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Need a JR? Poorest of UNP’s disciplinarians

26 August 2019 12:31 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Colvin R. de Silva’s prediction on executive presidency is seen a reality in contemporary political progress

  • SLFP, obviously drawing its last breathe under President Sirisena.  Sajith instead of seeking or conniving  for short-cuts to success

 

A successful leader is one who can defend against the various temptations and baits of the political field; of strong character, with both charisma and conscience and willing to listen to the wishes of the common man and to represent them closely with courage. He should  stand up and say what he wishes to be said– rather than tell the people what they want to hear and is willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions for the greater good of society. 
Last Thursday, a Daily Mirror columnists urged the impatient deputy leader in an article entitled, “UNP committing collective Hara-kiri” with an admirable word of advice on how he should climb the ladder, though his first paragraph included a few controversial statements pertaining to disciplinarians in UNP leadership in the past –he says, 

‘The UNP used to be a disciplined party. When party members, stalwarts or others, went off course from the strict code of discipline which it imposed upon itself, they were punished, without exception. That was the code of conduct under which JR Jayewardene built up the party from 1973 onwards. In fact, it was R. Premadasa -- one of the first offenders at the time -- who went astray during the Dudley Senanayake era and was disciplined by the astute and stern leadership of JR, the leader who succeeded Dudley. Premadasa’s ‘Purawesi Peramuna’ (Citizens’ Front) was dissolved; Premadasa started playing a team-game again - which is party-politics - and the UNP was in power in no time, with a historic and unprecedented majority in Parliament.’

Dudley, the strict disciplinarian

Junius Richard Jayawardene, the evil whiz kid of Sri Lankan politics, who practiced indiscipline within a party as second in command could not impose discipline among his subordinates once he become a leader. JR himself was an undisciplined politician. He revolted against Leader Dudley Senanayake, a clash that ended in Hulfstdorf. When the UNP  decided against his proposal to support the government he threatened to quit the party with a few others and join Sirimavo government in 1972; he in fact negotiated with her. LSSP, the Marxist partner in United Front government vehemently opposed the idea, saying “if JR enters through the backdoor we will exit through the front door.” JR was ‘charge-sheeted’ by Dudley Senanayake with the approval of the working committee. 
JR after the death of Dudley took over the leadership and made Premadasa the deputy, the Purawesi Peramuna died a natural death. He was compelled to seek undated letters of resignation from his men for this reason.

 

"Junius Richard Jayawardene, the evil whiz kid of Sri Lankan politics, who practiced indiscipline within a party as second in command could not impose discipline among his subordinates once he become a leader"


Dudley sacked his predecessor, Sir John Kotalawala from his first cabinet in 1952 for his covetous act of publishing a scandalous document called ‘Premier Stakes’. The matter was settled amicably.
There had been quite a few instances of tolerating, ignoring and even encouraging indiscipline among his supporters and officials,by this ‘astute and stern leader’ JR.To quote just a couple of such acts; firstly, promoting a police officer who was punished by the courts for indiscipline and secondly, declaring the act of party hooligans pelting stones at Judges residences for delivering a verdict unfavorable to his government, as a right of citizen’s under democracy. Let’s not talk about his attitude on the criminals of the 1983 pogrom that included some party hierarchy close to him.

Colvin R. de Silva’s acumen

In 1978, under JR’s Five-Star democracy, Sirimavo was deprived from contesting elections.  SLFP could not come to a consensus on a candidate in 1983. Delay caused the leftist combine to field Dr. Colvin R. De Silva who lost the contest far behind Kobbekaduwa, who finished second.
Colvin drew to JR’s Ward Place residence to congratulate his school mate. Alighting from his car, Colvin saw JR walking up to his limousine and called, ‘Dickie just a moment.’JR looked back. “I only came to congratulate you on your victory,” and he walked up to JR to shake hands and said, “Dickie, I must tell you this, abolish this Executive Presidential system, because next man will find it hard to keep their political parties united, and that will lead to chaos in 
the country”. 
The wisdom of the veteran proved with one major party which ruled the country for 35 years ripped under Executive, Maithripala Sirisena, fortunately not symmetrically, but in a 95:5 ratio.  True to his words, President Premadasa’s UNP split. President Kumaratunga’s SLFP faced the same fate. President Rajapaksa’s SLFP also split in end-2014. Today, the other giant which ruled for 36 years, the UNP is in doldrums and is on the verge of a major split as well. 
In recent times, democracies have faced the difficulty of working with non-democratic political parties. In determining whether a political party is non-democratic, attention has focused on the party’s practices. They should promote the parties’ obedience not only to democratic objectives and actions but also to internal structure. 

DS called explanation from Bandaranaike in 1949

Part-extracts from original minutes register of UNP—[courtesy JR Jayewardene Centre]…..
A Working Committee meeting was held at Temple Trees on August 8, 1949, at 9.15 pm., presided by Senanayake. Present: SWRD Bandaranaike –deputy leader. (Late arrival), Sir John Kotalawala, T.B. Jayah…..etc. After the minutes, Sir John begged for leave to bring a ‘matter of great urgency and importance’ before the house. He placed before the meeting a copy of the ‘Times of Ceylon’ of  August 8 (same day) and read there from the report of a speech made by SWRD at a meeting of the Singhala Maha Sabha [SMS] and invited the house to consider what action, if any, they should take, as the speech, he insisted on was extremely harmful to the interest of the Party—a motion was adopted, to wit, following a discussion in which the members unanimously agreed on a resolution, to wit,

 

"In 1978, under JR’s Five-Star democracy, Sirimavo was deprived from contesting elections.  SLFP could not come to a consensus on a candidate in 1983. Delay caused the leftist combine to field Dr. Colvin R. De Silva who lost the contest far behind Kobbekaduwa, who finished second"


1. “that in the opinion of the committee the speech…contained, (a) matters which were incorrect in point of fact and, (b) opinion which bought  or were calculated to bring the Party into ridicule and disgrace thereby undermining the confidence of the public ….2. That this matter be taken up before the monthly meeting of WC to be held at Temple Trees on 15/8/49…to consider action…3. Secretary to write immediately to Bandaranaike, inquiring the correctness of the report…get him to make an account…discuss it at next meeting…”
Bandaranaike’s answer was tabled at monthly meeting on August 15, where he spoke of newspaper report, ‘…inaccurate in some aspects’ in reporting and ‘…conveying an inaccurate impression’. Committee decided to write to the newspaper highlighting every point raised in the statement. One of the points reported therein attributed to Bandaranaike said,
“…no significant question was ever placed before the EC of the Party; it had never met. At the end of the year the members had to play the part of ‘yes-man’—to which SWRD replied, “I said, Parties in Ceylon, both in the past and the present had displayed a tendency not sufficiently to consult party organisations when important questions arose, the UNP was falling into the same tendency and in its best interest this should be remedied.”

Strategy for Sajith

SLFP, obviously drawing its last breathe under President Sirisena.  Sajith instead of seeking or conniving  for short-cuts to success, he must be focused on what could keep helping him catapult upward—no political goal is out of reach if one takes up the game with a strategy. A good political leader requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the largest number of people. Most of all, leadership requires statesmanship –not just being another  politician. Having the honesty and eagerness to stand up for what is right, even if it means losing an election.
The writer can be contacted at -  kksperera1@gmail.com

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