( January 30, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The unthinkable seems to be happening. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the United National Party (UNP) has issued his latest decree: banning UNP Parliamentarians from engaging in any social service activities outside the official purview of the Party. Though generalized and overtly meant for all Party members, the gauntlet was thrown at only one person, because there is only one such parliamentarian who is currently involved in such a scheme.
Sajith Premadasa, the Deputy Leader of the UNP has an ongoing social service/public relation programme, the 'Sasunata Aruna' programme, which has been in full swing for the last two and a half years. 'Sasunata Aruna', means 'light for the order of the clergy'. It is indeed a pity that the Leader of the Party cannot see the positive aspect of this 'light'.
The main function of the programme is to identify places of worship, Buddhist Temples, Muslim Mosques and Christian Churches scattered around the country, that are in need, and donate a sizeable amount of money–fifty thousand rupees to be exact– for the upliftment and other needs of these religious sanctuaries.
The base that Sajith Premadasa started building, might suffer a temporary setback because of this myopic order issued by the Leader of his Party. Yet, if there is any quid pro quo arrangement reached, meaning that Sajith Premadasa would be reappointed as the Deputy Leader of the UNP only if he consented to discontinue with the 'Sasunata Aruna' programme, then the theme of the tale changes. Such consent, if given by Sajith, will make the people and those would-be recipients of the donations, upset and the sense of letdown felt by them could be longstanding and quite detrimental to Sajith's future politics.
But one has to understand Sajith's plight too. If it is critiqued in a more sympathetic way towards Sajith, with a view to balancing the pros and cons of the move, the obvious and most logical question one could ask is: What other choice does Sajith have? Sajith, in all likelihood, must be thinking in terms of securing his position in the Party. After the turmoil the UNP went through amidst the calls for a change in the leadership from a group of diehard UNPers in the last few months and after Ranil Wickremesinghe managed to outsmart those who agitated against his leadership, Sajith very well knows that his political future lies only in the United National Party. It is this Party which his father laid down his life for.
The UNP still remains the only credible alternative mainstream political party in Sri Lanka. However, the damage and discredit the present Leader has heaped upon this once Grand Old Party, whose base of voters is no less than twenty seven to thirty five (27%-35%) per cent, is truly appalling .
Among many UNP stalwarts, Sajith remains, except perhaps Karu Jayasuriya, the only link between the greater majority of the country, Sinhalese Buddhists, and the Party. They are being perceived and judged by many, quite rightly so, as the only bridge to the downtrodden, rural mass of the people. If these two gentlemen are sidestepped (Karu Jayasuriya has already suffered a seemingly permanent obliteration from politics) by the Party, then the people at large would have no choice whatsoever to retain faith in a fast-decaying political party. The decadent western garb that the Party wrapped itself around ever since its leadership was assumed by Wickremesinghe would be exposed fully to the curious public with no quarters asked for and none given.
How this would all play out in the end, one might hesitate to speculate; for the changing scenarios in the present socio-politico field in the country are too large to grapple with and too quick to grasp. Many said that J. R. Jayewardena was a man who waited. Ranil Wickremesinghe too is flattering himself, giving the impression that he is emulating Sri Lanka's grandmaster of politics. A significant difference here is that Wickremesinghe is waiting because he has no choice. Jayewardena waited as a matter of strategy and political acumen.
May be Sajith Premadasa is the one now seen as waiting. For how long, one does not know.
( Ceylon Today Editorial )