Ranil undercuts Sajith by appointing Ravi K | Sunday Observer

Ranil undercuts Sajith by appointing Ravi K

A recent photo published in a newspaper of a UNP meeting showed Ranil Wickremesinghe presiding, flanked by Sajith Premadasa (on his right) and Ravi Karunanayake (on his left). Sajith, of course, had taken his rightful place as the anointed deputy leader of the party. He has proved his loyalty to the Leader and the party by refusing to take over the premiership handed to him by President Maithripala Sirisena. He also fits into Ranil’s promise of handing over power to the young and new leadership rising within the party. Above all, he has a clean record so far – a feature that stands out like Dudley Senanayake in the den of Ranil Wickremesinghe and his forty thieves!

If Sajith Premadasa is the anointed Deputy Leader of the UNP, guaranteed to succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe, what the hell was Ravi Karunanayake signalling (politically) by sitting on the left hand side at this Party meeting? Was Ranil feeling that cold to be flanked by two deputy leaders on either side? Seating arrangements in any significant political gathering goes by ranking. Only the No. 2 gets the adjacent seat next to Numero Uno. Like the way he twisted the 19th Amendment to expand the Cabinet beyond the limit of 30 is he planning to expand the number of his deputies to secure his position in the party? The two deputies sitting on either side, with Ranil in the centre, made the UNP leadership look like “a three-headed donkey”, in the famous words of Dr. Colvin R. de Silva. But Ranil’s devious plan seems to have a more sinister motive: as usual he is planning to have two number twos to vie with each other so that he can remain as No:1 in the middle. This indicates clearly that he has not given up his usual crafty game of pitting one against the other. It is also possible that he deliberately planted Ravi K next to him to send a message to President Maithripala Sirisena saying that his successor is Ravi and not Sajith. So is Ranil feeling threatened by Sajith, who is preferred not only from the top (i.e., President Sirisena inviting him to be PM) but also from the rank and file openly opting for Sajith?

Any political observer reading the disaffected rumblings going on at the grassroots of the Party will know that Sajith, like his father, could easily win in an inner party leadership contest. Whether Ranil’s manipulations can tilt the vote to his favourite, which has noticeably been Ravi K going back in time, is questionable. Ambitious Ravi K has been close to Ranil with the sole aim of stepping into his Leader’s shoes.

He was making his presence felt physically at the last meeting to signal that he has the blessings of Ranil to be next in line to the UNP throne. It was a conjecture when I first saw the photo in a newspaper. But the news item in another newspaper (7/12) has confirmed my worst fears. It said: “United National Party and former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has in writing informed UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake that he will be appointed as the Deputy Leader of the Party and the Minister of Finance in a future Government.”

Where does this leave Sajith Premadasa? What guarantees are there, when push comes to shove, that Ranil will back him the way he has stood by Ranil so far? Ranil expects Sajith to stand by him the way he stood by President Premadasa when Lalith-Gamini combo led a futile challenge to impeach the President on ridiculous charges, one of which being insane. Up until now Sajith has paid back his dues with his loyalty to Ranil. He has done his bit. But will Ranil reward him with his gratitude?

If the news item quoted above is correct then Sajith’s future of becoming Prime Minister is as good as Ranil’s future of becoming President at the next election. What is puzzling is the sudden necessity at this sensitive and critical stage for Ranil to send an official letter confirming the status of Ravi Karunanayake as Deputy Leader in a future government, in addition to being the future Minister of Finance. The news item does not say that the Leader has appointed Ravi as an additional deputy in the Party hierarchy. Nor does it say whether Ravi is equal to Sajith in rank, or higher or lower to Sajith. It says categorically that Ravi K “will be appointed as the Deputy Leader of the Party and the Minister of Finance in a future Government.” For all intents and purposes, it is a cryptic statement that degrades Sajith and elevates Ravi K. The signs are ominous. First, he gets Ravi K to sit next to him. Second, he sends an official confirmation of his status in a future government. Combined together doesn’t this mean that Ranil is preparing the ground to give the boot to Sajith when he has consolidated his grip on power and party, if and when he wins the next election?

