UNP will regain its pristine glory - General Secretary | Sunday Observer

UNP will regain its pristine glory - General Secretary

9 October, 2022

The United National Party (UNP) was founded by the first Prime Minister of the country, the Father of the Nation, D.S. Senanayake in 1946 and it had done immensurable service to the nation under a member of its leaders for the socio-economic development and inter-communal harmony while protecting the democratic and fundamental rights of the people.

The leadership of the UNP was held by six previous leaders starting with D.S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, Sir John Kothalawala, J.R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa, D.B. Wijethunga prior to the incumbent leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

All of them had personal visions and political agendas for the economic development and social welfare of its people and successfully carried out a large number of economic, social, cultural and agricultural projects through which a fairly decent living standard was provided for the people.

However, the UNP was in and out of power on a number of occasions during this period upto 2004. They lost the elections and bounced back to power at the subsequent election and never bogged down in the Opposition more than one parliamentary term prior to 2004.

However, since 2004 the electoral performance of the party gradually deteriorated at every successive election due to a number of reasons and at the last general election it was reduced to an abysmal level.

The entire membership of the party was crestfallen over this shocking and humiliating defeat. Based on the total number of votes cast for the party islandwide, only one national list slot was entitled for the party and after repeated requests by party stalwarts and all stakeholders the Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as a Member of Parliament almost after one-and-a-half years of the election.

At the last Presidential election Gotabaya Rajapaksa was fielded by the Rajapaksa family and the Pohottuwa Party with great expectations and with a huge hope of remaining in power for generations.

But at the same time some members of their own party, were not happy with Gotabaya’s candidature as he did not possess any political experience in State administration affairs.

They spent enormous amounts of funds to mobilise the masses in support of Gotabaya at the election and ordinary people also reposed heavy undue confidence on him at the polls.

The Pohottuwa propaganda campaign was so strong that even a large number of Sri Lankan migrant workers were flown down to cast their votes for Rajapaksa.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa secured a landslide victory at the polls and became the 7th Executive President of Sri Lanka in December 2019.

However, quite contrary to the expectations of the general public his performances as the President fell short drastically from the very outset.

The manner in which he handled some sensitive issues proved his immaturity in politics and some of his utterances were far below the required standard of not a President but an ordinary parliamentarian.

From the beginning of 2022 the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime was becoming rapidly unpopular due to wrong economic policies which resulted in a voluntary public uproar against the Government. People from all walks of life irrespective of any differences got on to the streets and agitated against the Government demanding the resignation of President and the Prime Minister.

After a chain of dramatic events in the political landscape the national leadership of the country was thrust upon Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the United National Party.

Ranil Wickremesinghe displaying his statesmanship qualities boldly accepted the challenge to guide the nation in this chaotic situation when the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, and some others declined to take over the challenge due to sheer cold feet but expressing various lame excuses.

New lease of life for UNP membership

With the ascension of their leader to the national leadership of the country UNP supporters far and wide have got a new lease of life after almost two decades and are actively involved in the party reorganisational activities all over the country.

In this political backdrop Sunday Observer had an interview with the General Secretary of the United National Party, Palitha Range Bandara to ascertain the reorganisational activities and future program of work of the party.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Your party which had been in the political doldrums for a long time due to the repeated losses suffered at the past number of elections, suddenly have become very active and vociferous with the ascension of your leader to the Presidency which was quite evident at your last anniversary celebrations at the Sugathadasa Stadium. How do you analyse this as the General Secretary of a prominent political force?

A: Yes, we have suffered losses after losses during the last number of years mainly due to a large number of reasons which is not possible to elucidate within a few minutes. It’s true that our membership has got a new lease of life and some hardcore members across the country are elated with the present developments of the party with our leader’s victory at the Presidential polls held among parliamentarians.

It’s not shocking or surprising as it is common to any democratic political party. Followers become extremely happy or badly crestfallen at the victory or defeat of their beloved party.

Q: You as the General Secretary of the United National Party has the biggest responsibility in reorganising the party for a parliamentary victory at a future election. What are your plans for same?

A: Well, right now our main focus is not the party reorganisational activities but to revive the economy and provide a decent living standard to the general public.

As you know already the economy is in a very bad shape owing to the wrong and unrealistic policies carried out by the previous regime and our leaders first priority, is to revive it from this catastrophic situation and then to think about development.

Although our party frontrunners are not in Parliament, everybody is assigned with some responsibilities to achieve this goal. Party organisational activities is a continuous process and I am involved in it from our party headquarters – Sirikotha.

When the economy is stabilised and the cost-of-living is brought down to an affordable level and the general administration is streamlined, we will start our party reorganisational activities countrywide with the participation of all stakeholders. We have already drawn up a comprehensive plan for purpose.

Q: Do you hope to appoint new electoral organisers to the electorates?

A: Yes, we will be advertising soon to select electoral organisers. We will focus our attention on young, energetic and professionally qualified candidates to field at a next election who are devoid of corruption, malpractices and any kind of misdemeanours.

Q: How is your relationship with SJB members, is there anybody who would return to Mahagedera in the future?

A: We don’t have any personal issues with any of them and we had been together for a long time. Some of them have already realised that Ranil Wickremesinghe is the only leader who can guide the country at this crucial juncture. So once he delivers the goods during the next two years lot of people in the SJB will return to the UNP before a next election.

Not only the SJB we have also spoken to the SLFP and some other parties too who have already agreed with our leader to contest the next election under our banner. Not only with political parties we also talk to various other organisations pressure groups, civil society activists, Buddhist, Catholic and Islam organisations and some non-partisan organisations who have agreed to support our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in his endeavour to bring prosperity to our country.

Q: What is the position of the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS) the Trade Union of the UNP. Are they now with SJB or where?

A: Some of the members have joined the SJB some still remain with us. But when we really launch our aggressive re-organisational campaign in the future most of them will return to us, and expedite trade union actions in their respective establishments.

Q: Do you think that the UNP will be able to muster the minority community party support at a future election?

A: Normally, they wait till the 11th hour to decide on their support for a particular major party. Therefore, it is pretty too early to comment on that. But I am quite confident that with our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s program of work a lot of minority parties will rally round him in the event of an election.

Q: What is your assessment of the future of your grand old party?

A: Well, with our program of work for the people, unlike some other leaders who squander State resources to sling mud at us, I am quite confident that the United National Party will regain its lost pristine glory at the next general election.