From the Blue Corner

5th December 1999

Remember it's a game of give and take, forgive and forget!

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My worthy adversary in these pages, Viruddha Paakshikaya is a desperate man these days. He had devoted most of his space last week to underscore the fact that I did not wholeheartedly welcome the entry of the 'rebel' UNPers to the PA. I of course said a fortnight ago that I was not in favour of this type of cross-over for a good reason- that President Chandrika Kumaratunga can win the forthcoming poll in her own right without having UNPers with dubious records in tow.

But Viruddha Paakshikaya had got one important argument wrong and because of that his entire case collapses: he says the 'rebels' entered the SLFP and that is why I was crying foul! No Sir, they did not enter the SLFP- we would not have allowed it anyway- and they too were at pains to say they only joined the PA while retaining their UNP identity. So, they will be a coalition partner, just like, for example the SLMC or the CWC. And that is a significant point, Viruddha Paakshikaya which I strongly suspect, you knew, but chose to conceal for the sake of your flawed argument.

It may not appear so now, because you and your leader Ranil Wickremesinghe are running around the country saying they have been expelled from the UNP but that is not the true story and I will tell you why. Yes, they have been 'expelled' from the UNP but remember that it will be subject to being contested in a court of law which the so-called rebels are in the process of doing right now. And, if Viruddha Paakshikaya knows the history of his party well, he will recall that Minister Nanda Mathew's father, Cyril Mathew suffered the same fate at the hands of J. R. Jayewardene but he too fought to the end, challenging his expulsion from the UNP for a long, long time.

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya this will become all the more significant when President Kumaratunga is re-elected President for a second term on December 22, because we in the PA know many more UNPers are waiting in the wings to cross-over to the PA. And don't forget, they too will not join the SLFP: they will continue to be UNPers pledging their support to President Kumaratunga and assisting her in her bold endeavor to build a National Government. And what's more, they will then form a significant majority of the UNP members of parliament, the Working Committee and the Executive Committee. What will happen then, Viruddha Paakshikaya?

The very Working Committee and the Executive Committee of the UNP which recommended expulsion will overturn that decision and welcome them back- and those who called for the expulsion in the first instance will run the risk of being expelled themselves.

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya you are sure to shrug away these suggestions saying they are closer to fairy tales than to reality. But I suggest you look back at the recent history of your own party and then you will realize how dangerously real this possibility is. Do you remember those tumultuous days of the notorious impeachment motion against then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, my friend? What happened thereafter? Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake were unceremoniously expelled from the UNP. They did challenge that decision in the courts of law but that challenge was dismissed on a legal technicality. Lalith Athulathmudali, of course died a DUNF martyr, assassinated at the hands of a still unknown gunman but what happened to Gamini Dissanayake? Did he not return to the party? Was he not welcomed with open arms? Did not the same Working Committees and the Executive Committees which recommended his expulsion sanction his return? And that's not all, my friend- he became the de facto party leader ahead of Ranil Wickremesinghe and even became the party's presidential candidate until he himself was gunned down.

Now, my friend, do you realize that anything is possible in the give-and-take, forgive-and-forget world of Sri Lankan politics? Now do you realise what a perilous position your party will be in when the results begin to trickle in at first light on December 22? So, Viruddha Paakshikaya, there is no purpose in saying 'Good riddance of bad rubbish' to Sarath Amunugama and Co. No, sir, you have not got rid of them and indeed very soon they may well wrest control of the UNP and try to get rid of you! In fact, hasn't a letter already been sent to Party Chairman Karu Jayasuriya questioning Ranil Wickremesinghe's conduct at the 1994 presidential campaign? Could this be the beginning of the end for the Wickremesinghe faction of the UNP then?

As you can now see, my friend, there is plenty for you to worry about without building castles in the air about a Ranil Wickremesinghe presidency. My advice to him instead is to concentrate on being the Leader of the Opposition-or else, he may soon lose that title too!

Then, of course, there is the usual loser's lament: that the polls will be rigged. Tell me, my friend, even before the polls are held how can you be so sure that the election will not be free and fair? After all, the President has assured the likes of Muslim Congress leader M. H. M. Ashraff that the race will be a fair one and there is no reason to pre-judge the issue-unless, of course you are very, very sure of losing the contest!

In the last few weeks there was a big hue and cry about monitors not being allowed, was there not? The opposition screamed that here was the first tactic of a government hell-bent on winning the election by hook or by crook. And then what happened, Viruddha Paakshikaya? The Elections Commissioner- yes, the same man you so callously cast aspersions about- invites international observers and he gets every possible assistance from the government, particularly from the Foreign Ministry! So, Viruddha Paakshikaya, count your blessings- you will still get almost 40% of the vote and if you can maintain that you will win some seats in Parliament in the upcoming general election- unless of course those who cross over from the UNP ask President Kumaratunga to opt for a referendum! Until then, you can keep your fingers crossed because I wholeheartedly agree with your concluding comments last week: those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make them mad! Sadly though, it seems that the Gods have decided to destroy the UNP now…!

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