by Karu Jayasuriya
As the UNP faces one of the worst crises of its glorious 60 year history, it bears heavily on our spirits as responsible representatives, to appeal to party colleagues for caution, decorum and a united approach in the face of our trouble.
It is a fact that the internal rifts and challenges within the UNP has stunted the role of the opposition and allowed the government a blank cheque to get on with its business in any merry way they please. Today the entire country is focused on the UNP crisis. Leadership battles, personality clashes and backroom negotiations and horse-trading have taken precedence over a crying need for the UNP to go back to its roots, to seek out the grassroots support that was once unquestionably ours and find ways in which to stall the government juggernaut as it rolls along, dragging Sri Lanka along a path of anarchy, repression and economic ruin.
More than a year after the war was won by our brave armed forces, the government continues to adopt a militaristic approach to all governance issues, refusing to resettle the displaced Tamil people of the north and continuing with its policies of division and discrimination in the south. This is the official hegemonic, supremacist policy of the present Regime, which if unchecked will put an end to this nation’s collective dream of reconciliation and healing that followed the conclusion of a 30 year civil conflict. Instead of drawing the minorities into the mainstream and allowing them to be part of the post-conflict process in Sri Lanka, this government has deliberately alienated moderate Tamil politicians while drawing former ruthless LTTE commanders ever closer to them.
This is not the Sri Lanka that was promised to the people of this country when scores of lives were being lost in Eelam War IV. Under this administration Sri Lanka is falling from crisis to crisis, barely a shadow of its glorious past, where the mannerisms and attitudes of a smiling and tolerant people embodied the teachings of the Buddha and other religious leaders. Today we are suspicious of our neighbours, quick to label and quick to ire, divided and eager to divide. This is Sri Lanka under current regime – a divided people under oligarchic rule, spurned by our friends in the world and under scrutiny by world bodies because of the cavalier attitudes of this regime. The War is ended, but this government’s policy has ensured that Sri Lanka has lost vital trade concessions to the EU – the lifeline of our apparel, ceramic and several other industries. The US is scrutinizing our labour laws and because of the government’s lack of will and sheer negligence, the UN is investigating the Sri Lankan forces for war crimes.
Yet in the face of all these great national travesties, we in the UNP have not lived up to its potential as a powerful opposition. We have been so caught up in our own petty squabbles that we have been negligent to a certain degree in our duty as a responsible opposition to perform our democratic role as a credible and resolute alternative government. If this government has enjoyed a free ride, we in the UNP share a large portion of the blame, for without the necessary checks and balances any democracy will quickly descend into chaos and anarchy.
Even as we struggle to overcome this crisis period, we remain confident that it is the UNP that can and will one day reverse the trend this government is leading Sri Lanka on. This party is founded on honourable principles and the efforts of great men who to this day are regarded as the heroes of this nation. We will not be kept down for much longer. We urge party colleagues to join us in taking the fight to this government now, rather than allowing the situation to deteriorate further.
There is no doubt that the UNP, like any institutional structure must possess a succession plan. However we believe that leaders emerge when capable men get on with their work. And there is a great deal of work to be done. Before we resort to squabbling over positions, let us first work to ensure there is a party left worth fighting for. The UNP needs to wake up and take the fight to this regime. The future of all Sri Lankans depend upon us.
(Press Release by Acting Leader UNP - 22nd July 2010)