- I have never considered Ranil to be a winner
- Sajith was tainted by members of his own party, not the Opposition
- There is no viable alternative to the UNP on the horizon
- There is enough young talent in the party that needs to be nurtured
Tempered by the travail of time, now I am ever ready to accept blame when I go wrong. Further, I admit an ageing brain can misinterpret facts. On seeing the glaring headline “Where did Dr. Upul go wrong” (Daily Mirror, 19 September), I began wondering whether this is happening to me. However, on re-reading my article “Where did Sajith go wrong” (Daily Mirror, 14 September), after carefully studying the comments of Dr Susantha Karunaratne, I realised the practice of mindfulness meditation since retirement, has kept my cerebral function in good order. I am very grateful to Dr Karunaratne, however, for giving me the opportunity to clarify some points about my family’s politics.
Before going into that, may I point out that Dr Karunaratne has misunderstood my sarcastic comments about ageing politicians. In fact, I stressed the need for the next generation of politicians and singled out Sajith Premadasa, stating “As the leaders of the major political parties in Sri Lanka are well past their retirement date, we badly need the second rung leadership. Sajith fits the bill, very well, not merely because of his ancestry. Though born and bred in Colombo, he had been able to set up his base in the deep south, by his own effort. Further, he has been loyal to the United National Party (UNP) throughout his political career, an uncommon occurrence in modern day fickle politics.”
Maybe, circumstances forced Sajith to behave the way he did, but there is no escaping from the fact that it has made the UNP weaker, no doubt contributed by the intransigence of Ranil. A battle that should have been played inside the party was fought in public. It speaks volumes, the very fact that the UNP has not been able to name its presidential candidate, which was supposed to have been done on August 3, even after the presidential election had been declared and the date set. At present, this is the main topic of political humour.
Had Sajith requested only the nomination for presidency and made clear that Ranil could continue to be UNP Leader and the Prime Minister, I am sure Ranil would have agreed, as all he wants is a position of power; not serving the country or the party! Though this seems to be the position now, unfortunately, was not the impression created at the beginning of Sajith’s campaign; maybe, because some of his backers had their own agenda.
I still maintain that Ranil, as the party leader, has the right to contest the presidency. If the big-wigs of the UNP were concerned about his leadership and they felt he was becoming a liability, he should have been removed from that position long ago. Any decent leader of a political party, in any democratic country, would have resigned had a scandal of the magnitude of the alleged bond-scam occurred. Ranil never took responsibility and the party should have insisted he does instead of the attempted cover-up. Having protected him then, for whatever reason, directly or indirectly, and blaming him now, is nothing short of hypocrisy.
Dr Karunaratne alleges that I stated in my article “Ranil will win and Sajith will reduce the chance of a UNP victory”. I have never considered Ranil to be a winner and have stated it many a time, which has irked his supporters; so much so that, one of Ranil’s blindly dedicated supporters attacked me personally, with a piece in a UNP supporting website. I seem to be getting attacks from both sides! By the way, what I stated was “Even if Ranil relents and allows Sajith to be nominated the UNP candidate, it is a wounded Sajith, a tainted Sajith that faces the electorate, with a significantly reduced chance of a UNP victory.” Sajith was tainted by members of his own party, not the opposition. However, considering what has transpired since, it is very likely that Sajith would be nominated the UNP candidate and has to play ‘catch-up’ with Gota, who had a head start thanks to the ‘Ali Pore’.
Perhaps, Dr Karunaratna is unaware that I have been appealing to the UNP hierarchy for a very long time and ended an article I wrote in 2013, when UNP was at the lowest ebb whilst being in the opposition, titled “RIP, UNP? Hope not!”:
Maybe, circumstances forced Sajith to behave the way he did, but there is no escaping from the fact that it has made the UNP weaker, no doubt contributed by the intransigence of Ranil
“A vibrant Opposition is one of the cornerstones of Democracy and is badly needed at this juncture in Sri Lanka. There is no viable alternative to the UNP on the horizon. Hence my plea to all the big-wigs of the UNP. Please forget your petty differences and spend your energies on building the party than fighting each other. There is enough young talent in the party that needs to be nurtured than suppressed! Even if not for the party, you owe it to the country. Rather than RIP, may long live UNP!” (The Island, 25 November 2013)
Unfortunately, Dr Karunaratne alleges my criticism of Mangala to be based, purely, on family politics and states:
“Dr. Upul has devoted several paragraphs to attack Mangala Samaraweera for supporting Sajith. But most people in Matara know why. Mangala’s father, Mahanama Samaraweera defeated Dr. Upul’s father Justin Wijayawardhana then sitting UNP MP for Matara, at the General Election held in 1960 July. That was the first grudge of Dr. Upul against Samaraweeras. That was not all. At a couple of subsequent elections, Mangala as SLFP candidate, not only defeated Dr. Upul’s brother Ranjan - the then UNP candidate but also, since becoming a UNPer, Mangala was responsible in getting Ranjan posted from the Matara electorate to Hakmana electorate through Ranil, causing the end of the political career of Ranjan. It as therefore, no surprise for Dr. Upul making hay while the sun shines.”
Had he read my article carefully he would have realised at least one paragraph criticising Mangala was not mine, but from a press statement of Sajith! Inadvertently, he has done us a great favour and I am very thankful to him for enlightening us on why Ranil made my brother leave the UNP.
My father, Justin, who joined the UNP through Sinhala Maha Sabha, but refused to join SWRD in spite of offer of high office by him, was the first ever to win Matara seat for the UNP, in March 1960, defeating Mahanama, but losing to him in July the same year. We are not from a privileged family and my father was an ordinary teacher who was with the people during all their needs. Undaunted by defeat, he built the electorate and was sure of winning Matara in 1965, but was forced to contest Kamburupitiya instead, as the UNP had to accommodate Mahanama who crossed over to the UNP with C P De Silva. He lost the election, but paved the way for my cousin, Chandrakumara, and my brother, Ranjan, to become members of parliament, long enough to earn pensions!
In spite of all of them being with the UNP, Ranil refused nomination to my brother on the pretext that he did not have enough money to spend on the election! Dr Karunaratne makes it very clear that Mangala, who jumped from the SLFP, got Ranil to do this. Wonder why?
Mangala has done nothing wrong to me personally and I have never met him. I can assure my criticism has nothing to do with family politics. Though I have lived half of my working life abroad, my feelings for my Motherland remain undiminished. What Nanda Malini sings “Heenen mage ratai, nidiyana hema rema” is true for me as well.
I criticise Mangala simply because he acts as an agent of USA demonstrating unpatriotic behaviour. There is no other foreign minister who has sponsored or co-sponsored a resolution against his own country. Mangala purposely hurts Buddhist sentiments, unjustly. If Dr Karunaratne can point out which of my criticisms are wrong, rather than firing cheap political shots, I would be more than happy to tender an apology to Mangala.
Having supposedly used his Kurundu polu gang against Sajith’s supporters in 2014, is it not paradoxical that Mangala was the first to announce Sajith’s candidacy? Considering Mangala’s pedigree, one wonders whether Uncle Sam is behind the project?