Deterioration Of The Opposition Hits A Disillusioned Society
- JVP in a show of strength
- Bombshell about Dayasiri crossing over rocks the UNP
The latest amendment to the UNP Constitution mooted by party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has resulted in the further deterioration of the party and the opposition as a whole.
Wickremesinghe while managing to secure his leadership for another six-year period has disillusioned the party membership.
Firebrand UNP Kurunegala District parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekera fired the first salvo against the new amendments. A few days after the Working Committee approval was granted to Wickremesinghe’s proposal to extend the tenure of the party leader, news reports appeared in the media of Jayasekera meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a bid to cross over.
The news came as a surprise to UNP supporters including members of the party’s decision making body, the Working Committee.
UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa who was absent at the key Working Committee meeting was also disturbed since Jayasekera was one of the most vociferous of the UNP MPs to call for party reforms.
It was Jayasekera who muscled the battle of the pro-reforms members in the party.
Premadasa did not attend the Working Committee meeting due to ill health, but failed to inform the party of his inability to attend the meeting.
Premadasa’s absence at the meeting and his decision to go on stage with Wickremesinghe in the election campaign for three provinces was not well accepted by the rest of the pro-reforms members who supported Premadasa.
To Premadasa, putting forward a united front during the election campaign is important in order to prevent any blame on him for a UNP defeat at the Provincial Council elections.
On the other hand, in the event of a UNP defeat, Wickremesinghe could also say that even Premadasa’s presence in the election campaign was insufficient to secure a victory for the main opposition party.
However, during a campaign meeting in Eheliyagoda, Ratnapura, Premadasa had openly criticized the Working Committee’s decision to amend the party Constitution.
He had also spoken of getting the likes of former Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and Jayasekera involved in the party work and the campaign.
At this point, a UNP member had questioned Premadasa as to why he did not say that he would work together with Wickremesinghe.
Premadasa had responded saying that when he said everyone would work united it included him as well.
A disgruntled Jayasekera has now written two letters – to Wickremesinghe and Premadasa – expressing his dissatisfaction with the current state of the party.
He has decided to hold on to the letters till the end of this week to see if there is any progress towards the betterment of the party.
Nevertheless, the internal battles and Wickremesinghe’s move to focus mainly on securing his leadership has taken its toll on the country’s single largest party.
All these sentiments have disillusioned Jayasekera who now says it is time to take a political decision.
Jayasekera had reportedly met the President at Temple Trees along with a businessman who is in the fields of advertising, media and leisure and a key player in the stock market.
The media reports stated that the meeting had taken place on Friday (20).
It was speculated that Jayasekera has requested to either be given a Cabinet portfolio or the post of the governing party’s chief ministerial candidate for the North Western Province.
Soon after the media reports, Jayasekera denied meeting with the President or any plans yet to cross over to the government.
Cross over story
The story about Jayasekera’s cross over had been initiated during a rugby match last week attended by the President and former UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.
A UNP parliamentarian said that the President and Samarawickrema had been engaged in a brief conversation about the current political scenario.
Rajapaksa had indicated to Samarawickrema that there are a few key UNP members who were looking at pole-vaulting to the government side.
It was during the ensuing conversation that Jayasekera’s name had figured.
When asked if Jayasekera would be taken to the government side, the President had said that he had no qualms in accepting him if he was sacked by the UNP.
“This is how the story originated,” the UNP MP said.
According to Jayasekera, the story had been given a twist by certain elements working towards getting him expelled by the party with the hope of getting him to join the government.
“I was hospitalized after being diagnosed with dengue and have been at home recovering during the past few weeks,” Jayasekera said, adding “I have not gone for any meeting with the President”.
However, Jayasekera said that he was not pleased with the latest amendment proposed to the party Constitution.
He observed that Wickremesinghe’s move to extend the tenure of the party leader by six years has only confirmed the complete ruination of the party.
He explained that the UNP needed to build its strength in preparation for elections in the next few years after the conclusion of the Provincial Council elections.
“This decision has made all UNPers lose hope. We will continue to remain in the opposition,” Jayasekera said.
He opined that the UNP needed to groom a new leadership and holding on to power in this manner would only be to the detriment of the party, its members and supporters.
Nevertheless, news of Jayasekera’s so-called meeting with the President disturbed Wickremesinghe and some of his confidantes.
Samarawickrema, Sagala Ratnayake and parliamentarian Kabir Hashim immediately reached out to Jayasekera in order to resolve the issue.
They realized that any move by Jayasekera to leave the party would have a devastating impact on the UNP and its election campaign.
Jayasekera had spoken to Samarawickrema, Ratnayake and Hashim last Wednesday and expressed his position with regard to Wickremesinghe’s move.
“This amendment is serious. What is he (Wickremesinghe) trying to do?” he asked them.
