Greater love has no politician than one who willingly sacrifices his parliamentary seat for the sake of his floundering party; and, having cast his fate to fortune’s winds, takes up for his party’s good, the unnerving challenge to fight the un-fightable foe on uneven ground, on unequal terms only to lose as predicted. But fortune [...]


Harin’s triumph in defeat lifts UNP sky-high


Greater love has no politician than one who willingly sacrifices his parliamentary seat for the sake of his floundering party; and, having cast his fate to fortune’s winds, takes up for his party’s good, the unnerving challenge to fight the un-fightable foe on uneven ground, on unequal terms only to lose as predicted.

Party pride and family joy: Harin with his wife and two children Pic. by Pradeep Pathirana, Daily Mirror

But fortune favours the brave; and Harin Fernando, having forsaken his parliamentary seat and forfeited his Uva chief minister post hopes, has won for himself the mantle of the charismatic conquering hero.

Out of the 197,708 votes polled for the UNP in the Badulla district, 90 per cent voted for Harin Fernando who topped the preferential vote card with 176,000 whilst in the Moneragala district, the reigning chief minister of the province, UPFA heavyweight Shashendra Rajapaksa, who contested the elections with all the fame and power of his family name behind him, could only garner 68 per cent of the personal vote or 96,000 out of the valid UPFA votes. As a party the UPFA didn’t have much to sing about either, winning the Uva electorate only by 75,000 votes, polling 349,000 votes to UNP’s 274,000. That is 51 per cent to UNP”s 40 per cent.

Compare this to the 2009 Uva elections, when UPFA won handsomely with a majority of nearly 300,000 receiving 419,000 votes or 72 per cent to UNP’s 129,000 or 22 per cent and you get a clear idea of the magnitude of the UNP’s massive gain last week and perhaps can better understand the miracle Harin has pulled off from the Uva air, representing a party whose string of failures have been the pillars of UPFA’s success.

As Harin Fernando told the media on Wednesday, “Somebody can say that Harin did not become the Chief Minister. That is true. Harin did not become the Chief Minister on paper, but Harin became the Chief Minister inside the people’s hearts.”

Undoubtedly the hour belongs to Harin Fernando. He won because his coin was genuine. His cause: sincere. And his sacrifice: commendable. Unlike the former UNP turncoat Dayasiri Jayasekera who only last year betrayed the trust and confidence of his colleagues and deserted the then sinking UNP boat to scavenge the rich pickings aboard the UPFA cruise ship, Harin stayed faithful on the condemned vessel to plug the leak.
His triumph in defeat has also seen the rise of his party’s star. From the moribund corpus it was just a year ago in September when the Wayamba and Central Provinces were convincingly won by the UPFA, the UNP has become resurrected, revitalised having taken but a sip from Harin’s cup of victory. After a long comatose state of existence, the heady draught of pep drawn from the Uva keg has proved to be its elixir and has galvanized the party to action.

Last year today, the captain of the UNP schooner Ranil Wickremesinghe, was a man walking the plank, to be thrown overboard by the ship’s crew of mutineers. Condemned by all as the biggest stumbling block to the party’s progress and the cause of its deplorable circumstances, and viewed by the UPFA leadership as its biggest asset in the opposition, Ranil was forced to make radical — but in practical terms meaningless — changes in the party to calm the disquiet and ensure his own survival.

But these changes, made from a position of weakness, were made for the wrong reasons and thus no significant benefits accrued, except to keep the leader’s position safe with the new nomenclature of ‘national leader’. Even the Western and Southern provincial elections held early this year brought only a face saving performance by the main opposition.

Harin’s miracle in Uva has changed all that. Hardly had the dust settled, the UNP has gone for the hard sell to change its defeatist image. With this week’s welcome appointment of Sajith Premadasa as the deputy leader of the party, the old familiar rift ridden party portrait has been wisely consigned to the flames and instead a soothing, assuring and pleasing depiction of unity wrought from discord, coherence from chaos has been presented in the public gallery.

Apart from UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake’s surprise resignation from the UNP Leadership Council over a personal issue which nearly resurrected the ghost of disunity, senior UNP Joseph Michal Perera’s graceful resignation as the party Chief Whip to pave the way for a younger man, and UNP MP Ruwan Wijewardene’s gallant offer to resign from his post as the leader of the party’s National Youth Front in favour of Harin which Harin magnanimously refused to accept, have been commendable and projected the new look UNP in generous light.

The new image will be further enforced by the expected appointment today of Harin as the new deputy national organiser. And Ranil Wickremesinghe’s unofficial declaration that he will be the UNP presidential candidate will serve to boost party morale and show the country that this time the UNP has confidence in itself to stand alone and ask for the people’s vote.

So far so good! But the UNP must not wallow in the mire of victory. The battle has been won but the war is just beginning. And the UPFA too will be considering its position and scanning the post-mortem report. Haloed with seeming immortality after winning the thirty year terrorist war, UPFA most probably believed in its own invincibility until Harin’s lance chinked the UPFA armour. Its only natural that after countless, consecutive election victories over the UNP, complacency had set in and contributed in no small a measure to the ruling party’s set back.

