Why can’t the UNP produce a Presidential Candidate?
Shenali D Waduge
The UNP is arguably the oldest single political party in Sri Lanka, it is shameful that beyond the death of President Premadasa all elections that the UNP has contested has been with coalitions when ideally with almost half the country’s voters belonging to the Green Party, the contestant representing the UNP should be from the Green Party and not one plucked from another party and hired for the role.
Independent Sri Lanka was led by the UNP, the father of the nation is referred to as D S Senanayake, the office of the Executive Presidency was introduced by the UNP and J R Jayewardene became the country’s first Executive President. President Ranasinghe Premadasa thereafter took over until he was blown to smithereens by a LTTE suicide cadre in 1993. Immediately after the assassination Ranil was PM from 7 May 1993 to 19 August 1994. Chandrika Bandaranaike won the 1994 parliamentary elections under the People’s Alliance and became PM. Gamini Dissanayake obtained 2 votes more than Ranil and became the Opposition Leader and thus contender for the Presidential Election. Gamini Dissanayake however was bumped off by the LTTE forcing the UNP to field his widow Srima Dissanayake who was no contender for the Presidential stake against Chandrika Bandaranaike. Mrs. Dissanayake could only obtain 35% of the UNP vote. It was only thereafter that Ranil W was made both Opposition Leader and the Leader of the UNP.
A brief journey looking at the election results
· 1982 Presidential Election
o Contestants: JRJ (UNP), Hector Kobbekaduwa (SLFP), Rohana Wijeweera (JVP), G G Ponnambalam (ITAK), Colvin de Silva (LLSP), Vasudeva (NSSP)
o The votes: JRJ – 3.4m / Kobbekaduwa = 2.5m / Rohana W = 273,428, Ponnambalam = 1,73,934 / Colvin = 58,531 / Vasudeva = 17,005
o J R Jayawardena declared President polling 52.91%
· 1988 Presidential Election - December
o Contestants: R. Premadasa (UNP), Mrs. Sirimava Bandaranaike (SLFP), Ossie Abeygunesekera (SLMP)
o The Votes: Premadasa = 2,569,199 / Sirima B = 2,289,960 / Ossie = 235,719
o R. Premadasa declared President polling 50.43%
· 1994 Presidential Election
o Contestants: Chandrika B (PA), Gamini Dissanayake (UNP), G A Nihal (Sri Lanka Progressive Front), Dr. Harischandra Wijethunga (Sinhalye Mahasammatha Bhoomiputhra Pakshaya), Hudson Samarasinghe (Independent), A J Ranasinghe (Independent),
o The Votes: Chandrika = 4,709,205 / Srima D = 2,715,285 / Hudson s = 58,886 / Dr. Harischandra = 32,651 / AJ Ranasinghe = 22,752/ G Nihal = 22,749
o Chandrika B declared President polling 62.28%
· 1999 Presidential Election - December
o Contestants: Chandrika B (PA), Ranil W (UNP), Nandana Gunatilake (JVP), Rajiva Wijesinghe (liberal party), Ariyawansha Dissanayaka (DUNF), Alwis Weerakkody Premawardhana (People’s Freedom Front), Abdul Rasool (Sri Lanka Muslim Katchi), Kamal Karunadasa (People’s Liberation Solidarity Front), Tennyson Edirisuriya, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, (Left and Democratic Alliance) Hudson Samarasinghe
o The Votes: Chandrika B = 4,312,157 / Ranilw = 3,602,748 / Nandana Gunatilake = 344,173 / Dr. Harischandra = 35,854/ W Ranjith = 27,052 / Rajiva Wijesinghe = 25,085/ Vasudeva = 23,668 / Tennyson E = 21,119 / Abdul Rasool = 17,359 / Kamal Karunadasa = 11,333/ Hudson S = 7,184 / Ariyawansa D = 4,039 / Alwis Weerakkody = 3,983
o Chandrika B declared President polling 51.12%
· 2005 Presidential Election – November
o Contestants: Ajith Kumara Jayaweera Arachchige (Democratic Unity Alliance), Chamil Jayanetti (New Left Front), Wimal Geeganage (Sri Lanka National Front), Siritunga Jayasuriya (United Socialist Party), Nelson Perera (Sri Lanka Progressive Front), Wije Dias (Socialist Equality Party), Anura de Silva (United Lalith Front), V Hettigoda (Eksath Lanka Podujana Pakshaya), Hewaheenipallage Shantha Dharmadwaja (United National Alternative Front), Ranil W (UNP), Mahinda Rajapakse (UPFA)
