Change UNP; Change the Nation

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This is not the type of the post I thought I would make. Politicians don’t SWOT analysis their parties on the net. Barack Obama discusses everything under the sun, but not the Democratic Party issues.

Ajith P. Perera too is very much a part of United National Party. So everyone expects Ajith P. Perera to debug the system before opening his mind in public.

On the other hand, what the heck? This is the age of openness. UNP itself stands on the very pillars of democracy and pluralism. It encourages, not suppresses dissent views. Thus I guess a dosage of straight talk does no harm. Not even at a point Ajith P. Perera is standing for public office. (I am waiting for my number to make the big announcement!)

Added to that some readers, most long term supporters of UNP, have raised genuine concerns about the future of UNP. I have an obligation to answer them.

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Is there anything wrong with UNP?

UNP has not shown a creditable performance in a series of recent elections. This will positively change in the forthcoming Western Provincial Council elections, but I will come to that later. For the moment let us only focus on past performance.

It is easy to provide excuses. SLFP shamelessly abuse public resources in its election campaigns; state media offers virtually no space for opposition while private media is threatened to follow suit; some self-concerned UNPers have already crossed the floor to badmouth their former colleagues. The list is endless.

In spite of all that, we cannot solely blame external factors for our poor performance. The genuine UNP supporters like to see the dawn of another JRJ or Premadasa era. When they see we don’t deliver, they feel annoyed. I do not blame them. We are not perfect. We need to find what’s wrong and address.

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Where we have gone wrong?

The opinions vary.

A large section seems to think that UNP should blindly support Kurakkan uncle’s war agenda to earn its popularity. I vehemently disagree.

Firstly, why UNP, the only political party with a clear stance on the ethnic issue follow others’ formulae? UNP fervently opposes terrorism of any kind, but simultaneously believes the long term solution to ethnic issue can only be political. ‘Military solution’ is an oxymoron. War victories by the current regime will only be meaningful if supplemented with corrective measures to age old Tamil grievances. Otherwise, terrorism will soon raise its ugly head behind another acronym. Elimination of JVP in 1971 in a genocidal manner did not prevent Sinhala youth taking arms two decades later. Why should that change for Tamil youth? As long as breeding grounds exist, procreate the mosquitoes.

Secondly, the extended intentions of war agenda are dangerous and damaging to the nation in the long run. The war is not just to eliminate LTTE (if so, UNP finds no problem backing it) but also a long list that includes human rights of the Tamils in North and East; Tamil political parties first and the entire opposition later; any dissent voices including those of journalists and eventually the very foundation of democracy. All what Kurakkan uncle wants it to create Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe type dictatorship and continue the legacy of feudal rulers.

Sorry, No. Whatever the name, UNP has no intention of blindly supporting such a feudal dictatorship. We stand for democracy and not feudalism.

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The policies of United National Party are crystal clear. They remain largely unchanged from the D. S. Senanayake days and will not change in the foreseeable future. Let me repeat in a nutshell and as I understand.

1. Unity and Equality: United National Party, as its name rightly suggests, is the party of united nationalistic political forces. UNP believes in equality. We do not think one’s ethnicity, race, gender, religion or any other attribute should stand in the way him/her enjoying citizens’ rights and privileges. We believe the country belongs to all Sri Lankans, and not to one ethnic or religious group.

2. Devolution of Power: UNP believes in an undivided (Eksath) Lanka; but not necessarily a system that concentrates power in Colombo. We have seen the flaws of such Colombo-centric governance and introduced Provincial Councils as a solution, which SLFP and JVP initially rejected, but now faithfully follow. We believe in devolving power, not only to Tamils in North but to Sinhalese in Hambanthota as well, instead of accumulating it in the hands of dictators. We believe empowering people not only at regional level but every stratum.

3. Economy: We believe in free markets; liberalization and globalization. We do not espouse unrealistic socialist dreams. We trust the private sector for its abilities. We do not equate suppressing the private sector to nation building. Economy has always thrived under previous UNP governments and there is no doubt it will continue to do so under a future UNP government.

4. Poverty Alleviation: Nobody understands the necessity of poverty alleviation than the UNP. We do not think poverty can be eliminated by redistributing public wealth. UNP had once spearheaded the most effective poverty alleviation program in Sri Lanka, under President Premadasa. What we look for is that. Beat poverty by creating more and more employment opportunities. Let poor stand on their own feet.

5. Employment Generation: UNP strongly believes more and more employment opportunities are the only way towards prosperity. It plans to achieve full employment by developing the private sector and not fattening the already overloaded government structure. To stimulate private sector growth UNP will also give utmost importance to infrastructure building. These may not be the highest priorities in populist agendas but we think in long term and not just the next six years.