The three UNPers have agreed with Jayasekera’s reasoning and Samarawickrema had asked Jayasekera to remain calm without making any hasty decisions.
He had agreed to discuss with Wickremesinghe and reach a compromise to reduce the tenure of the party leader from six years to three years.
Jayasekera had reiterated that the UNP leadership needed to take stock of the current situation and make the necessary changes.
Jayasekera had also said that UNP MP Ashok Abeysinghe should be appointed as the organizer for Kurunegala since he possessed a good base in the area in order to promote the party’s strength.
He had also explained that organizers to the 14 electorates in the Kurunegala District needed to be appointed with the aim of getting them into parliament and not just to please the party leadership.
“Every electoral organizer needs to have a base throughout the district. That is how we can build the party,” he had said.
Finally, Jayasekera had also observed that a strong group needed to be built within the party with the participation of all key members with the aim of bringing victory to the party.
“Even Sarath Fonseka needs to be included in the group. The answer is not to ask him to buy a Rs. 200 ticket and join the party; we should even pay for the ticket and get him in to the party,” Jayasekera had said.
Samarawickrema, Ratnayake and Hashim have agreed to speak to Wickremesinghe and Samarawickrema had said he would get back to Jayasekera in a few days.
The President has however used the Jayasekera cross over saga to warn the SLFPers.
During the SLFP executive committee meeting at Temple Trees last Thursday, Rajapaksa had said that all party members needed to be actively involved in the Provincial Council election campaigns.
The President had warned of stern action against SLFP organizers who failed to play an active role during the campaign.
Rajapaksa who knows well of the unfavorable sentiments harbored by SLFPers towards UNP defectors to the governing party had decided to use the issue to further warn his party members.
He had said that there was a group of UNPers who were planning on crossing over to the government in the near future.
The news of possible UNP defections got the SLFPers buzzing wondering which of the UNPers were likely to cross over to the government.
However, the absence of a strong opposition and attempts by UNPers to defect to the government has and will continue to result in internal battles within the governing party.
Meanwhile, following the meeting several SLFP ministers discussed the importance of an opposition in the country and the dangers to society due to the lack of a vibrant opposition.
“If the trend continues, it would be some governing party members who would have to play the role of the opposition as well,” a senior SLFP Minister had said.
The deterioration of the opposition according to the SLFP ministers has ironically had a negative impact on their political future as well.
Wickremesinghe therefore, is loved by some quarters of the government while another scorns his failure to galvanize a strong front that could pose a formidable challenge to the regime.
JVP takes to the streets
The JVP on Friday took to the streets with a motorcade and protest march from the Dondra Point to Point Pedro.
A large number of party supporters gathered in Matara and the JVP is carrying out the march by holding leaflet distribution campaigns and meetings in main towns on its way to the North.
The party held a 45-day awareness programme to reach out to the grassroots levels last month and the motorcade called, “Jana Pelagesma” is an extension of this programme.
The JVP instead of focusing on election campaigns for the Provincial Councils has strategically decided to carry out anti-government protest/awareness campaigns to muster the support of people who have in various ways commenced agitating against the government.
JVP politburo member, K.D. Lalkantha said that the support shown towards the protest march by ordinary people by the sides of the road and their good wishes were an indication of the level of disillusionment of the people.
“People are disillusioned with the government over many issues currently faced by them. However, the lack of a proper leadership is what has prevented them from coming out with their protests,” he said.
The march from the South to the North with a large crowd will be a show of strength to the government which believes that it can continue to rule the country by default.
JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva addressing the crowd at the starting point of the motorcade in Matara said that the march was organized due to the suppression by the current government.
He said the government is harassing every stratum of society including workers, fishermen, farmers, students, youth and children.
He observed that people were starting to struggle against the government and all these struggles should be united and a force created that could defeat the government and the system that nourishes it.
“We will transform this programme into an agitation that creates a strong force to awaken the people and give them confidence to stand against the current administration,” Silva said.
The march is to reach Point Pedro on Wednesday (August 1).
United front by TNA
The TNA that was initially split over the allocation of seats in the nominations for the Eastern Provincial Council elections has now decided to put forward a united front during the campaign.
Four parties in the TNA – EPRLF, TELO, TULF and PLOTE last week contemplated carrying out a separate campaign during the Eastern Provincial Council election sidelining the main constituent party of the Alliance, ITAK.
However, following deliberations on the matter, it was finally agreed that it would be in the best interests of the TNA to carry out a united campaign.
A TNA parliamentarian said that while the four parties have disagreements with ITAK, it would campaign together for the TNA candidates.
The split in the TNA was seen by the governing party as a positive sign to capitalize on the divided Tamil vote.
The TNA sensing the adverse impact a divided Alliance could have during an election will now save its rift for another day.