16 October 2015

Reflections on the UNP-SLFP curse III [with Sudat Pasqual]

The Nation' started a series on what could be called the curse(s) of the SLFP and UNP.  Sudat Pasqual reflects on the SLFP and the need to put it out of our misery and I pen the notes on the UNP.   Sudat's notes are in blue and mine in Green. Note: we've moved pretty fast from query to assertion!

Let’s put SLFP out of our misery – Part III
Let’s take a look at the legitimacy of leadership of the SLFP.  What is legitimacy and how can one obtain legitimacy?  Legitimacy in a democracy should and must come from the people; simple.  Democracy after all, is all about representing the will of the people. If one starts from that premise, oneshould conclude that leaders of political parties in a democracy should be freely elected by the members of those parties. 

Please pay attention to the word `freely``.  In order for a political party to have a legitimate leader, the party must offer its membership the ability to choose a person freely without the threat of repercussions or the showering of guilt. Simply put, if a person is interested in leading the party, the party should have a mechanism in place that requires he/she to declare their intentions; take their message to the membership; call for a vote; count the vote; declare the winner; and accept the winner as the leader of the party till the next election. The fact that a person’s husband or father was founder of a political party should only have relevance only if that relative has the confidence of a majority of the membership. Ditto with regard to a person elected for national office. 

The present day SLFP is led by a man who surreptitiously took part in a plot to betray the leader of his own party. The present day patron of the party is a person who broke away from the SLFP and formed another political party (Sri Lanka MahajanaPakshaya/SLMP) with her late husband.

The SLFP of today is led by two carpetbaggers without a mandate from the membership. Today’s SLFP is a party without principles, policies or self-respect. The party is no longer legitimate.

Let’s put the UNP out of our misery – Part III
The first two paragraphs above hold with respect to the UNP.  If UNPers are serious about democracy, about leadership and legitimacy then they should hang their heads in shame.

The UNP at present is led by a man whose legitimacy obtains from two distinct sources. First, what may be called ‘Gene Right’; he was the heir-designate in all but name to J.R. Jayewardena.  Secondly, his rise through the ranks was by default; everyone above him either died or were killed.  Clearly that wasn’t enough.  He tinkered with the party constitution in much the same way that Mahinda Rajapaksa tinkered with the country’s constitution.  In essence, he appoints his electors!  

For now, he is secure, and he can thank both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena for this.  His electoral victories doesn’t say much about acceptance.  Take a joker like Ranjan Ramanayake, make him leader and get him to contest from Colombo.  He will probably poll as many votes as Ranil has.  
In short, he’s a default option.  With such a leadership is it even worth talking about principles, policies or self-respect?