As the UNP cuts the party celebration cake and celebrates the turn of events, it must not be forgotten that the score card still reads that UPFA won the Uva Provincial Council. And that is what will matter when it comes to both the presidential and general elections, for in these decisive polls, the winner takes all, despite a drop in numbers.

Whatever side of the political divide one is in, it is a cause for national rejoicing that Lanka has found its main opposition drifting back into national focus, looking alive, recovered and well and in a fighting mood to take the UPFA Goliath head on.

Meanwhile it will do well for the UNP to hoard the few green emeralds it has picked up from gem rich Uva and not squander it away on self adulation.They should spend the goodwill earned wisely and gather their ‘rosebuds whilst they may’. If Harin has ushered in springtime for the UNP, party supporters will now expect Ranil to ensure that summer will not be too far away.


Who boobed
with bra bribe?

A titter ran through Parliament on Tuesday when UNP MP Palitha Range-Bandara kept the supreme legislative body abreast of his findings in the Uva heartland; and, bringing a brassiere into the august chamber, claimed it had been found in a bag containing herbal relief medicines given by an UPFA candidate to a Buddhist monk as a ‘vote’ bribe during last week’s provincial elections.

As MPs on both sides of the cleaved House burst into mounds of laughter as to how some dimwit sucker had boobed in his bizarre attempt to give an uplift to the party’s sagging hopes of an election win, Mr. Bandara claimed that millions of rupees had been milked from the Treasury purportedly to further develop the Uva bosom; and alleged that those funds had been busted on UPFA candidates to buy these bulging bags which had their preferential number on it. Whether the number on this particular bag was the bra size or the candidate’s number was not revealed, even as the dimwit’s name was not released but kept strapped to the UNP MP’s taut chest.Neither was the areola surrounding the pimpled mystery of the ‘bra in the basket’ bribe exposed. And the question as to how a brassiere could be of any use to a monk and what it was doing with a host of herbal relief remedies, except, perhaps, to serve as two cups of libido boosting arishtas, remained unanswered.

Yet despite this serious allegation of public money being used to fund candidates personal campaigns, the government MPs flatly ignored the call for an inquiry and instead demanded to know how the ‘offensive’ brassiere had been smuggled into the House.

Perhaps Rosy Senanayake, Sumedha Jayasena, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Nirupama Rajapaksa, Malani Fonseka, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, and Upeksha Swarnamali and others of the corset caucus in Parliament will be well braced to shed some revealing titbits on this titillating matter – if at all, for the elucidation of their ignorant male colleagues that the article in question forms part and parcel of a woman’s daily attire; and that far from being an item that has to be ‘smuggled’ in, enters the chamber, albeit unobtrusively, as of right.



Yal Devi’s homecoming to Yalpanam

The Yal Devi returned to Jaffna on Monday after waiting twenty four years for the signal that the track was finally ready and safe for her to journey. Once the indispensable link to the northern town of Jaffna, the Northern Line was established in 1905 by the British to chiefly enable northern Tamils to work in Colombo during the week and till their lands in Jaffna during weekends and the train was baptised in the ’50s as Yal Devi by the then Railway General Manager the much respected B. D. Rampala.

Yal Devi’s back in Yaalpanam

In 1990, after the Yal Devi was attacked by the Tamil Tigers and the track damaged, train services to the north had to be restricted to Vavuniya. Only after the war ended in 2009 could the authorities move to repair and relay the wrecked track in stages; and thus this week’s symbolic homecoming of this cultural icon would have warmed the hearts of the northern populace as she steamed into the newly built Jaffna station.

With scheduled services beginning in October, they will find their trade and commerce enhanced, transport time for their perishable agricultural goods shortened, their opportunities to work in Colombo and still retain their regular base in the north increased, access to medicines and services improved and their link with their relatives in the capital Colombo strengthened. Yal Devi would bring to them once more, the manifold benefits, blessings and conveniences, physical nearness to the nation’s capital undoubtedly bestows.

But alas for the people of the south, the much vilified majority the Sinhalese, not even the supposed good fortune of having their own Sinhala governments in power for the last 64 years professing to champion their prosperity, have brushed them with even an iota of the benefits enjoyed by the rest of Lanka. For them rail progress has been nonexistent. Beyond Matara they are still to hear a train hoot.
The Coastal Rail Line was started by the British and in 1877 the first train on the track arrived at the Panadura station. Mile by mile and year by year the British advanced hundred miles further south and in 1895, the first train arrived in Matara: and, having hit the buffers has stayed there at a standstill ever since, with another hundred miles of track to be laid to reach Kataragama, the last outpost on the southern belt. Only now are plans been drawn up to extend the railway line to this destination.

Let us not forget that even as the Yal Devi breezed in again to Jaffna after 24 years to the hail, cheer and welfare of Point Pedro’s populace in the Northern Peninsula, down below in the deepest South, 119 years after the British stopped the track at Matara and no Sinhala government thereafter cared to extend it beyond Dondra Head, the Sinhalese are still waiting for the Ruhunu Kumarie to whistle in.

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