From time to time Ranil had dangled carrots to Sajith to keep him quiet. And Sajith seems to have enjoyed the carrots hoping it will lead him eventually to the seat of leadership. But, the latest move of Ranil should alert Sajith to the hard reality facing him: he cannot rely on his Leader to honour his words. He should know by now that the carrots are dangled by his Leader only to keep him happy and make him drag the UNP cart without upsetting his journey to achieve his personal goals at the expense of the gullible Sajiths who will be sacrificed when the time is ripe.

What is equally intriguing is why Ranil has moved so hastily, at this early stage, to confirm Ravi K as his successor when there are other young and capable candidates in the Party? There are young aspirants with unimpeachable integrity and promise like Ruwan Wijewardene, or Navin Dissanayake who is as suave as his genial father, Gamini Dissanayake. But he skips these leaders of the future and picks the most crooked and corrupted perverter of justice to be his deputy. It is incredible that of all the UNPers he should elevate an immoral and incorrigible liar to be the second-in-command of the Party, dismissing all norms of Westminster traditions, let alone the basic morality accepted by our Punchi Singhos.

What does this appointment say about Ranil’s ability to give moral leadership to the nation? Isn’t it the need of the hour to find a leader who can give unimpeachable moral leadership? Can this nation ever accept Ravi K as its leader? Has Ranil lost his marbles? His long career in politics is nearing its end with him dragging the nation to the lowest depths of degradation. Isn’t it his duty now to lift the nation – if he can – to higher levels of moral probity than handing over leadership to another inveterate crook who will have no compunction in plundering the nation of even what is left after the “Bond scam”?

With what moral authority can Ranil appoint such a disreputable crook to the seat that was occupied by the Senanayakes, Bandaranaike and Jayewardene? Is the UNP up for sale for the biggest wheeler-dealers of the nation? Why is Ranil obsessed with selling the assets of the nation to its enemies, robbers and crooks? Why select Ravi K of all members in the UNP? Their past relationship tells the story behind Ranil’s choice. Ravi K has been Ranil’s closest partner in the International Democratic Union (IDU). Both are two halves of the same rotten, Right-wing, Christian, IDU apple. Ravi K was Ranil’s constant companion in his journeys to the IDU. Both are linked closely to the Western camp. They are also linked to the Tamil lobbies, both in the Tamil diaspora and Sri Lanka. Ravi K acts as Ranil’s front man in all the underhand dealings, particularly, with the Tamil diaspora. They are ideological twins. Ravi K received millions from the Tamil diaspora. He was accused of money laundering and he got off in the trial on a procedural technicality and not on the facts of the case. The story behind the court that dismissed his case too is intriguing and needs to be investigated.

Both are pious humbugs, skilled in the art of penetrating Buddhist temples and buying their blessings with political donations to either hire or silence the bhikkhus. Both have close links with the Western embassies. If the West has to choose between Ravi K and Sajith they would have no hesitation in picking their most favoured man from the IDU – a robot of Ranil -- who could be manipulated easily. It is easy to manipulate corrupt people than the honest ones.

Ideologically, Ranil is after a successor who would perpetuate his pro-West, pro-separatist/federalist, pro-Tamil diaspora with an anti-national agenda. There is no one better suited in the Party than Ravi K. The political conduct of Sajith is not linked to this agenda so far. Sajith, rightly or wrongly, is seen as the anti-thesis of Ranil. He is respected as a leader with his feet planted firmly on Sri Lankan soil. Like his father he is regarded as the only UNPer who can bring the party back to its roots. He is trusted as a more credible Sinhala-Buddhist than Ranil and his running mate, Ravi K, covered in miles of pirith nools.

Ranil and Ravi K are two birds of a feather who have flocked together. Ranil’s goal is to pass the baton to Ravi K. Though the trend in the party favours Sajith he cannot expect Ranil to hand it over to him. The signs are clear: Sajith will have to be on guard and fight all the way to the winning post, if he can. Ranil will, of course, throw some crumb Sajith’s way to keep him quiet. So will Sajith be Ranil’s lap dog and lie low, pleased with pats on his head for being a good boy to his master?