I guess all UNP lovers should be proud that in spite of the immense pressure that we still stick to our original principles. We have no intention of changing these policies to enter the populist game.

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If not policies, what can be the problem?

As I understand UNP faces serious organizational issues. That happens not just in political parties, but they are more vulnerable. SLFP underwent a similar period when in opposition. It won only 8 seats in 1977 election under the leadership of Sirima Bandaranaike. It could not come out of that misery for 17 long years. However, under the new popular leadership of Chandrika Bandaranaike, it did not take long for SLFP to regain the lost steam.

The poor performance at the recent Provincial Council elections was nothing but a symptom of poor organization. While working in the Eastern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces I have witnessed this firsthand. I visited many areas untouched till then. Given time limitations, even I could not visit so many areas. We surely need more man power. Strong and committed organisaers at ground level was the need of the hour of UNP at the Provincial Council elections. We could have obviously done much better with a stronger organization.

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So, what is the solution?

Fortunately we see the remedial measures are already on the way and an improvement of the situation. Western Provincial Council will be the Waterloo for SLFP. UNP is geared to easily win all three districts. We have a solid unbeatable organization in most areas. The challenge is only to repeat that victory at the next Provincial council elections, to be followed by the General Election.

What UNP seriously need are true leaders who can make that victory happen. Fortunately we see many dynamic leaders emerging from the Western Province. This phenomenon needs to be replicated in the other parts of the country. That needs Change; stating from the Change in the way we act.

Barack Obama could make that Change within a period of one year. What made the ‘One woman race’ to end with a first American-African in White House was his sheer determination and organization. I see the same happening in the UNP now.

We are ready to Change the nation. Before that we need to Change UNP.

Let us start with the Western Province.

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9 thoughts on “Change UNP; Change the Nation

  1. I really endorse the views expressed by Ajith. He is very correct. The UNP policies are really good. It has problems only with respect to organization.

    Ajith says: “As I understand UNP faces serious organizational issues.”, “The poor performance at the recent Provincial Council elections was nothing but a symptom of poor organization.”, “Strong and committed organisaers at ground level was the need of the hour of UNP at the Provincial Council elections.”, “UNP is geared to easily win all three districts.”, “we see many dynamic leaders emerging from the Western Province.”, “Let us start with the Western Province.”

    Since there is nothing wrong with the UNP policies and what needs to corrected is the party oragnization I would like to suggest that all the organizers of the UNP in the Western Province who fail to get elected in the forthcoming Western Provincial Council election be chased away from the party as soon as the election results are announced.

  2. Ajith,
    Hats off to you for your bravery – discuss such a sensitive subject openly. I quite agree with you on most of your views except the predition of UNP winning in the forthcoming election. Anyway good luck to you.
    Ragu

  3. Thanks Mr.Perera..its enlightening to see young organisers like you realising the real problem…specially at a time where some senior MPs dont seem to understand the issue and try to make party leader the scape goat for all ills.

    Changing the party leader will be like “changing the pillow to cure the headache”..it is the UNPers who are sadly demoralising them selves by chanting “ranil cant win”

    I hope you can prove the critics wrong by winning Bandaragama. Best of Luck!

  4. Rukman Senanayke, Assistant Leader of the UNP has revealed the position of the UNP with respect to the present war effort by the government (The Island, March 03, 2009) More than one week has elapsed and Rukman has not denied this news report.

    Rukman Senanayake: “The official line of our party was that we should support the war effort.” “But what I am saying is that we did not publicise our official line to the effect that we are for the war effort and the eradication of terrorism.”

    The Island Staffer: “You are the only UNP politician I have met who keeps insisting that the official line of the party is to support the war. If this is the official line, how is it that its so unknown in the country?”

    Rukman Senanayake: “That is because some MPs started belittling the war effort and that was given wide publicity and the people started thinking otherwise. But officially we have taken the position that the party should support the government to eradicate terrorism completely.”

    source: http://www.island.lk/2009/03/03/features7.html

  5. Everybody thinks that Ranil should go. Everybody thinks that Ranil must be replaced by somebody and believes that anybody can replace Ranil as anybody is better than Ranil.

    I think differently. I believe that instead of replacing Ranil with somebody he must be replaced by a person who can defeat Mahinda at the next Presidential election. When we are told of an alternative leader, who should be appointed as the next UNP leader, we should ask ourselves whether we are convinced that this “better-than-Ranil” person is good enough to defeat Mahinda. Until we come across such a person I honestly believe that there is no point in removing Ranil from the leadership.

