Opposition ratcheted-up the rhetoric but no quick fix in sight
Posted on March 23rd, 2011

By Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 UNP leadership ratcheted up the rhetoric and predicted food riots glibly anticipating popping eyeballs. They went pell-mell for the shallow and the cynical to catch-up with an endemic losing streak. They could not get into the winning column again. The long retreat from power””‚more a vacation from history for a decade made them look for quick fixes: over-the-counter remedies for chronic ailments that inflicted the party.

 It was just hallucinatory to wish for a Twitter revolution in our shores when the president just started his second term. The UNP had yet to sever its entrenched ties with the rabid LTTE anti-national forces””‚never conceding its futility.

 Insecurity was strewn all over the speeches made by Opposition leaders acting as if they were going for the jugular feigning a parallel between Middle Eastern countries and Sri Lanka. To catch up with their wilderness streak they have to do much better,

 Itchiness to misspeak

 Like a loose cannon going off and hitting everyone within earshot Ranil’s itchiness to misspeak seemed unstoppable. He had offered no worthwhile solutions. Constructive discourse escaped him.

 Expedience had overtaken the party positions. Ranil’s colleague Mangala had followed suit warning that President Rajapaksa–who received a massive mandate for his second term–will be thrown out of power in the same manner as some despots.

 For Ranil and his faithful to lead effectively, xenophobia and bigotry that characterized their unending utterances must stop. Even floods and natural disasters sent their pecker up.

 Rashness a legion

 UNP leaders’ rash statements had become a legion now. They had equated the sovereignty of Sri Lanka to the hideous banditry of Prabhakaran in the infamous peace pact with the Tigers.

 Ranil seemed now to theorise about a mythical dichotomy in our sovereignty after the Supreme Court acknowledged the legality of Court Marshalls as deemed acceptable in many parts of the world. The list is endless.

 That tactic of predicting disaster never suited a democracy. It is like throwing a boomerang””‚it comes back with a vengeance. “”‚Opposition’s intensions appeared suspicious.

 Consensus politics seemed alien to many UNP stalwarts having taken years to democratize the party structure. The leadership preferred to bathe in platitudes about UNP’s past not seeing the base erode before their eyes.

 There had not been a serious attempt to envision. Instead, the leadership viewed things through the gauzy vapors of past glory and laurels now evaporating fast.

 Opposition Leader’s panicky response

 Leader of the Opposition occupied almost a consecrated place in politics. Ranil strove for shallow bench marks in place of a planned foray into enlightened public discourse. Trying to arouse popular passions and hijacking the transcendent path had brought no visible relief. The Opposition needed to get beyond that panicky response that exposed a dyed in the wool hypocritical stance.

 There were several golden opportunities for Ranil to act in a statesman like manner when matters of national interest came up. He had failed to act in keeping with the traditions set by distinguished Leaders of the Opposition like Dr. N M Perera, S W R D and MRS. Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

 The manner Sri Lanka collectively galvanized international support for the cause of a just war had received universal support. India, Pakistan, China as well as the general consensus abroad recognized the path chosen by Sri Lanka to ward off a ruthless foe and that policy paid off. Ranil has yet to pronounce the efficacy of that achievement.

 The acknowledgement of the settlement of nearly 270,000 IDPs, the rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres, complete backing of Sri Lanka in the alleged white flag surrenders issue, efforts to unify the country and to have rejected treacherous attempts to drag the country through a fake war-crimes harangue were matters where Ranil’s failure became obvious.

 To have made a strong stand on those matters would have made him look taller. Ranil’ utterances at first blush seemed part of the platform gimmicks of desperate politicians. Yet he had made a hobby of undermining the sacred tenets of Opposition politics.

 Tragically the UNP leadership has dug themselves a gaping hole and getting out seemed equally damning as getting in.

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