UNP's missed opportunity | Daily News

UNP's missed opportunity

UNPers who voted to elect Common Candidate Maithripala Sirisena on January 8, 2015 were by no means betrayed by him, going by the disclosure made by the President at the rally tiled Ratama Rakina Jana Mahimaya held at the Parliament roundabout on Monday.

The common thread that marks the comments made by the UNP spokesmen, post October 26, is to the effect that President Sirisena had backstabbed not only their leader Ranil Wickremesinghe through his ouster but also all UNP voters who braved grave odds to elect the former as President. They also charge the President for acting unconstitutionally in this regard and also kicking away the mandate granted to him. The President is also accused by the UNP of making its supporters orphaned by joining hands with his onetime arch rival.

However, it is now clear that the President had never intended to shortchange the UNP voters who comprised the bulk of the 6.2 million votes received by him on January 8. Not by a long way. On the contrary he came close to realizing the aspirations of the vast majority of party supporters as the readers could gather while going through this piece.

Addressing the mammoth crowd, the President explained the course he adopted to replace Wickremesinghe with an alternative from among the UNP itself. This is because the conduct and the path taken by the former Prime Minister was to the detriment of the country and its traditional values, not to mention the economic ruin wrought, he explained.

He (President) named two alternatives who would have been acceptable not only to the UNP but the vast populace, across party lines - one of them being Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and the other, former minister Sajith Premadasa. Jayasuriya, no doubt, had all the credentials for the post, being of impressive stature, sober bearing, rooted in the nation's cultural ethos and a true Buddhist, while Premadasa Jnr. would have been no less acceptable to UNPers- nay their favourite choice for long as party leader, for, like his late father, he is close to the common man and devoid of the elitist patina of his leader.

However, according to the President, both declined the offer, obviously not wanting to rub their leader on the wrong side. Hence, the decision he took to offer former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Premiership.

President Sirisena said he met the Speaker eight months ago and insisted that he take over the Premiership. “I pleaded with him (Jayasuriya) for several days to become the PM because I could no longer work with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. But he declined to accept the post citing his inability to pose a challenge to Wickremesinghe”. Ditto for Sajith Premadasa.

The President said the sacking of Wickremesinghe represented not only a change in personalities but also a political programme that was alien to the national way of thinking, cut off from the country's cultural ethos, and geared to serve the interests of external forces.

The new appointee, according to the President, was an individual who was attuned to the value system. It is clear, therefore, that President Sirisena, far from being ungrateful to the UNP voters, sought to appoint two individuals who in fact would have greatly enhanced the prospects of the UNP at future elections. In others words the President was doing a service to the UNP wittingly or unwittingly.

Karu Jayasuriya may, or may not be, a spent force politically. But not so Sajith. With every election defeat suffered by the Grand Old Party the outcry among the party grassroots was for the appointment of Premadasa as the party leader. This call has not diminished today amidst the bitter reversal suffered by Wickremesinghe, whom his loyalists in the party had sought to portray as a victim of a conspiracy. This was clearly evident when the UNP was organising its protest rally in Kollupitiya following Wickremesinghe's ouster, a party Local Government member from Dambulla declared they were coming that day to install Sajith as party leader and not to support Ranil.

He was only echoing the sentiments of the bulk, if not all, grassroots party supporters. He, like others of his ilk among the Greens, may have been thoroughly disappointed by this missed opportunity and may be inwardly cursing Sajith for letting them down badly, by not accepting the President's offer.

Besides, President Sirisena has never failed to acknowledge the leading role the UNP played in his election to office. Symbolizing this, he even visited UNP Headquarters, Sirikotha, for its annual convention - a first by a rival political leader. In his address to the nation following the advent of the new Government President Sirisena was magnanimous in appreciating the support he received from UNP voters in his election and appealed to the Greens to join him in the task of nation building.

This extension of the hand of friendship indicates that the President still needs their support. Hence, it would be better for all if this political gridlock is resolved soon and the country put on the fast track to development.


 

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