o The Votes: Mahinda Rajapakse = 4,887,152 / Ranil W = 4,706,366 (48.43%) / Siritunga Jayasuriya = 35,425 / Ashoka Suraweera = 31,238 / Victor Hettigoda = 14,458. Note: all other contenders polled less than 0.0%
o Mahinda Rajapakse declared President polling 50.29%
2010 Presidential Election
o Contestants: Mahinda Rajapakse (UPFA), Sarath Fonseka (New Democratic Front), plus 20 other candidates
o The Votes: Mahinda Rajapakse = 6,015,934 (57.88%) / Sarath Fonseka = 4,173,185 (40.15%) / M. K. Shivajilingam = 9,662 (0.09%) / Vikramabahu Karunaratne = 7,055 (0.07%) /
o Mahinda Rajapakse declared President polling 57.88%
Ranil W was the UNP Presidential candidate in 1999, it was during this election campaign that an LTTE bomb resulted in Chandrika Bandaranaike losing her right eye but 2 days later she secured 51% of the vote and became President. Ranil was over 700,000 votes short. Ranil lost the October 2000 Parliamentary elections too.
However, every single election the UNP has lost since the assassination of President Premadasa except the general election in which Ranil Wickramasinghe emerged as the 17th Prime Minister in 2001 that too because of a coalition alliance under the United National Front ( 9 Dec 2001 to 6 April 2004). UNF had 109 seats while PA had only 77. The UNF comprised the UNP, Ceylon Workers Congress, Up-Country’s People’s Front, the Democratic People’s Front (Mano Ganeshan) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
Does the UNP really have to form joint alliances and compromise itself?
With a set vote base why have UNP leaders seen fit to undermine itself for every time parties are aligned does it not mean having to compromise? Moreover, why have UNP allowed people in the other camp and architects of causing division and dissent to steer campaigns wherein the likelihood of the UNP being cut into two is unavoidable. Do we see that not happening because of the current actions by allowing a dictatorial group to run the UNP as they see fit? Was it not too long ago that a UNP supporter actually burnt himself to death pleading with the party leaders not to destroy the UNP but to keep together.
A sound opposition is needed. Not one that foreign backers are able to pay and use as puppets.
Fortune has been with Ranil to maintain his political leadership as leader of the party and leader of the Opposition, a role he obviously relishes over above actually leading a nation of 20million people, which seriously must question whether Ranil is realistically interested in leading Sri Lanka or prefers simply being the Opposition Leader for life!
Whatever Ranil W’s fancies are, for the oldest single political party the question that is obviously overlooked is why the UNP should not be fielding the Common Candidate when in a coalition alliance that Common Candidate can only win with the strength of the UNP votes. The first response is that the foreign decision to bring Maithripala was to win the Sinhala Buddhist vote by dividing the SLFP/PA votes. Why does the UNP remember that the Sinhala Buddhist voters and votes matter only at election time? Why can't the UNP produce a Sinhala Buddhist politician? Does the UNP stand only for Western Liberal Cosmopolitan Christian ideals and is this why Ranil Wickremasinghe is a member of the International Democratic Union and regularly attends these sessions. The IDU has its headquarters in Oslo. The UNP leader is the current Chairman of the Asia Pacific branch of this organization. Other known names are William Hague (Assistant Chairman, IDU), former heads of state Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush, Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac. The IDU is a right-wing club consisting of Conservative and Christian Democrat political parties around the world. How many in the UNP know that the UNP is a full member of the IDU? Therefore, will the Sinhala Buddhists that wish to protect the heritage of the nation entrust the country to a party that is secretly aligned to other ideals? We need to seriously wonder how far of Ranil's visionary plans originate from his thinking or belong to the foreign unions that he is a member of!
