Ranil has done it again – all by himself
Posted on December 8th, 2009

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Each time Ranil Wickremesinghe tries to lift the UNP up it sinks a foot or two deeper in the mud in which it is located right now.. Each time he tries to raise his head he is knocked on the head by his own stupidity. Each time he thinks that he has stitched up the best deal for himself, the party or the nation every stitch comes apart at the seams. Each time he blunders it has diminished the image of the UNP and prospects of recovering from repeated defeats at the polls.

 The latest fiasco is Gen (retd.) Sarath Fonseka. For a brief while Wickremesinghe’s loyalists were elated that their leader had found the best deal to save the party. But even before the race could begin he is back at square one. Instead of rallying the party behind him he has once again created another irreparable rift. He thinks that his party is like pappadam “”…” made to be broken. Breaking up his party has been his specialty and Mahinda Rajapakse should not forget to present Wickremesinghe with the Deshabandu or Desmanaya award for his incomparable services to his own failure in politics.

 Despite all his political sukkuruth- thangs, Wickremesinghe is facing a mega crisis which may be his last. First he confessed that he can’t win and opted for an outsider to save him and his party. Now his National Organiser, S. B. Dissanayake, has quit confirming that not only Wickremesinghe but even his nominee, Sarath Fonseka can’t win. If Wickremesinghe can’t get his National Organiser behind him how does he propose to get the rest of the nation behind him? How can a leader who divides his own party for the umpteenth time ever dream of uniting the nation? How can a leader who can’t win the confidence of his own party win the confidence of the people at large?

 Why is it that every big move he makes leads to a major split in the party? Whatever one thinks of S. B. Dissanayake as a person he was seen as an asset to the party. The UNPers had to admit “”…” even though grudgingly “”…” that Dissanayake was a more capable leader than Wickremesinghe. He may not be the one who could win the hearts and minds of the elite but his organizing capabilities made him a better alternative to Wickremesinghe at the grassroot level. In provoking Dissanayake to leave the party, Wickremesinghe has once again confirmed that he is a failed leader whose propensity to break up his own party is greater than holding it in his firm grip.

 And the latest split has come at the worst time ever. This is a time that he can’t lose a single vote let alone losing party stalwarts. All what he hoped to gain by taking cover behind Sarath Fonseka has been demolished by his short-sighted policy of going for an outsider to save him and whatever is left of his party. Nor is this the first time he blundered by throwing his lot with the outsiders. He did this earlier when he embraced Mangala Samaraweera and offered him not only the deputy leadership of the party but also the premiership if he helped to topple the Rajapakse government. Naturally, this riled the senior members who marched out. Now he has embraced Sarath Fonseka against the wishes of a significant section of the party. Even those who did not cross over saw this as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the UNP, including its symbol. S. B. Dissanayake read it as a personal blow to him. In running behind outsiders Wickremesinghe seeks to protect himself by deliberately leaving the insiders out. Obviously, when he runs behind outsiders he is confirming that he has no faith in his insiders. This tactic has cost him and the party dearly. And at the end of each move he has been forced to retreat with egg on his face. Tragically, his dismal performance at the national and at the party levels has earned him only the wrath of his own cadres who, along with the rest of the nation, question his capacity to lead. There is no one to blame except himself.

 He is the most ill-fated political leader of our time. He is so pathetic that one does not know whether to cry with him or laugh at him. What is he left with now? There is Sarath Fonseka, of course, who has joined a defeated political army that is fast losing its cadres and top commanders. When he was with Mahinda Rajapakse he could recruit foot soldiers by the thousands. After he joined Wickremesinghe he finds that the best commanders and cadres are running away. When the top commanders are abandoning their posts what hope is there for sappers to stick with the leader? How on earth did a strategist like Gen. Fonseka fall into a black hole like the UNP?

 He is finding that the battle field was far more comfortable and straightforward than the twists and turns in the political arena. In the battle field he gave orders over the phone and they were executed to perfection. Now he can’t get things moving in the direction he wants even after meeting the political commanders face-to-face. He is learning slowly but surely that his chances of achieving what he wants are slipping away from him with each new development, despite his renowned leadership qualities, mainly because he is with a bunch of heterogeneous politicos yoked to pull in different directions. If he wants to win on his commendable leadership qualities then he must find a more dynamic and coherent collection of forces. But it is too late for that. He is stuck with what he has and not all his leadership qualities can save him or his gang of no-hopers.

 Fonseka should know by now that leadership qualities are not worth talking about if they can’t achieve pre-determined goals. This whole election is about electing a leader who can guide the nation in the post-war period. Leadership matters in the battles to win peace just as much as it mattered in winning the war. Page 1 picture of the Sunday Island (December 6, 209) tells it all. It presents Karu Jayasuriya, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sarath Fonseka “”…” all wearing the green badge of the UNP “”…” sitting in the front row, next to each other, leaving the readers to guess whether the UNP holding its annual convention at Welissara has a leader at all.

