Sri Lanka: Worms in UNP want internal election

The leadership crisis has negated itself; according to UNP MP Ravi
Karunanayake. Apparently there were four worms within the party
hierarchy that could not stop turning and twisting! They want internal
elections to select the leader. However, when confronted with a
proposal for an election where all party members would participate
they lost their balance and stopped at that. Actually parties are not
open entities where anybody can say anything. Parties are based on a
certain set of ideas and limited principles. Only those who are
conversant with this should have the right to select the leadership.
Each party represents a class interest; sometimes even a sub class
interest.

Political principles

The political principles accepted in general by the party represent
the basic interest of that particular class or the segment of the
class. The UNP is the party of open economic policy and conservative
politics. That is how it was and that is how it will be, in spite of
cries of Sajith Premadasa. Sajith vehemently emphasizes that it was
and it should be the party of the small man and it should not be the
property of the Colombo 7 elite. This is a very populist slogan, good
to attract lumpan and radical street sellers. Maybe his father
utilized it to counter the politics of the JVP insurrection. In fact
president Premadasa got the opportunity to lead the UNP because of the
instability created by the insurrection. UNP leaders such as Lalith
and Gamini hesitated to build a counter to the politics of the JVP. It
was left to the ’man from the downtrodden’ to create a set of slogans
that could knife through the campaign of the JVP.

Premadasa started his political carrier with the original Lankan
working class leader A.E. Gunasinghe. Gunasinghe built the Labour
Party of Ceylon, following his guru the British Labour party leader
Ramsey McDonald. As Ramsey became the prime minister of England,
Gunasinghe was absorbed into the reactionary compromise of the British
Labour party. Then the leadership of the working class in Lanka was
snatched by the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. After Gunasinghe, Premadasa
became the leader of the Ceylon Labour Party. Though there was an
attempt by the LSSP leadership to get Premadasa into LSSP politics, it
did not work. He became the strong arm of the UNP in the Colombo
municipality area. Small men in the Colombo area were with the Left,
until the coalition government of 1970 extinguished their hope. Then
in a massive wave they went behind Premadasa. He continued to enjoy
their support, even at the time of the second JVP insurrection in
1989. In fact, even the JVP considered him as a man from the oppressed
section of society, a counter to the Goigama-Radala politicians.
Up to that time the leaders of the UNP were of the latter type. In
addition they went either to Royal or to S. Thomas’. Even if they
failed to achieve academic excellence, they were good at accepted
sports activities. Premadasa had none of that background material of
high society; but he had energy and determination to by pass all that.
He had self confidence and within limits he was self-consistent.

Thus he became the UNP choice for that historic moment. Given the
chance, he did what the party wanted him to do. Having won the
presidential elections with indirect support of the JVP, he first
tried to achieve a compromise with the JVP. I believe he had a genuine
desire to come to an agreement with the JVP. He knew that if the
rebellion was crushed, then the opposition within the party lead by
the conservatives, the Goigama-Radala elites, will throw him to the
dogs! Well that is exactly what happened after the elimination of the
JVP leadership. So the UNP became again the party of the conservatives
similar to the British Conservative party.

Ranil could be compared to David Cameron though the Lankan certainly
has a better sense of humour. Before he became an MP, David worked in
business and government. He worked as a Special adviser in government,
first to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then to the Home
Secretary. Afterwards he spent seven years at Carlton Communications,
one of the UK’s leading media companies, and served on the management
Board.

Ranil comes from a foremost media family in Lanka. He graduated from
the Peradeniya law faculty and worked as a lawyer at Hulftsdorp.
Sajith also studied in Colombo and was brought up as a son of a UNP
president. He cannot claim the humble beginnings of his father, unless
he gets out of the UNP and really works with the down trodden. As it
is his speeches are incongruent to the existing political frame work
of the UNP. So, it is unlikely that Sajith and his three musketeers
will be able to take over the party of the conservatives, and turn it
upside down to create a populist social democratic party. Very likely
they may get kicked out to become political refugees and prey to
Mahinda regime.

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