31 July 2011

Karu’s time?

Elections were held for some sixty plus local government authorities last week.  The United National Party lost and lost badly.  So did the JVP.  Udul Premaratne, ex-convenor of the Inter University Students Federation, a known athakoluwa of the rathu sahodarayas and a shameless pawn of Eelamism-in-Decline, might realize that being anti-Sri Lankan will not get his party any votes. 
The communalist TNA did well, as expected in areas that are overwhelmingly Tamil, indicating more a preference for kind than for policy.  The UPFA, whose party top brass campaigned exclusively in these areas, soliciting votes on the back of massive post-conflict development programmes got some votes and returned some members, but could not secure control of any local government body except those that make up Douglas Devananda’s stronghold. 
The TNA got just 34% of the total number of votes.  As expected, the TNA’s communalists claimed the result was an endorsement of the party’s separatist line.  The UPFA might say it has expanded its vote base in these same areas, although the leadership won’t say much about cost per vote.  To each his/her preferred reading!  What is significant to me is that a significant number of Tamil voters have begun to see out of the separatist box. 
The local government elections are now past tense.  The present tense, once again, is (for the next few days at least) about the UNP leadership crisis. 
Talk of leadership change in the UNP is marked by seasonality.  It usually follows a heavy defeat at an election.  The staggered holding of local government elections, while it is clearly a deliberate strategy of the ruling party to capitalize to the maximum the advantage of incumbency, has made this leadership-talk more frequent than usual. 
Sajith Premadasa’s big to wrest control of the party fell flat just after the earlier leg of the local government elections.  He proved he lacked the maturity and the work ethic of his father.  He might have figured out that gene-right is not given and that the hard yards needed to be done before such cheques can be cashed. 
Perhaps it is this realization that prompted him to announce ‘an important decision’ regarding the party’s future.  The decision was of course easy to predict, such is the abysmal status of the human resources of that party.  Karu Jayasuriya’s name was bound to come up and it did.  To Karu’s credit, he did not announce a desire to oust his party leader.  Ranil Wickremesinhe, for his part, demonstrated yet once again the astute politician in him, so apparent in the affairs of the party and so absent in things national.  He appeared to defer to Karu by saying that his Deputy Leader has his blessings to unite the party. 
It is clear now to everyone, party members, loyalists and outsiders, that if unity of any kind is to be obtained, it has to begin with Ranil Wickremesinghe stepping down or being pushed out.  Karu Jayasuriya is and will be seen as an overseer of ‘transition’ from Ranil to Mr/Ms Whoever.  No one else in the UNP today has the credentials to play that role.  Any other person will be seen as (and not without reason) someone who is ambitious, who will quickly use the mechanisms that Ranil used to retain power for his/her benefit and solidify support among a rank and file so tired of the present leader and so ready to back even Mr/Ms Confused Beyond Redemption. 
Karu Jayasuriya has what it takes.  He left the party to support a national effort, i.e. the eradication of terrorism.  He did not seek cabinet portfolio but had to live with one to prevent himself from being unseated from Parliament through court action.  He returned to a party that looked like punch-drunk and doddering.  He returned to the party when it was felt by all, including those who support the government, that a strong opposition was necessary.  He is respected by all, within and without the party.  He has impeccable nationalist credentials.  He is a democrat.  Most importantly, he is not ambitious.  Indeed, I can’t think of anyone in the UNP who can handle ‘transition’ in a manner that does not result in Ranil Wickremesinghe losing face. 
J.R. Jayewardene, when he authored the 1978 Constitution, made sure that the opposition would necessarily be weak.  There’s not much that Ranil Wickremesinghe could have done, but he didn’t even do the could-do part of the expected role.  The United National Party is chock-full of crooks, traitors, weaklings, thugs and political opportunists.  The party needs to be turned around because the country needs an opposition that can accommodate all communities. 
We’ve seen these post-election convulsions within the UNP too many times for the present moves to cause any excitement.  Karu Jayasuriya is not an exciting character. He is not excitable either.  Perhaps this is his strength at this moment.  Too often, the UNP gets too excited over possible return to power through machinations of political equations. Too often, they’ve been lured by greed to take short-cuts to nowhere and back.  It is time that the UNP accepted the possibility that a better tomorrow is years away and begin at the beginning.  That is to say, at the top. 
If there’s ever going to be talk of Sajith’s Time or Ravi’s Time or even Mangala’s Time, if there’s going to be a post-Ranil role for Ranil, there has to be a Someone Else’s Time now.  It is Karu’s time.  It’s as simple as that. 

[Courtesy 'Sunday Lakbima News', July 31, 2011]


Anonymous said...

I feel the nationalists should go beyond a token endorsement of a leadership change in UNP and actively promote somebody responsible for the post.
There is always this tendency to consider the UNP to be the opposition of nationalism, which need not be. Not long before, we had a federalist government and a federalist opposition. (we have to thank VP that Sri Lanka is not a federal state today.) The pendulum can swing the other way, and ensuring that the opposition is also nationalist seems to be the need of the moment to me.

What ever said and done, and despite our wishes to the contrary, this government is now on a collision course. It has no option but to condone corruption, thuggery, and inefficiency within the government because otherwise, the inevitable crossing over will occur. More than nationally, the effects of such an event would be disastrous internationally. Meanwhile, the public is slowly but steadily getting fed up with the duplicity of the government, and if nothing active is done, a regime change is inevitable even without the crossovers. A losing game, if there ever was one. At this juncture, the duty of the nationalist is not to prop-up falling idols, but to ensure that the cause is not lost.
Be it Karu, Sajith or even Dayasiri - they will need to have the momentum of the nationalist movement behind them.