The plight of the Greens under RW | Daily News

The plight of the Greens under RW

While the theatrics of our honourable people's representatives in Parliament were taking centre stage last week, focusing the unerring attention of the general public, a topic that went underground began resurfacing again amidst the din. Of course we are here referring to the leadership battle in the UNP, or more accurately, the Ranil-Sajith tussle for the number one position in the Grand Old Party. Try as the Greens might to keep matters under wraps no one in the party has been able to quell the dissenting voices from being given full expression. Even at the recent rally organised by the party in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of RW, in Kollupitiya, many UNP local councillors claimed they were attending the rally to make Sajith the party leader and not to support Ranil.

Of course the battle to oust Ranil Wickremesinghe by those voicing the sentiments of the grassroots supporters of the party was not of recent origin. It began when the Greens were suffering serial losses at every election under Ranil's leadership, beginning with the 1994 electoral setback and continued through the 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005 polls, and all the LG elections, barring the 2002 one when RW was Prime Minister and the incumbency factor stood to his advantage.

Matters came to a head in 2013 when the frustration of the party rank and file was such that Ranil was forced into a leadership contest with Karu Jayasuriya. The vote that was taken at party headquarters Sirikotha was not without drama with stones hurled at the building.

Now it appears the battle to rid Ranil from the leadership and replace him with Sajith has picked up in earnest following the former’s ouster from the office of Prime Minister. Significantly, even those who appear to be Ranil loyalists are of the same mindset. Stalwarts such as Ajith P. Perera and Harin Fernando are among this lot, going by their sentiments expressed following the October 26 revolution. The latest to get involved in the 'quit Ranil' project is former Deputy Minister of Transport Asoka Abeysinghe. Speaking at a function in his home base in Kurunegala Abeysinghe said the UNP Central Committee should nominate UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa unanimously as the UNP candidate for Prime Minister at the general election if the UNP needs to win this time.

He also did not pull any punches when he said; “If the UNP presents former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe this time as its candidate for Premier it will record a sure defeat at the forthcoming general election". He further said he had told the UNP Central Committee members in 2010 that Sajith Premadasa was the most suitable candidate for the Premiership. "We are now ready for the general election after the judgement of the Supreme Court. Ranil Wickremesinghe has been functioning as leader of the UNP for 25 years. The UNP needs a reform and a change in its leadership to win elections. Therefore he should give the leadership to Sajith", he said.

These are no doubt hitherto suppressed sentiments of the UNP village level leaders which are now been expressed openly at a time the party in the throes of a deep crisis. It is as though as there is a clarion call for arms from among the party rank and file. Their feelings are understandable since the Green have been languishing in the political wilderness since 1994, barring a few brief intervals in the sunshine and even then failed to consolidate their power under RW's leadership. The party though had been signally unfortunate to have lost its top rung leaders to the LTTE killer machine leaving it rudderless and at the mercy of mediocrity. Its plight is mostly felt in the rural outback with whose inhabitants the present leadership don't connect. This was well demonstrated at the recent local government election where the party was annihilated.

In fact, the chorus for Ranil to step down gathered momentum after February 10. The results were a clear indication that the UNP had little prospects at future elections if the status quo were to continue. Now things appear to be coming to a head.

Not that the Grand Old Party was devoid of leadership battles before this.

There was the famous Dudley-JR conflict and the short changing of Sir John by D.S. to install son Dudley are Premier. However the party, it must be said, never split whatever the problems and all the warring factions buried the hatchet and took the party to victory. However, under Ranil's leadership, there has been a mass exodus of party stalwarts to the enemy camp and what is more, the trend is not likely to halt if RW continues as the leader, at least that is the majority view. They feel that only Sajith can change the fortunes of the Greens, and, what is more, keep the party intact.


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