 Or to put it more bluntly, if the leader of the UNP is scared to run for presidential election “”…” the highest office in the land — knowing that he will get another beating and if he is now hiding behind his nominee whom he thinks has a better chance than him which of the three wearing the UNP badge can claim to be the leader? Karu, of course, is in the outer though he is in the picture. So if, for instance, a Martian comes down from his UFO and asks, say Tissa Attanayake, to take him to his leader where will Attanayake go? This is also the question that the Sri Lankan earthlings are asking: if the UNP, the Grand Old Party, can’t produce a leader to contest for the most powerful office in the land why is it in politics at all? .

 In the picture, lame-duck Wickremesinghe is shown flashing a deferential smile, cozying up to his new leader, Sarath Fonseka, while Karu Jayasuriya, is expressing his happiness, eyeing not Wickremesinghe but Fonseka. The relaxed stance of Sarath is already that of the leader of the UNP with the green badge revealing his new political identity.

 This public stance of Sarath Fonseka, however, is bound to throw the JVPers off balance. True, they have agreed to campaign on the same platform with the UNP but do they expect their nominee for the presidential race to be pinned down by the green badge? Or are the “rathu sahodarayas” (a colourful phrase borrowed from Prabath Sahabandu) colour blind? Or has Somawansa turned into Soma-hansa, after swallowing Fonseka’s swan? Soma-hansa’s coalition with the UNP is typical of the lumpen Marxists who eventually ended up in the bosom of the UNP or SLFP. JVP has been in both bosoms now. This clearly has turned the JVP into a Jathika Vihulukarayangay (Jokers) Party.

 Since he prefers to be taken seriously, it is legitimate to ask when the “Common Candidate” wears the badge of only the UNP where does it leave the JVP ? If symbolism means what it says then Fonseka is saying publicly that he is now the anointed leader of the UNP to the executive presidency until he voluntarily becomes the non-executive president, hopefully (?). It is clear from the actions of Fonseka that he is more with the UNP than the JVP. If push comes to a shove he will side with the UNP. This raises some issues related to not only economic policies but also foreign policies “”…” issues that needs scrutiny another time.

 But for the moment it is the domestic scene that is relevant. And this relates, in particular, to Fonseka’s stance on the presidency. Will he give up the powers in that office and climb down to a seat in the powerless non-executive presidency? After all, he chucked up the post of Chief of Defence Staff saying he had no powers. Of course, like all men of action he wanted power to do something. He is also on record saying that he wants the executive presidency to make radical changes to the political culture. Three cheers for that! But how can he make any change when he is going to be stripped of all power by his two main backers “”…” the UNP and JVP. If Wickremesinghe and Soma-hansa have their way he won’t even have the power to change his trousers without their approval.

 He also declared that he is for the economic program of the UNP. Jehan Perera, of the National Peace Council, who opposed the war led by Sarath Fonseka, now admits (see Daily Mirror video on Election) that the general has changed his stance on the ethnic issue, meaning that he is ready to go beyond the 13th Amendment. Is this what Fonseka meant when he said: “Over my dead body!”? Did he lead his soldiers to go beyond Alimankada (Elephant Pass) for him to go beyond the 13th Amendment? When he wears the UNP badge he accepts, by implication, the UNP policy of going beyond the 13th Amendment. As they say, when you talk like a duck, walk like a duck and wear the feathers of a duck you are duck. There are no two words about it.

 The people who trusted him would like to know whether the hero who claims to have won the war sacrificed his loyal soldiers to give more than what the Tamil leaders signed for with the Indian leaders? Towards the end of the war he proclaimed that his table was covered with hundred maps when he began the war and in the final stages he reduced it to one map. This was good news. The people believed that there will be only one map after he completed the war. Is he now asking us to go back to the hundred maps that he had on his table when the final offensive began at Mavil Aru? He has to tell the people how many maps he has on his table now? Is he showing to Soma-hansa the same map that he is showing to Wickremesinghe? And what kind of map will he show the voters?

 When he followed the road map of Mahinda Rajapakse he went swiftly to Alimankada and beyond. After he switched sides and joined Wickremesinghe he seems to be stuck in Pamankada. Is this ultimate goal of Fonseka? Those who considered him to be their hero (and I’m not ashamed to say that I was one of them) feel let down by his politics which runs contrary to his own conscience. How can he bat for Mahinda Rajapakse first and then go to bat for Wickremesinghe in the same innings?

 If he scored 100 runs for Mahinda Rajapakse how can he now score 101 for Wickremesinghe? This means that he is batting to defeat his own achievements. He is not playing a 20-20 match where you can switch sides without any qualms because you are playing for money. He is playing in a test match which represents the nation. When he goes to bat for an anti-national team at any stage of the test “”…” and the other half of the test has just begun — is it possible for the nation to cheer him all the way.

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