- Posted December 29, 2013 by
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
If you want to be a good number one first you should learn to be a good number two
If anyone thinks just by making Hon. Sajith Premadasa the leader and the Presidential candidate of the UNP that the UNP could come back to power, they are all sadly mistaken. It would take much more than merely changing the leadership for the UNP to return to power. None should underestimate the ruling party’s hunger for power, the level to which they would sink to stay in power, and their financial capabilities.
The Rajapakse administration is a well-oiled huge machinery in good working order to date, with some signs of wear and tear. Dismantling it would need meticulous planning, intelligent and experienced politicians to draw such plans, charismatic speakers, and above all, a UNP ground network throughout the country covering the entire spectrum of races, castes and religious groups. This is not at all an easy task. Given the type of voters we have and the present state of the UNP political activity, added with the unprecedented misuse of power, a victory at the next presidential election for the UNP is extremely difficult but not impossible.
I am a currency strategist, a technical analyst, and above all, a member of the UNP. As a very young party member I have worked with some of the greatest UNP leaders we have ever had. I even ran against the Kandy Municipality on the UNP ticket in 1997 and nearly lost my life by a bullet fired by Hon. Lohan Ratwatte during campaign work. I believe I have the minimum qualifications to write this and I hope readers consider this as constructive for the UNP. UNP members are embarrassed and sad with the state of affairs of the party. I was fortunate to be associated with party stalwarts the late E. L. Senannayake, Gamini Dissanayake, A.C.S. Hameed, T. B. Werapitiya D. B. Wijetunge and a few more as a very young UNP member. They were quite different than most of the present UNP parliamentarians and leaders. They would not have washed their dirty linen in public. We all agree that there is a fundamental issue with the Ranil Wickremasinghe leadership. Voters have rejected him not just on his personal charisma, but due to many other factors. Never-the-less, Ranil Wickremasinghe is an asset for the UNP and for Sri Lanka. He has not stolen public money and he is well experienced on international politics, constitution and foreign policy. How many politicians who have been in power of either party have a clean record when it comes to corruption? There is also a wide-spread popularity building around Hon. Sajith Premadasa. Attracting mass numbers of voters is of utmost importance for a party to win elections and this makes Hon. Premadasa an important asset for the UNP. We all know the differences between these groups inside the UNP but each time they bring their internal issues up in the general media, we, the members of the party, are laughed at. That is not healthy for the incumbent leadership nor for the future leadership.
Hon. Sajith Premadasa should remember that his father faced similar kinds of impediments inside the party. When he faced the highest resistance he was the reining executive president of the country. With all the great achievements I must responsibly state that the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa mishandled the problems which came within the UNP itself. There is an account I have wanted to tell my party members for some time -- a story about patience and being united; a story that His Excellency Premadasa shared with a few close friends. Both Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali and Hon. Gamini Dissanayake approached the President, after winning the general election with record numbers, requesting him to appoint them as PM. President Premadasa told them that in his view both had performed equally at the election and both have shown excellent capabilities in running their ministries in the past. He further said that he would let them talk it over for a day and decide who wants to be the PM. I am sure some of the readers remember that there was a delay in appointing a PM after that election and the reason was this. President Premadasa did not want to appoint either Gamini or Lalith as PM due to their loyalties to former President JRJ. The President expected at least one of them to build a fresh connection and loyalty towards him while both Lalith and Gamini were of the mentality that they both have an exceptional record of performance, educational background and a strong mandate and therefore it is the President’s duty to pick one of them as the PM. The situation was complicated by inferiority and superiority complexes and class and caste differences. President Premadasa knew that Lalith and Gamini would not let one become PM before the other for the obvious reason that he who becomes the PM would very likely be the next President. I do not think Mr. Premamdasa expected the outcome but feel that is what he exactly wanted to happen. President Premadasa told both Lalith and Gamini that since the two of them could not decide among themselves who should become the PM, he would “temporarily” appoint Mr. D. B. Wijetunga as he was the most senior member in the UNP Parliament. He said it was his desire that one of them becomes the PM and that he would observe how well they both defended his policies and how effectively each supported his agenda in the Parliament. Then he would decide who becomes the PM. President Premadasa expected at least one of them would try to work things out with him, but the opposite happened. Both Lalith and Gamini became very silent in the Parliament. Between the two I felt that President Premadasa, with all the rivalries, wanted Gamini to become the Prime Minister. Once, after attending a JEDB meeting in Kandy, the President was scheduled to visit Nuwara Eliya. The President purposely wanted to travel by road from Kandy and invited Gamini Dissanayake to join him in the presidential car. The President expected Mr. Gamini Dissanayake, now being alone with only the chauffer and the body guard for two hours, would request that the President appoint him as the PM. If he had requested, the President would have made the appointment the next day. Mr. Dissanayake talked about weather, international politics, and everything else under the sun, except the PM appointment. He may have been, at that time, too proud to make a request. He eventually masterminded an impeachment and walked out of the UNP to form the DUNF.
Soon after this incident the President explained to some of his close friends how difficult it is to rise to the top and went on to explain the time he had differences with former President JRJ on the Indo Lanka Peace Accord. President Premadasa then, as the PM, made it extremely clear to the public that he is completely against the IPKF coming to the country. In spite of all those public speeches and press releases on the issue, President JRJ met him at Temple Trees and told Premadasa, “I want you to make sure the Indo Lanka Peace Accord passes the Parliament with a majority.” President Premadasa said he spoke in favor of the Indo Lanka bill for over two and a half hours in the Parliament and saw that the bill passed but, to express his position on the matter, he refrained from voting. He went on to say, “I did that against my will because I am JRJ’s number two and I shall make sure to perform when I am given a responsibility. If you want to be a good number one you should first learn to be a good number two.”
The aftermath of all these incidents resulted in bigger divisions in the UNP government and that was the beginning of the end for us. Once divided, you become weak. We were engulfed with issues which we could have eradicated a long time ago. But everyone was impatient to get to the top. No one thought of the UNP and the diehard UNP voters. Many lost their lives due to the loyalty they had for the party. This is what divisions can do to a party. I hope Hon. Sajith Premadasa rejoins the group of leaders and forgets the past and continue his valiant effort to push the UNP to power. I also hope that the leadership group recognizes Hon. Sajith Premadasa for his abilities and courage. But sadly, if Hon. Sajith Premadasa wants to stay out and continue to harm the party, then he should leave. If there are termites you fumigate.
There is a long way to a victory. We will need a lot of finances. We need a national program to reorganize. We need to use the UNP website and form a UNP overseas. We shall make films, music, songs, paintings -- and every possible effort to express the grievances of the public. It is a tall order and one person cannot do it all. We are the United National Party and let's get united.