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He Who Dares Wins

Jun 26, 2010 2:52:27 PM - thesundayleader.lk
  • Unp Leadership Battle Moves Up A Gear:  Shows No Sign Of Abating

The battle for the UNP leadership has been slowly gathering momentum with the membership across the country calling for a change. A number of players have yet to throw their hats into the ring. Senior UNP stalwarts Ravi Karunanayake and Sajith Premadasa have however made a few noises leading most to believe that both may well offer themselves as potential leadership candidates when the time is right. Answering growing calls to profile each of its senior members, The Sunday Leader did in fact interview Sajith Premadasa and Ravi Karunanayake this week and got their take on a few matters in addition to profiling them.
An SMS / e-mail survey is also being carried out by The Sunday Leader this week. If you wish to vote for your favourite potential leader of the party:
SMS 0772 334 334 OR e-mail: faraz@thesundayleader.lk
RK for Ravi Karunanayake or SP for Sajith Premadasa

By Faraz Shauketaly

Name: Ravi Karunanayake
Age: 47 (19/2/1963)
Education: S.Thomas’ Prep and Royal College
Experience: Delmege, Hayleys, own company in 1988 (freight forwarding)
Qualifications: CIMA
Politics: Since 1988 officially when Appointed Youth Leader, Lalith Front.
Member of Parliament since 1994 (Lalith Front / UNP). 5 times MP from Colombo District. Since then Colombo District Leader. In 1995 declined to join Cabinet after Srimani Dissanayaka as a matter of  policy. 2001 Minister of  Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Extra Curricular: 1st XI Cricket for Royal College

Why do you think you would be a suitable candidate to be the leader of the UNP?
Firstly I think the party needs a victory orientated approach and to that end I would say that the first thing we would need is a Leadership Council and we must work together. But if you talk of leadership, then I would say the commitment, political experience, the various opposition pressures that have come in and the five times in parliament, the service to the party, the international interactions, the exposure of the Cabinet posting, the leadership of the Colombo District, experience of interaction with the younger generation, taking a national stand on public litigation, economic matters, speaking up and taking care of the downtrodden in society. I believe that if you are an active player then you must be vocal and be able to express your policies. I include all of Sri Lanka’s communities and I embrace them all. It’s the very fabric of our country and I subscribe to that. One cannot like some, just take a particular electorate. You have to be inclusive for all Sri Lanka.

How do you cope with these opposition pressures which seems aimed at getting you to crossover?

I must say there is a small group that love to hate me. Their ulterior motive is to see us out rather than in. On that score they come out with various allegations 45 to 46 times from Sharukh Khan and the JVP being bombed and so on. They have all apologized, Anura Bandaranaike, Jeyaraj, ITN, Rupavahini, JVP all of them. It goes to show that when the going gets tough the tough get going. I believe in playing up front not off the back foot. One cannot have this run with the hare and hunt with the hounds concept. On that score it is easy to character assassinate but there’s nothing there so nothing to prove.

So how many times has the government asked you to join them?

Many times. I take it with a sense of appreciation as it means there is a value in what we are doing and the government appreciates that too as they try to divide us. They see that we are committed to our principles.

Was it difficult to chew when the deputy leader of the party Mr Karu Jayasuriya crossed over? Which was worse him going or his coming back?

His going was difficult as he was a much respected man, the coming was expected it was a matter of time. I must say that as opposed to him going, he was sent. He didn’t go. He was a leader who was sent.

People say that some of your comments and that of the Leader has cost the UNP votes especially the “Alimankada” statements. Was that light hearted banter or real?

As you are doing a comparison between the others — I think it is ridiculous as it is used more by internal party people than outside for the simple reason that they want to score political brownie points. If you look at what was said and what is projected it is completely different. What is the period it was said in and when was the victory? Victory was in 2009 the statements were made in 2007/8.

What is the relevance? What we were trying to say was in politics what the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, the President said – all of them were beating their brows and heads and saying something else. We said politicians don’t play games with the forces and Sarath Fonseka will bear testimony to that.

What was said is cut and chopped and made into what they want to project. We were the most supportive of this government in the war effort. It is much worse that some of our past leaders armed the LTTE, the younger generation being slaughtered — those are the things that destroyed the UNP. The UNP has never been able to come out of these actions.

Do you think that some of these actions like arming the LTTE were in fact military stratagems? Denzil Kobbekaduwa did similar things and President Premadasa actually armed the Mahattaya faction not the LTTE per se – similar to creating an enemy within the enemy?

I don’t think it should have been done and if anyone did that I don’t think the party should pay for that. The 88/89 incidents, the police asked not to fight back, the youth insurrection all of them had a collective impact on the party and the UNP was unable to come out. These are facts that have been admitted even by their kith and kin. If it was used as a strategy I don’t think it was wise.

You have said that the UNP reforms are like sticking plaster. So what is your thinking on this subject?

I said plastic surgery! But anyway, I believe that the reorganisation, the repositioning should be done with a winning approach rather than to fit names to positions. The committee is trying to do just that rather than create a winning strategy.

