.)  In fending off
Sumithapala's effort, there are unconfirmed reports that
Wickremesinghe had to promise that he would undertake
large-scale reform and "restructuring" of the UNP.
(Indeed, at the UNP's May 10 meeting, Wickremesinghe had
reportedly placed some reform proposals on the table,
including the idea of developing "a UNP code of
conduct."  This latter idea is aimed at stopping
corruption and ethical improprieties.  Charges of
corruption dogged a number of ministers and UNP MPs
during the recent election campaign.)

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Party Leader Under Fire
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

3.  (C) Overall, the discontent within the UNP stems
from the view of many party members (and outside
observers) that Wickremesinghe led the party poorly in
the April election campaign.  The sense that
Wickremesinghe was a failure has taken various forms,
including many press commentary pieces in English- and
Sinhala-language newspapers grumbling about his
leadership style, which is commonly seen as lackluster
to put it mildly.  In one such article, which appeared
in the English-language ISLAND on April 5, local
political analyst Rohan Edirisinha said "the prime
minister never really took people into confidence,
whether he was dealing with the peace process or the
rebels or dealing with the economy."

4.  (C) Long-standing UNP members have also criticized
Wickremesinghe's election strategy, though mostly in
private.  In a May 10 meeting with the DCM, for example,
former Interior and Christian Affairs Minister John
Amaratunga said the UNP had lost the election due in
part to a lack of charisma on Wickremesinghe's part.
Amaratunga stated:  "You have to at least give the
impression that you are willing to die for what you
stand for."  During the May 10 UNP meeting, Amaratunga
related that one party member had complained to
Wickremesinghe's face that his constituents were unhappy
that the former PM never smiles and they wonder why they
should vote for the UNP.  Amaratunga said Wickremesinghe
did not respond, remaining stonefaced.  In a
conversation with Ambassador on April 8, former minister
Milinda Moragoda remarked that Wickremesinghe "did not
have the common touch."  Moragoda, who is a close
adviser to Wickremesinghe, compared him unfavorably with
former President J.R. Jayawardene, who ran a series of
strong UNP campaigns in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. (One
major exception to the mainly quiet nature of complaints
about Wickremesinghe by UNP figures was former foreign
minister Tyronne Fernando, who went public with his
opposition to Wickremesinghe in late April.  Fernando's
outburst appeared more linked with the UNP's decision
not to give him a "national list" seat in Parliament,
however, than actual animus toward Wickremesinghe.
Fernando has since resigned from the UNP.)

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Despite criticism, no clear alternative
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

5.  (C) Despite the criticism, Wickremesinghe seems set
to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear
challengers to his rule at this time.  In the May 10
conversation with the DCM noted above, for example,
former minister John Amaratunga said that he had
recently been in several UNP meetings at which there had
been "frank discussions" as to whether Wickremesinghe
should be replaced.  Amaratunga said the conclusion from
the meetings was that Wickremesinghe should not be
forced out right away.  He also said he felt that former
Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya -- who some
interlocutors have recommended as a possible replacement
for Wickremesinghe -- was "not a viable option."
Amaratunga noted that he was not impressed with
Jayasuriya's organizational and leadership abilities,
for example.  Party dissidents themselves, such as
Premadasa and others, have also failed to name a
definitive alternative to Wickremesinghe.  In the
meantime, in his meeting with the Ambassador, G.L.
Peiris indicated that he did not think that efforts to
remove Wickremesinghe would go anywhere.  He added that
reported tensions in the party were "much exaggerated."
(According to observers, aside from Jayasuriya, other
possible replacements for Wickremesinghe include:
Joseph Michael Perera, a senior UNP MP and former
Speaker; K. Rambukwella, a senior MP and former
minister; and Milinda Moragoda.)

=-=-=-=
COMMENT
=-=-=-=

6.  (C) Wickremesinghe's image has suffered serious
damage in recent months.  Most particularly, he has
suffered in comparison with longtime rival President
Kumaratunga, who is widely seen as dynamic and
passionate.  That said, Wickremesinghe should be able to
weather the storm for now.  In the mid- to longer term,
if the party is to improve its standing, however, it
will have to open up to a new generation of leaders.
There is a view that UNP leadership circles have become
a bit stuffy and are not open to new blood.  Humbled by
its recent defeat, the UNP is going to have to adjust to
get out of its current political trough or face further
defeats down the road.  END COMMENT.

7.  (U) Minimize considered.

LUNSTEAD
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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    This is freaking rubbish by JL. He was one of the useless A in SL. US policies are disgusting even today. It is a disgrace. They and the Indians worked hard to ensure Ranil’s defeat. They bloody failed. Premadasa’s arrogance and thuggery was an absolute disgrace. You buggers are just Ponniah’s writing about ancient history giving the wrong impression.
    When was JL Ambassador.
    Many things have changed.
    Yes, Ranil does not smile, dress properly and appropriately, physical position is always poor and can be improved. He was never a politician or groomed to be one, until Premadasa, Ranjan, Gamini, and Lalith were eliminated from this earth most likely by the Tigers. That is the price UNP had to pay for their Bad Karma.
    Imagine if Premadasa was President for 2 terms and Sajith got some education and experience. It would have been a MONSTER and worse than Rajapakses…. With Nothing or even a voter bank from Hambantota he is like this, with his Christian sister, wife and the (removed by the moderator ) of a mother doing dirty things…

    Where is Premadasa’s money coming from to be given to Buddhist Temples?? Those Thattayas have enough money and Boys.. Research it…

  • 0
    0

    People need to know where public money is coming from…. Not from the Sinhala Diaspora… Then where???

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