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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.