A tale of two leaders

22 January 2020 12:06 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Someone from the same background as Wickremesinghe and fast losing public appeal is former President Chandrika Kumarathunga

The many battles in the Sri Lanka political field at present underscores one prominent fact; it’s time for two seasoned campaigners to say adieu to politics.   

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President of the country and SLFP stalwart Chandrika Kumaratunga have come under pressure from by the next generation of politicians. Whether they’ll take a cue from this ‘message of rejection’ and call it a day depends on how adamant they are to remain in politics and enjoy perks and the prestige of being in active politics.   

As for Wickremesinghe he is well aware that there is a tide against him that has built within the party. Last week he had to leave a parliament meeting abruptly when UNP members demanded that a vote be taken to decide on whether the ‘Green Party’ needs a poll to pick their  new leader. An overwhelming majority demanded that the poll should be conducted.   

In the absence of Wickremesinghe there was a proposal to make Sajith Premadasa the party leader. Those backing Premadasa had called for a vote taking to obtain the approval of the majority to make him party leader. Thirteen UNPers, all Wickremesinghe loyalists, had left the room by then. As many as 52 party members who were remaining cast their vote for Premadasa to be the party leader.   

Wickremesinghe has often bent his own rules to ensure his survival. He has been a stickler for democracy. But when the majority wanted a vote to decide on whether the party should have a poll to decide on having a ‘contest’ to pick a new leader, Wickremesinghe gave them the slip.   

Wickremesinghe has often bent his own rules to ensure his survival. He has been a stickler for democracy. But when the majority wanted a vote to decide on whether the party should have a poll to decide on having a ‘contest’ to pick a new leader, Wickremesinghe gave them the slip. A party like the UNP will survive on democracy and reforms. It must have a leader who can appeal to the masses

A party like the UNP will survive on democracy and reforms. It must have a leader who can appeal to the masses. The mistake or loophole in the Wickremesinghe way of thinking is that his speeches appeal to the refined class. Often what he says sounds like ‘Greek’ to the average layman; who demands practical and quick solutions to issues from lawmakers.   

Wickremesinghe, as we know, is a lawyer and a citizen of this country with enough wealth. Critics point out that when one considers the last 26 years of Wickremesinghe’s political career he lost more elections than won anything. There is a school of thought that he indulges in politics more as a hobby rather than play that sheet anchor role to reversing the flagging fortunes of a grand old party which has lost its sting.   

Someone from the same background as Wickremesinghe and fast losing public appeal is former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. She has been rejected from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which was founded by her father SWRD Bandaranaike. The party is in the process of taking disciplinary action against Kumaratunga for breaching laws applicable to district organisers. Kumaratunga is accused of betraying the SLFP by not supporting a party decision to throw its weight behind Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the last presidential elections. She instead openly supported NDF candidate Sajith Premadasa who was also at one time the Deputy Leader of SLFP’s main rival party, the United National Party.   


  • The party is in the process of taking disciplinary action against Kumaratunga for breaching laws applicable to district organisers
  • As for Wickremesinghe and Kumarathunga they kept their distance with the less affluent

Kumaratunga like Wickremesinghe has an air about herself. Many have said that both these lawmakers are not open to ideas and shun reforms within the party.   

It’s also interesting to know that both Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe never liked the party members who succeeded them to the party hierarchy. Kumaratunga was always at loggerheads with Mahinda Rajapaksa while Wickremesinghe has always opposed the rise of Premadasa within the party. Wickremesinghe’s and Kumaratunga’s elite family backgrounds could be the reason why they oppose lawmakers from the south who move with the downtrodden masses. As for Wickremesinghe and Kumarathunga they kept their distance with the less affluent even though they wished to have their votes.   

The new generation of politicians don’t give a damn about where a person comes from. For them what matters is where a person wishes to go. 

A lawmaker who thinks on these lines and allows people to ride on his back is former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Two politicians who Mahinda allowed to grow under his shadow were Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila. This way Rajapaksa loyalists have grown in numbers; where as Wickremesinghe saw the vote base he stood on erode under him. This is the very reason why Wickremesinghe opted to avoid contesting the presidential elections in 2010, 2015 and 2020. It now seems so unfair for the big man of the UNP to hold on to the party leadership given that he has no confidence to face an election.   

Lawmakers like Wickremesinghe and Kumarathunga teach us lessons on arrogance. These lessons underscore that arrogance does not look good even when viewed from the back seat of an auditorium. Both can be rude when their backs are against the wall and questions are posed on areas where they have not scored

Lawmakers like Wickremesinghe and Kumarathunga teach us lessons on arrogance. These lessons underscore that arrogance does not look good even when viewed from the back seat of an auditorium. Both can be rude when their backs are against the wall and questions are posed on areas where they have not scored.   

The only little stick they can lean on in politics is that these two figures in Sri Lankan politics are globally known.   

Kumaratunga made a painful exit from politics. The same fate awaits Wickremesinghe. The underlining message for them is ‘go home when the ‘party’ (good times) is over.

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