It is no secret that there is a crisis in the United National Party. It is also no secret that there has been meaningful dialogue within the party. Steps have been taken to ensure that views of the members are taken into consideration and significant changes are expected to follow. Sabotage and betrayal are two words that came to mind when I read an article written by my friend Lakshman Seneviratne in The Sunday Leader on July 4.
He may be a friend, but his political decisions have not only been appalling, but also severely detrimental to the United National Party. It appears that Seneviratne has forgotten that he holds a high position in the UNP as its assistant general secretary, when concocting the article in an attempt to ridicule the leader of the party. It is quite acceptable to have differences or grievances with the leadership, however, there is an appropriate forum to seek redress and express personal views; especially those of a high ranking official in the party.
Publishing a highly opinionated, preposterous article defaming the character of the leader is irresponsible, to put it lightly, and is inexcusable. It looks bad on the party and more importantly shows no respect to that position; which sets a terrible precedent. Seneviratne points his finger at Ranil Wickremesinghe and suggests that he should take the blame for the fate that has befallen the UNP; I ask Seneviratne to take a look at his actions and then assess the damage he has caused the UNP.
In his article, Seneviratne writes about Ranil Wickremesinghe amending the UNP constitution in 1995 and suggests that only Barney Raymond will be able to oust him. He also writes that RW ridiculed the army and put his foot in his mouth. Seneviratne went to the lowest level possible by bringing religion in to his article and finding fault with the leader of the party for including Eran Wickramaratne in the National List, because of his religious beliefs. He goes on further to say that Wickremesinghe has no scruples.
Yes, the UNP constitution was amended in 1995. What Seneviratne left out in his article was that RW couldn’t do this alone. In that case, shouldn’t everyone who helped bring about this amendment be held responsible; not only RW? As a member of the Working Committee representing the ordinary members of the party, why did Seneviratne vote in favour of these amendments which he is now finding fault with?
Is Seneviratne trying to show the readers that he is a hasty and short sighted politician?
The duplicity continues. Seneviratne suggests that RW ridiculed the army and provides an example about a statement made relating to Thoppigala being a jungle; which is taken totally out of context. This amused me as there is no doubt that Seneviratne knew the context in which this statement was made. RW made the statement that Thoppigala is a jungle when the government kept selling the war victories to win the provincial council elections. He was merely asking the government to tell the public the true story, instead of glorifying victories for electioneering purposes. After all, Thoppigala was under government control during the UNP regime in the ‘90s and many are aware of the existing terrain.
Questioning RW’s patriotism is merely petty political rhetoric to gain a little mileage and is good to feed the gallery. If he was such a traitor, why did Prabhakaran ensure that he lost the presidential election on two occasions? Why did the LTTE brand him as the “cunning fox of Asia”? Are we forgetting that it was RW’s political maneuvering that culminated in the breakup of the LTTE Eastern cadres without an ounce of blood being dropped? It is undeniable that the eastern cadres were the strongest fighters and the break away was pivotal in defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka.
What was most surprising was that Seneviratne decided to attack the leader on his selection of members to be included in the National List. I am not in any way saying that it is wrong to raise objections. Instead, what I am saying is that it is quite repulsive that his objections are based on the faith of Wickramaratne. Doesn’t the constitution provide the right for every person to follow his own faith? Is religious affiliation or the capacity to be beneficial to the public the criteria to being appointed to parliament on the National List?
Wickramaratne was one of the most accomplished and distinguished professionals in the private sector. He gave up a very lucrative career to enter politics and is one who can definitely provide a positive contribution to Sri Lanka. It is completely irresponsible of Seneviratne to build up a divide based on religious conviction.
All political party’s receive campaign contributions from well wishers. Sabir Hussain donated to the UNP and the UPFA. Seneviratne questions the morals of the leader by asking how one can accept money from Sabir Hussain, who is a convict. Sabir Hussain donated money during the 2001 campaign and it is subsequent to this that he had been convicted. I don’t think it is fair to expect RW to know that this individual is going to have legal issues in the future, and as such the party shouldn’t accept his donations. Seneviratne is no amateur and I am sure that his intentions were to mislead the readers. It is important to remember that Sabir Hussain was demanding a posting as a Roving Ambassador which was declined by the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, even though he had made significant contributions to the UNP campaign.
The party accepted funds but didn’t give positions in return based on donations. This was clearly highlighted in an article in The Sunday Leader on August 29, 2005.
The first betrayal and the biggest betrayal
It is not Mr. Wickremesinghe that has no scruples, but it is Mr. Seneviratne who is the one that lacks a conscience. In addition to acting irresponsibly and causing severe damage to the party, he is arguably the biggest betrayer in Sri Lankan politics. He has let the party down on numerous occasions starting in1992 with the attempt at impeaching President Premadasa, where Mr. Seneviratne played a leading role.
During this period, the UNP was so strong and the opposition had no chance of raising its head. It is this atrocious exercise that provided the impetus for the opposition headed by Mrs. Bandaranaike to raise its head. Ultimately, the country lost two great leaders; Lalith Athulathmudali and President Premadasa and this was the beginning of the downfall of the UNP. Mr. Seneviratne was one of the 11 members who were expelled from the party after this unsuccessful bid.
Mr. Seneviratne’s nature is exemplified by his latest act of betrayal. General Sarath Fonseka, the greatest soldier of our soil; the individual who commanded the armed forces to victory over the ruthless terrorists, has been taken into custody based on a statement given by Mr. Johnston Fernando. It is alleged that General Fonseka discussed politics while in uniform; this is the trivial charge that this hero is held under. When General Fonseka was emerging as the common candidate of the opposition for the presidential election, Mr. Seneviratne went around claiming credit for bringing the General forward. He was one of the staunchest proponents during the campaign.
As soon as the results were announced, which were not favorable to the General, Seneviratne was back to his antics. For reasons best known to him, he voluntarily issued a statement to the CID which was detrimental to the General. He is one of the key witnesses in the ongoing court martial proceedings. In his statement, which was published in the Lanka newspaper on March 16, under the title; “Pawa Dena Eyum, Muhunata Kela Gasanu” (Spit on the faces of those who betray), the statement given to the CID is published. In the statement, Mr. Seneviratne states that he, as a politician, can speak with anyone he desires and claims that he was unaware of the military law which prohibits persons in the military engaging in political discussions. On the basis of his statement, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
However, there is no doubt that he was fully aware of the laws and the repercussions when he made the statement to the CID. He also states that he put the General on speaker phone so that his colleague Mr. Abeyratne can identify the caller. This man doesn’t even have the etiquette and the decency to inform the caller on the other side that he is putting him on speaker. He claims that a journalist by the name of Ruwan Weerakoon had facilitated the conversations. Subsequently, this was denied by Ruwan when he was summoned to the CID and I will not be surprised if this is just a figment of Mr. Seneviratne’s imagination.
This is the level of politics that Mr. Seneviratne resorts to. Has he not caused severe damage to the party? Isn’t he as responsible as any other for the debacle of the party? As the Assistant General Secretary, isn’t he completely out of line to publish an article defaming the leader of his party? Grievances should be taken up at the proper forum and publishing derogatory articles is certainly not the way. Mr. Seneviratne, given your track record, what right do you have to question the scruples of any other?