Fate rarely beckons a man to bear the heavy burden of ignominious defeat repeatedly without relent or pause. But for Lanka’s Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe it has gone the extra mile to drive the final stake into the moribund corpus of his long party leadership by pinning on his well worn bespoke suit the crucifix [...]

Sunday Times 2

Ranil: The final stake


Fate rarely beckons a man to bear the heavy burden of ignominious defeat repeatedly without relent or pause. But for Lanka’s Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe it has gone the extra mile to drive the final stake into the moribund corpus of his long party leadership by pinning on his well worn bespoke suit the crucifix of abject and chronic failure he could well do without.

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe:

After last Saturday’s glaringly embarrassing debacle at the three provincial elections crowned his long catalogue of electoral washouts, the final curtain looks set to fall on the denouement of a tragedy that should have ended by the third act. 

But keep your fingers crossed. For, despite the obvious solution to revive the UNP from its precarious and pallid existence is to show him where to get off, all the signs ominously portend to keep the jinxed show on the road and to serve up further and greater routs in the elections to come and further entrench him in his tainted role as the incarnate Jonah of his party’s doom with his presence at the helm personifying his party’s death wish. And, as the prognosis would have it, Ranil’s relish for defeat is insatiable, his capacity to embrace humiliation infinite; and the glutton that he is for more degrading punishment makes him crave to cling leech like to his sinecure position as leader of the opposition, with all the perks of office without the responsibility for the weal of the electorate.

Not that he has not done anything to justify his claim to the title. Oh no. To have achieved such a dubious track record of twenty seven defeats single handedly and still retain his rank speaks volumes of his innate capability to remain indifferently inert in a perpetual state of apathy. Had his followers too wallowed in the same insipid mire, it would hardly have been worth a mention.

But to have done it in the midst of clamour by the unrepresented masses to find an alternate voice, in the wake of protests by its own party members at this effete posture adopted, in the din of their strident calls to rise against the government and act true to any opposition party’s raison d’être which is to oppose, is no mean feat by any yardstick. It is one that takes extraordinary resilience to achieve with such titanic triumph.

However, that is not to say that troubles haven’t hung over his still uncrowned head and sleep that visits his houseboy’s mat has not fled his bed. Far from it. His citadel of Sirikotha has been stormed. Coup d’états have been mounted to dislodge him. Potential pole-vaulters have been grounded.

Amidst revolt, the party constitution has been amended. In the manner of the presidency, his powers and tenure has been extended; and the yearly ritual of holding elections to choose a leader has been abolished. He has run his own gauntlet of intrigue and treachery and has had to control his little empire with an iron fist in the manner of some tin pot African despot and, impervious to all but to his own counsel and the ego boosting glib hoorays of his self serving aficionados that form his inner council of yes men, can ill afford to brook any opposition to his imperious rule.. To all sense and purpose he has not been idle but ever busy protecting his flanks in the opposition ranks.

All in all, his battle strategy has been to play his role in his chosen passive manner of patiently waiting in the wings in the belief that everything, including power, comes to he who waits while the UPFA’s cast enact their parts on the main stage, bagging the honours and taking the many curtain calls to ringing applause amidst shouts of encore, encore. But the gallery is not for him. Such is the ambit of his ambitions: that he is quaintly content to be ever the suitor never the groom, to the everlasting dismay of his followers and to the untold delight of his opponents in government.

But though it may suit him fine to carry on regardless and make occasional pipsqueaks to remind us all of his inconsequential presence in the boundary line of the political arena, the question is can Lanka afford such a shadowy, synchronised, sycophant opposition that oft extends tacit, saccharine support to the Government they are expected to vehemently oppose?
The terminal leadership crisis that has besieged the United National Party for so long is no longer an internal matter for the party only but a national issue of the utmost importance for all citizens of Lanka. Whatever be the present plight of the UNP, it remains as the only credible party in Lanka with a massive vote bank to be able to form an alternative government.