In an ideal world what would you say about reforms?

Reforms are not about trying to get a particular person out or anyone person in. I sincerely believe that there should be a radical reform so that we have a party by the people, of the people, for the people. On that basis you need people who do not benefit from the government, who are not soft on the government and who take on the government in parliament, you need not be confrontational but you don’t need to *****foot around issues.

There is a saying in Sinhala that its only the person who washes plates who breaks them. In short, “he who dares wins”. In 1999 I won the Best Politician of the Year JCC award I believe for my various stances like on Air Lanka, talking on the Muslim situation, Tamils being bussed out. Leaders are not made of an inheritance. You are born and picked up and develop by taking a stand on issues.

How effective would a Leadership Council be?

I believe that is the least confrontational scenario that offers the maximum benefit without affecting the unity of the party. There is a huge difference between those on the second rung, so this would be the best.

If you were in government to-day, what would you do differently?

I would take the acrimonious political atmosphere away. Certainly I would have a country that is led and not followed. A country where the hopes and aspirations of all its people are achieved.


Name    Sajith Premadasa
Age :   43 years (12/1/1967)
Education: S.Thomas’ Prep and Royal College, Mill Hill School UK, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Experience : Not worked in the commercial sector, full- time politician. 1994 onwards Hambantota District  Organiser and Deputy Minister. MP since 2000.
Qualifications:      BSc Econ (IR) Politics.
Extra Curricular:    1st XI Cricket Team at Mill Hill School (Captain in 4th year), riding, photographing wild elephants and trying to hold it by its trunk

Why do you think you would be a suitable candidate to be the leader of the UNP?

To be perfectly honest, whether I am suitable is a matter for the people of Sri Lanka to decide. I do feel that I have a lot to contribute; in terms of developing our country, in terms of adding value, in terms of upliftment and enhancement of all sectors of society so I feel I have a great deal to contribute to the well being and prosperity of all Sri Lankans – bar none, without exception.

I have a holistic approach to development where each and everyone will be made a stakeholder in the country’s progress and success. So I fervently and honestly believe that I can contribute and provide leadership to our country and that peace is perpetuated for eternity. I have the strength, the capacity and the vision.

It has been said that the UNP reforms are like plastic surgery. What is your thinking on this subject? Some say it’s loaded towards getting rid of one person or placing another in?

I can say that the reforms are superficial and I suppose you could call it plastic surgery – it is impermanent and does not meet the basic problems, met head on. So the reforms up to 2010 have been superficial and so the reforms are absolutely and totally ineffective.

Again I believe that the reform process now being done by a six member committee displays a real commitment. I sincerely believe that this will make our party victorious once again at all electoral levels.

There is a thorough debate going on now within the party regarding the direction the party is to follow. Are we going on with the same old stuff or are we going to design for ourselves a unique and innovative approach towards political decision making and adopting modern day political strategies to be victorious at all electoral levels? Are we going to carry on with the failed strategies or change track? These questions and its answers will affect our entire party.

How effective would a Leadership Council be?

It is also another proposal being mooted by those interested in the well being of the party. It’s also a direction we could go in. I believe that if we have an efficient and transparent structure that is designed in a manner to ensure that positive results come out in the decision making process I think that would be the recipe for our success politically.

People say that the actions of President Premadasa in arming a faction of the LTTE was the start of the erosion of the UNP vote base.  What do you say about this?

This is one of the arguments put forward by some politicians who are detractors of the Premadasa vision and principles. Having said that there are examples of various governments working with various groups within the enemy. For example the US and the UK arming some within the Hitler regime. Those tragedies were enacted not being traitors to the US or the UK but rather strategies that ensured that Hitler was defeated.

President Premadasa adopted a Sinhalese version and if I may say so, succeeded to an extent. Mahatthaya and Yogi became detached from the Prabhakaran line of thinking precisely because of the methodologies adopted by the Premadasa regime to divide the LTTE.  However in hindsight the arming of the LTTE or factions is something that I would certainly not have approved of but it is essential to look at the fuller picture taking into context all the political issues.

President Premadasa inherited a horrendous situation, he was fighting a war in the North and in the South. When you consider the prosperity within difficult circumstances, then President Premadasa’s achievements are memorable and I am very proud of it.

Was it difficult to chew when the Deputy Leader of the party Karu Jayasuriya crossed over? Which was worse, him going or his coming back?

Not only Mr. Jayasuriya but whenever anyone jumps ship it is incumbent upon our leadership to stay opposed to letting them leave. I don’t agree with the way the party leadership encouraged them to leave when we lost many talented people. It was a grave mistake to allow them to leave let alone allow them to come back. Personally I felt bad for our party when he left as much as I felt for the others. I was quite unhappy that they went.

If you were in government to-day, what would you do differently?

I would ensure that the 17th Amendment is implemented and I would make the Executive Presidency more accountable to parliament and ensure that the Executive Presidency’s activities are more transparent. I would promote the enhancement of Human and Civic Rights and would have a stringent approach towards bribery and corruption and adopt a hard nosed approach towards achieving development goals.