Obvioulsy the majority in the UNP are not aware of what exactly the UNP stands for. What is shown to them on paper and what a handful of key UNPers end up agreeing to under secret pacts is never revealed to them. This ignorance however makes them jump to Ranil's defense that the people of Sri Lanka are too dumb to understand the visionary potential of Ranil Wickremasinghe. The answer to that is Ranil W has been PM twice. First in 1993 immediately after President Premadasa was assassinated, then in 2001 and the visionary traits that UNP extoled about Ranil Wickremasinghe came out by secretly signing the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement the officially demarcated sovereign territory as terrorist areas under LTTE control and humiliated the Sri Lankan armed forces subjecting them to not only ridicule but leading to the deaths of intelligence officers having disclosed their names to the LTTE. Therefore, UNP voters must understand that the golden opportunity that Ranil W was given he ruined by his own conduct and for that the people of this nation cannot be blamed for not trusting him again and now even the Eelam lobbyists do not trust him – what an anti-climax!
Where should UNP go from here? Firstly, it is important that the UNP need to remove itself from the mentality of forming alliances simply to come into power. That chemistry is just not working. When CBK and Maithri are holding secret talks with others, when Maithri and other alliance members are holding other secret talks all these secret discussions forget that none of them will have any political future if the UNP voters do not vote for this alliance. More and more it is becoming clear that there is nothing clear about the alliance. Sobitha thero wants to abolish the Presidency, Sarath Fonseka wants to keep while Ranil W wants to tweak it….and Maithri says he’s going to abolish the Presidency I 100 days …..these are all playing to the gallery talks and with no legal and constitutional substance.
The country to be secure must have leadership not ambiguity. The country needs only one leader, not ‘leaders’ from an alliance with contrary/contradictory/ideologies and views as well as foreign backing. These ingredients do not spell well for the people or the nation post 2015.
Just as the country needs a strong leader, the country definitely needs strong political parties. This is why the country needs to revamp the 2 main political parties and make them stronger and bring into their fold reliable political minds and true leaders not those crossing over at election times when dollars, pounds, green cards, scholarships and foreign backing entices them. Now politicians whose political careers are over because of old age are taking whatever penny’s given to cross over before they enter the permanent departure lounge making a mockery of the Presidential race!
It is for this reason that the two main political parties need to realize that they do not need to prostrate before minority parties that hold them to ransom with demands that are unfair and totally self-centred and in giving in to these minority demands the 2 main political parties dilute their leadership abilities and weaken their ability to lead.
The country needs to have 2 vibrant political parties that stands for the country’s heritage, that treats people with equality and dignity but refuses to divide, separate or demarcate areas as traditional homelands or entertain new cultures that supersede the culture on which the nation was built on. These dynamics need to be set clearly. Why should the country or its leaders try to copy cultures of other countries, or behave like people of other countries. Should we not create our own destiny and be ourselves and not try to be what we are not. It is when we try to adopt what is not indigenous that we end up nowhere people. If the two main political parties can set the basics straight the country is on course for a great future because our brave security forces have removed the greatest obstacle we had – LTTE and no political party should help resurrect it, even if people now for cheap political mileage declare that even Prabakaran is better than President Rajapakse.
Thus, the UNP must not wait silently, the UNP voters must make their voice clear, were they through district/regional UNP representatives kept informed of the decision to field a hired candidate and do the UNP in their hearts like the idea of having to vote for the General Secretary of the SLFP as the common candidate when no common candidate can come to power without the UNP vote and thus it should be a UNP candidate standing for election.
UNP and its vote base should not allow the UNP party to wither into political oblivion. The party must be resurrected, the leader even if it is Ranil W should be made to not compromise the party ever again and the UNP must run as a single party and be the Opposite voice but also the voice that is able to admit when good things are done, warn against bad decisions and suggest useful policies for the future.
The UNP is a proud political party. UNP voters should be proud of their party. UNP should proudly field candidates who are UNP and have been in the UNP. Why should the UNP hire people? How embarrassing is it for UNP voters to go out to vote for a Blue Man thinking he is Green!
Yes, corrupt politicians should go whatever side they belong to. To do that the people must NOT VOTE for corrupt politicians. Therefore, the people should not vote for all the current lot in today’s Parliament. That is the change that the People can bring and should bring. People can’t oppose corruption and vote for corrupt people!
Can UNP voters with their conscience vote for a non-UNP with no assurance of a place for the UNP in a Presidential contest which is about selecting one person. This is the dilemma that UNP voters are facing and what UNP voters should think about.