  6. @Ajith

    Now only I read today’s (16/03/2009) Dinamina (http://www.dinamina.lk/2009/03/16/) Taxi Abey has opened his mouth (http://www.dinamina.lk/2009/03/16/_art.asp?fn=u0903161). Before this also the government tried to make him spill the beans but somehow it was prevented. But this time I think the government has succeeded and I think this is perfect timing. The government has precisely targeted the tomorrow’s (17/03/2009) voting on the suitability of Ranil Wickremesinghe to remain as the party leader. (http://www.nation.lk/2009/03/15/news11.htm) I think Taxi Abey’s revelations have given a chance (Hey wait a minute. This occurred to me just now. Today is Monday. So Taxi Abey must have made that statement yesterday (Sunday). Is the government authorities working on Sundays too?) for anti-Ranil rantings. Poor Ranil.

  7. The opposition leader to be questioned / arrested ? ? ?

    http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=7307

    Ranil to be interrogated regarding delivering military and communication equipment to LTTE; Ranil to go abroad

    (Lanka-e-News, March 16, 2009, 6.05 PM) The special police team that questioned Gamini Aberathna alias Taxi Abe, former director of the Airport and Aviation Authority are likely to record a statement from the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe as well soon. The interrogation is about delivering imported military, communication and other equipment to LTTE in Vanni and Aberathna has divulged certain information regarding the matter.

    The investigation is conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department, Colombo Crime Division and Customs Department jointly.

    Gamini Aberathna is considered a close associate of the former UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrama. The police team interrogated him around five hours about the pressure on him to release the imported equipment for the LTTE without inspection of the customs and the airport. He has divulged information of the persons involved in the deal and the police are likely to interrogate more than ten persons accordingly, Lanka-e-News learns.

    Meanwhile, Aberathna is being further interrogated. He has reportedly said that he received many instructions through the direct telephone line between him and then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. The name of a former Defense Minister has also been mentioned during the questioning.
    Army in operations recovered machines used by the LTTE for bomb manufacturing, lathe machines, a state-of-the-art printing press, satellite communication equipment etc. from Wanni. It is revealed now that these equipments were delivered to Wanni with the support of the customs as well. Lanka-e-News learns that the police are to interrogate individuals that held relevant positions in that period. Former Chairman of the Board of Investment is also to be questioned.

    Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe is getting ready for a two week foreign tour, sources say.

  8. “I am ready to quit leadership,” Ranil sends messages through three persons

    http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=7312

    (Lanka-e-News, March 18, 2009, 11.25 AM, second edition 2.45 PM)

    United National Party (UNP) General Secretary Thissa Aththanayaka, Chairman Jayawickrama Perera and John Amarathunga announced the UNP MPs as the adjourned parliamentary group meeting was recalled yesterday evening (17) at Sirikotha that the party leader Ranil Wickramasinghe had agreed to quit the party leadership and to share power with others.

    The three seniors of the UNP proposed the parliamentary group should be held in absence of Mr. Wickramasinghe�s providing him with the opportunity to quit respectfully without being embarrassed.

    Sajith Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekara asked the three seniors to say the leader to come and express his stance since they could not trust the statement. They pointed out that similar pledges were not abide with in earlier occasions.

    But the three seniors that conveyed the party leader�s message asked not to embarrass him.

    Twenty four MPs participated in the meeting. A committee was appointed to decided the position Mr. Wickramasinghe would be given. The committee comprises Rukman Senanayaka, Jayawickrama Perera, Thissa Aththanayaka, Lakshman Senevirathna, S. B, Disanayaka and Sajith Premadasa. ‘Lanka-e-News’ learns that the committee met at the parliament today (18) 11 AM. Sajith Premadasa has sent a letter asking permission not to attend the meeting.

    When several MPs asked who would take the responsibility of the statement of Mr. Wickramasinghe, the three senior MPs that announced his decision to the meeting admitted the responsibility.

    MP Lakshman Senevirathna pointed out that Wickramasinghe had told the same following the defeat of the Presidential. He said that he transmitted the statement of the leader through a loudspeaker to his people despite he remained in party leadership up to date.

    MP Johnston Fernando said that the party leader had always performed such tricks sending similar messages and saying later that he had not done so. He asked from the party seniors not to cheat the MPs and to get into trouble themselves.

    General Secretary Aththanayaka, Jayawickrama Perera and John Amarathunga said that they would not allow such things to happen in the party.

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