PA Learn from Ranil, the opposition leader.

Upul ranasingha,Dehiwala

In any democracy it is important to have a responsible and strong opposition. Unfortunately, today our opposition (the PA) doesn’t seem either. They also seem to lack common political sense. In this context it would be valuable for them to go back and see how Ranil W, the opposition leader conducted himself when the PA was in power.

When the UNP lost the election, in 94, it went through an internal power struggle similar to what they PA is going through today. Ranils strategy was to, first take firm control of the party before trying to
challenging the PA government. He made sure people loyal to him were in control Athukorale and Hameed were made Gen Sec and Chairman respectively. Then he openly admitted that the UNP made seriously mistakes in the past and he apologized for them. He did not come up with excuses. In an interview on TV he said “we turned the search lights inwards” to find out where we went wrong.

The reason UNP lost the elections in 94 was because of thuggery and corruption and not because of any economic problem. Even the North-East war being successfully executed with the entire eastern province cleared of terrorists.

Then he began the cleansing process by sidelining members who “appeared” to have a unclean image in the minds of the public. This resulted in the eventual exit of people like Wijepala mendis, Nanda Mathew, Sirisena Cooray and Adikari among others. In the process he also forced out people like sarath amunugama and susil moonasingha for political reasons.

In addition he brought in new and efficient people like Karu Jayassoriya, Charitha ratwatta, Karunasena Kodithuwakku, Senerath Kapukotuwa and a host of others to the fore front. They were given key positions in the party. It was only then that he began to take on the government head on. Ranil patience and cool headedness was annoying slow for his own party men, who at one point openly challenged his leadership.

But eventually all this paid off. It did not happen in two or three years it took seven years but it happened and he came back stronger than many people ever thought he could. There were Many who went around saying “as long as Raanil if leading the UNP, it will never come back”. But what happened?

Even when Ranil took on the government, he never attacked Chandrika’s peace process, directly. Did we ever see Ranil on roads shouting against chadrika’s peace process. He did’nt “oppose” but he “obstructed covertly”. He knew one day when he takes over the reigns he will have to face up to the very same issue. And for everything he opposed, he offered decent alternatives. The UNP really started to challenge the PA govt after the infamous Wayaba fiasco, which was about four years after the PA assumed office.

Unfortunately, look at the PA today. Barely six months have passed since the UNP was elected to power, but we see the PA out on the streets protesting. The reason the PA lost was because of gross mismanagement, in every imaginable field. Do you really expect the general public to take the PA seriously? It’s the very same people who ruined the country for seven long years, who are out there protesting the cost of living. We see Mangala samaraweera, the biggest supporter of Chadrika’s peace plan, shouting about Ranil dividing the country. We see DM Dassanayaka and
Anurundha ratwatta protesting about the political victimization. We see Mangala samaraweera who not so long ago said “journalist can be bought over with a bottle of Arrack” acting as one of the main spokesmen for the PA. All this while there is a bitter power struggle for the leadership between two very well established camps - Chandrika/Anura group VS the Rajapaksha group. I don’t know weather to laugh or cry.

People of Sri lanka are not completely brainless. They gave PA two major chance to prove themselves, and they will give Ranil at least one. Just because Chandrika or Mangala samaraweera is in a hurry that doesn’t mean the people of Srilanka are going to change a government. The JVP who are shouting today about Ranil dividing the country also shouted when Chandrika started her peace talks with the LTTE. But did the people kick out the PA at the first given opportunity. NO! In fact the people voted the PA in, on at least five consecutive elections before saying enough is enough.

If the PA is serious about coming back to power, they will have to do what Ranil did with the UNP between 94 to 2001. First solve this leadership crisis. In my opinion the best person to lead the PA is Mahinda Rajapaksha. This is just a personal opinion but the fact remains that the leadership issue has to be settled. Then they have to sideline the people with a not so rosy public images e.g. Ratwattas, the Ranatungas and the Dassanayakas.

Then push decent and honest people like Susil premajayantha and Anura yapa to the forefront along
with the veterans like Amunugama, Kadirgama and Pathirana. There people have credibility, something which Anura B or Samaraweera do NOT have. Then they have to build up their Muslim and Tamil leadership.

Last but not least take a firm stand on the economic frond. You are either for a market based economy or your for the socialist system. You can’t have one leg with the open economy and still have alliances with the JVP. This is nothing but double standards.

Mahinda Rajapaksha seems to have understood this fact. He is trying to down play the leadership issue by differing it to later date and by not taking a stand against the peace process. But unfortunately, Anura B or samaraweera does not seem to understand this. They are continuing with the cavalier attitude thinking that if they make enough noise, people will start responding. If things go like this in the PA, we are headed for another 17 years of UNP rule this time may be 25. And what’s even scarier , the JVP might emerge as the second force. So for the same of democracy in Srilanka, I hope the PA awakes.



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