Ranil Wickremesinghe is the dictator of the opposition and the first thing between Sri Lanka and real political change.
He has deployed the bureaucracy, the courts and even road paving equipment to protect his position, but he still stands in the path of history. Ranil Wickremesinghe has the support of ruling ministers, but he has lost the confidence of his party and the nation. Still, selfishly, he puts himself before all. Ranil, have you no shame?
In healthy democracies, politicians step down after they lose. Ranil has lost once, twice, now over a dozen times in various elections. Despite leading the party to defeat after defeat, he still feels qualified to lead. His obliviousness makes him qualified for nothing except a dictatorship of defeat.
The voters have left him. After steady declines in the UNP base, Ranil was too cowardly to even run for President in the last election. Thus, for the first time in the party’s and the country’s history, the United National Party fielded no candidate at all. They instead picked a scapegoat – whom they called a Common Candidate – Sarath Fonseka. That should tell you where Ranil’s priorities are. Himself before party and nation. The latter can sustain any damage as long as Ranil Wickremesinghe survives.
But why should Ranil survive? He has served the country and did try to push a peace process through. Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time this was a big step. History, however, has rushed past and the war is now definitively over. Ranil is part of a past that he cannot let go.
So why does he stay? Perhaps he thinks that like his uncle J. R. Jayawardena he can simply hang around and slip into power in old age. Unlike his uncle, however, he makes no marches or efforts at building the party and opposition. Indeed, his main constituency now seems to be the government. His main defender is now government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella. On the eve of protests, the government rushed out construction crews to the UNP headquarters to make assembly impossible.
Thus, Ranil is not laying the groundwork for opposition to win, he has simply became part of an already entrenched government. As Opposition Leader he gets all the perks of a government minister, plus the trips abroad to play the token rebel, when in fact he does nothing to effect real change. He gets to have his cake and eat it too. Meanwhile the party and nation go unrepresented.
Is Ranil working with the government? Yes. Judge a man by his deeds, and causes by their effects. Ranil undoubtably works in the government’s interests? For one thing, he is forever tied with opposition to the war, meaning that the government can gain mileage from that victory long after its due. He also shepherds the UNP limply, meaning government wolves can poach off one or two whenever they want a vote. Finally, he can be counted on to lose at elections and prevent any serious contenders from really getting in. Hence the government does not even have to oppress the opposition directly. Ranil does it for them.
So what can the long suffering people do? Grassroots UNP voters have already registered their choice, rejecting his leadership in election after election. Many UNP MPs have simply crossed over and left. Those that remain have spoken in the press and now protested in the street, but Ranil still remains deaf.
There is no option but sanctions. Ranil Wickremesinghe should be called by his friends and family and told to leave, for his dignity and theirs. He should be politely interrupted at restaurants, at the airport or wherever you happen to see him. This is not a call for harassment by any means, but he should be told quite clearly that it is time to go and that he is no longer welcome in society until he acknowledges social reality.
Ranil, you had a good run, but you cannot bat anymore. You went to the right school, came from the right family, but you never had the right stuff. You are hurting the team and it is time to step aside to put party and nation first. Because this is not a joke, and the UNP is not your property.
Now more than ever the country needs a united, national party that can push against the creeping Sinhala hegemony of the SLFP and offer an inclusive vision for the future of the country. Right now the yoke of opposition is carried by the JVP and TNA, both somewhat narrow parties which cannot form the broad coalition required to effect real national change.
The UNP still has a role to play, and not as Ranil’s family Walauwa, left to decay while the servants dutifully potter about. Ranil has lost it but he has not given it up.
It is now clear that Ranil is not the western-facing technocrat we imagined, he is actually a tin-pot Arab dictator without a country. He oppresses his own party, such that the opposition is forced to take to the streets to protest against itself. Ranil has turned his lack of shame from a liability to an asset, enabling him to ignore political reality, social reality, moral duty and basic common sense. But he cannot and should not be allowed to inflict his delusions on the nation any more.
If you know Ranil, call him. If you see him, call him out. His time has come, his race has run, Mahinda’s Will has been done for too long. Ranil Wickremesinghe, thanks for the service and thanks for the time. It is time to put the party first, the nation first and to also put personal dignity ahead of personal pride. Ranil Wickremesinghe, have you no shame? It is time to step down and allow the future to pass.
T20 World Cup