by Namini Wijedasa
For the exceedingly dull and dim-witted amongst us who had expected Ranil Wickremesinghe to whip up a wave of enraged protest against the 18th Amendment, let us — even at this terribly late stage — stop kidding ourselves.
Would a man that patently rejects democracy within his own party give a rat’s tail about democracy in Sri Lanka? Analysed from that angle, it becomes easier to understand why Mr Wickremesinghe chose to stick his rump in the air and his head in the sand at a time when strident action was required to safeguard the people.
Not only did the leader of the opposition scoot along to India to attend a wedding when he should have been on the streets, he chose to boycott the debate on the 18th Amendment when he should have been shouting himself hoarse on its demerits. Yes, this is old news but bear with us; we just can’t stress it enough.
The UNP is losing its members in droves and Ranil acts like this is nobody’s business but his. This papa-knows-best routine is agonisingly vexatious. Distressingly, the man draws his inspiration from, not the best of the UNP’s past, but the worst. He is regularly heard bleating that the party was down to eight seats in 1956 and only marginally up to 17 in 1970. Now, let us see... how many years ago was that? Fifty-four years ago. And the difference between 1956 and 1970 is 14.
So what the devil is Ranil Wickremesinghe trying to tell us? That the UNP was last doing this badly 54 years ago? That it will take 14 years for the UNP to become even a marginal excuse of a party again? Or that there is still time for him to drag the party down to murkier depths than it is in now?
Ranil makes light of nagging questions about his private meetings with President Mahinda Rajapaksa not long before the 18th Amendment was passed. Detractors want to know what he discussed with the president over tea and cake. Ranil says he didn’t have tea... he had black coffee without sugar.
Frankly, Mr Wickremesinghe, you could have drunk your sugarless, black coffee out of one end of President Rajapaksa’s satakaya but what the hell did you discuss? The issue is obviously not about tea, coffee, cake or, indeed, sugar. It is about a manifest lack of trust in Ranil among an expanding section of UNP office-bearers, members, supporters and public. He is seen as a conspirator and his lame attempts at buffoonery have done nothing to help.
Ranil was heard saying Friday that people are not concerned about what he said or did during meetings with the president as they face more important issues. With all due respect, how would he know? Let us endeavour to find one substantial issue over which Ranil Wickremesinghe was seen agitating in recent times, taking the lead. That’s right — there isn’t one. So what is he prattling about?
UNPers are falling away like leaves off a tree at autumn. Forget the heretics that change sides for personal gain. What of the others? There is no argument that many UNPers are desperately holding out in the hope that something will change in the UNP that will give them reason to stay. But if anything is changing, it would be party’s numbers in parliament, not Ranil. In the face of loud, despondent and angry clamours for change within the UNP — particularly in its constitution — Ranil maintains a cool, unmoved demeanour that disproves his bizarre reputation in the West as a great Sri Lankan democrat. All that wears a tie and coat are not democrats and what better example of that than Wickremesinghe.
The UNP constitution is desperately in need of change. Take some of its basic features as highlighted in a recent study on inner-party democracy, transparency and accountability funded by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. It is apparent, the research publication says, that almost all the UNP’s powers are constitutionally concentrated within the top leadership.
Although critical decision-making powers are vested in the working committee, it is the leader that appoints persons to that committee.
There is no provision for the replacement of the leader while there is no entity or mechanism to challenge his powers. Financial operations are exclusively handled by people appointed by the leader and through the working committee he selects nominees for elections and directly appoints chairmen for kottasha bala mandalas. The party has a well-established, multi-layered structure but the working committee exerts control over it. To represent the diversity of membership, there are only the yovun and vanitha sectors and only three spheres for affiliated organisations (trade unions, professional and foreign organisations).
Not a pretty picture
Party members are committed to follow party decisions but there is no mention anywhere about their rights. Furthermore, party membership also does not appear to be a pre-condition for holding office in the party. Delegation of power appears to be confined to the appointment of committees and the delegation of some powers to office-bearers while there is no provision at all for the devolution of powers. There are no provisions to ensure transparency and accountability in the decision-making process.
Not a pretty picture, is it? And in the middle of all this is Ranil Wickremesinghe, wallowing in the power the constitution accords him while refusing to alter a thing. The worst of the story, of course, is that Ranil has no right to treat the UNP as his personal property. The UNP belongs to its membership. And the public have an inalienable right to a vibrant, strong and healthy opposition that can counter the government on substantive issues.
With Ranil, we have neither. Indeed, we only have him. And, heck, that sure sucks. ~ courtesy: Lakbima News ~