If allowed to split merely because of the intransigence of one man who, like a stubborn mule, refuses to quit and thus blocks the party from exploiting the vast groundswell of hard earned goodwill it still possesses in abundant measure, the party itself is in danger of splitting into diverse groups, of becoming fragmentised of losing its identity and its vote base. Then this nation, left bereft of an alternative credible party to challenge on an equal footing, with a new and enlightened vision and dynamic image, the potent mass appeal of the present Government, will be reduced to the pitiable and wretched status of a one party State; and woeful dirges will mark the internment of democracy itself. 

An authoritarian State would automatically emerge as a result but the Government will be free of all blame. None will be able to lay Lanka’s tragedy at its door nor attach to it any culpability for this dastard crime which would render us all helpless, subject to the jackboot of dictatorial rule. For this flagrant immolation in egoistical flames of Lanka’s oldest political party would have been done by none other than the UNP leadership itself in the sepulcre of democracy.

In a cruel world that does not forgive failure but hold survival of the fittest as the cardinal iron law of Nature, Ranil Wickremesinghe has brought his party to the brink of extinction. It would do him much good to realise this salient truth and, being the gentleman he is, do the decent and honourable thing before it is forced upon him and he is given an ignominious send off.

Or else, the growing impression created and reinforced by the unending stream of electoral debacles in the minds of the voters that if the UNP were the only runner in a one horse race it would still come a sorry second, would drive the final nail in the UNP coffin.

Flag faux pas flays Pillay

Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims nor the Christians have made any fuss over the Buddhist flag flying at Independence Square. And neither has any religious community taken any government to task over Article 9 of the Constitution which declares that the Republic of Sri Lanka shall give foremost place to Buddhism and that it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism whilst giving equal status to all other religions.

So why should Navi Pillay make much ado about it? What could possibly have been up her kurta sleeve when she dabbled out of her depth in dangerous waters?

Given the celebrated tolerance of Buddhism towards all religions, all communities of whatever creed or faith have lived for centuries respecting each other’s religion in an atmosphere of ingrained religious tolerance.

But now things may turn out to be different. The seeds of religious discord where none existed may have been sown by the irresponsible uttering of a high profile UN diplomat whose judgment is now in question. It may well be that childhood traumas of apartheid experienced firsthand in her native South Africa makes her see discrimination at every corner and turn, and moved the 72 year old Navanethem Pillay to rush recklessly to complain to no less a person than the President; but in so doing she unwarrantably created an issue where no issue existed for unscrupulous elements to exploit.

Isn’t it ironical that one sent by the world body to douse the fires of disharmony and make us all ponder over the lessons learnt and the reconciliation process should, on the eve of her departure, stray out of her way to ignite another pile of discord and prostitute her office by trying to raise from her South African voodoo cauldron the zombie of religious fanaticism and perverse hatred to stalk this land again?

The maestro’s magic touch

Though Lanka is yet to become the miracle of Asia which presently glistens only as a twinkle in the President’s hopeful eye, Mahinda Rajapaksa has shown himself once again to be the master magician in effortlessly pulling off election victories one after the other with all the consummate ease and skill of a conjuror pulling off rabbits out of his hat.

Think what you will of him but there is no denying the fact that the miracle maker has turned winning elections into an art form. He has only to scatter his magic dust, snap his fingers and Hey Presto a million votes bloom and smile for him from a parched land which only days before was a hot arid bed fit only for the nettles of anti-government feelings to thrive.

So what’s his secret? What makes him tick with success while his counterpart Archangel comes a cropper at every turn? Alas, the magician’s secret is “not for the telling”. Except to say nothing succeeds like success which explains why while the post-mortem has already begun on the comatose opposition leader, the Lankan President is photographed with the President and First Lady of the United States in the Big Apple, blithely hobnobbing with the famous and the powerful.

There he stands with all the fame of his achievements beside him, with all the support of his family behind him, with all the adulation of the adoring masses bequeathed upon him. There he stands at the sunlit uplands of power. As things stand, another term in office is merely his for the asking.

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