Thursday, 6 May 2010

Re-organisation of the UNP

Therer is a proposal to reorganise the UNP. The UNP as the oldest political party deserves a reorganisation as it has not so far contributed to Sri Lanka’s social or economic growth. Only contribution it made in its inception was the bringing in of all communities together to work for the independence of Sri Lanka from its colonial rule that had lasted for nearly three hundred years.

But the Independence alone was not sufficient to establish the sense of freedom - being a Nation a part entire. It had to await the launch of a new political party the SLFP by SWRD Bandaranayake for the emancipation of the country from the bonds of colonialism. Therefore from the very inception the UNP was unable to make a substantial contribution to the people to make them understand what it is to be an Independent Nation.

From time to time the political environment of the country had changed between the UNP and the SLFP. The more progressive parties like the LSSP and the CP could not contribute much to the progress of the country on their own without being a complementary to the SLFP. UNP being a pro western and anti Communist party did not have that fortune of being connected to the ideas of progress of the left and were always saddled with parties that could not give new ideas to take the country on a different path to progress and development. UNP how ever had a short spate of having a left wing politician within its fold Mr. Philip Gunawardhana, for a short while but his contribution of leftist ideas to the UNP was nil.

What ever social and economic progress Sri Lanka made was under the SLFP and their leftwing partners. Each time a SLFP Government was defeated and the UNP came back to power, UNP only stepped backwards from progress until the next SLFP government came into power to put the country back on the rails of social and economic development.

The UNP therefore remained a party of certain interested power blocks, without being a political party of the people. The UNP was a party of the capitalists, the business community and in a country where the small capital that it had was mainly in the hands of a few who had no progressive ideas UNP failed to contribute to the development of the country in a big way.

At its inception UNP under D.S.Senanayake had carried out a few progressive development projects, such as the Yoda Ela irrigation scheme, Norton Bridge and Laxapana, the settlement of Sinhala villagers in the North , and the Free Education. These were the contributions that go to the credit of the UNP of that period. Subsequently the Mahaveli Scheme and development of Villages through Gam Udawa, the clearing and renovating religious areas such as Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Kataragama and Kandy go as well to the credit of UNP under Jayawardhane and Premadasa.

On the whole UNP did little for the economic development of the country until latterly under Ranil Wickramasinghe there was a slight economic growth, but that period also showed lot of misconceived economic ideas put into practice which were not positive to the later growth of Sri Lankan economy.

On the whole the UNP a conservative political Party which catered to the business community and the well to do local landed gentry did not find its proper place in Sri Lanka and was not on the whole a Party that contributed to Sri Lanka’s social, cultural or economic growth.

The writer has no political interests, and was never in the Diplomatic Service of Sri Lanka nor does he know any minsters of the present Government or those of the Governments before. He does not know the present President of Sri Lanka nor any previous Presidents, therefore his only interest is in seeing the development of his motherland of which he is a simple citizen. Therefore, he writes neither to receive accolade from one political party or negate the importance of another. It is just an attempt to evaluate the situation and give his opinion on how the UNP could perhaps be reorganised to be a political party of the people.

It is only now that the political scene in Sri Lanka has seriously changed. It is this political change that has made the members of the UNP think of the necessity to reorganise the UNP. It is time that some one comes forward to speak of the necessity to change the make up of the oldest political party the UNP before it disappears into the past memory of the people. If it were to continue as it is, it would soon be the phantom of its own past. The UNP has contributed nothing in the way of progress and development to the country in the recent past, and very little before.

The UNP if it had adopted a different attitude towards the other main political party the SLFP, it may perhaps have evolved differently and perhaps won the respect of the people, and a certain popularity along side the SLFP. But instead, the UNP adopted an aggressive diametrically opposite attitude thus appealing more to the aggressive, pompous and rude elements of the society. The UNP leadership on political platforms did not inspire the ordinary people; the simple, gentle , and the peace loving.

When the UNP leadership knew that its opponents were more respected and loved, it should have gone along with the people to accept them as good people, but show in a more gentle ways that the politics they have adopted were not the best. Then the people would have listened and perhaps changed their views. But the rhetoric of Tissa Attanayake, Lakshman Kiriella, Ravi Karunanayake, and Ranil Wickrmasinghe were annoying and could not attract the people to their side. UNP thus distanced itself from the ordinary people.

UNP had committed too many mistakes the 1983 riots were the results of a mistakes of UNP. The CFA was another mistake of UNP. The UNP had accumulated such errors and did not accept them as its mistakes. The executive Presidency was the child of UNP. It was used by JR in a negative way. Taking away the civic rights of Mrs. Bandatranaike was another mistake.

JR’s UNP depended too much on America, and when India intervened when the UNP was winning against the terrorists, he expected American intervention which was not forth coming and UNP had no alternative but to give in to Rajiv Gandhi and sign the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The UNP of Ranil Wickramasinghe had not learnt any lessons from the mistakes UNP had accumulated in the past. The result was that the people relied more and more in Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse. Executive Presidency in the hands of an honest politician, loyal to the service to the people was a boon at the time the country was infested with the cancer of terrorism. That honest politician loyal to the people was Mahinda Rajapakse, to whom executive Presidency paid dividends.

Though some criticise him for a “record” cabinet, it showed Mahinda Rajapakse’s cunning statesmanship and showed his ability to use the worst of a situation to the best of his advantage.

If the UNP played its cards well at the time it would have come off the winner. There would not have been an “exodus” of UNP seniors to the fold of President Mahinda Rajapakse, if Ranil Wickramasinghe had agreed to work in cooperation with the President Mahinda Rajapakse, at the time the country was in danger of being divided by the ruthless terrorists. And the people would have appreciated it and accepted the UNP for an alternative government when the time was ripe.

That in fact was the fall of the UNP, having failed to make use of a situation to its advantage, it was left like a man caught in the flood waters without even a weed to hang on to.

The fact that the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickramasinghe has still not learnt his lesson is evident from the fact that he has not been able to be honest to himself, by handing over his resignation from the leadership of the UNP. That is the best he could have done ,for which the people would have been grateful to him and even pardoned him for his errors.

Those who want to reorganise UNP should take into consideration all this, and make radical changes in its policies. UNP is known as a pro-western conservative party. It had been able to dupe certain section of the people at grass root level, not by adopting people friendly political policies, but by giving certain advantages to its followers , over the rival groups of people.

UNP should also take into consideration that we are a developing country, and in being in that position we should adopt neutral political policies, without being “pro” any one sector, or “anti “ another sector. We should be able to take advantage from both East and West. Russia and China had been our greatest strength at a time of need, and that fact should be kept in mind by those who want to reorganise UNP.

A viable opposition is healthy for democracy, and we wish all the best for those who will reform and reorganise the UNP.

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