Ruwan Should Emulate JR
Today marks the 18th day since UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s (71) first cousin Ruwan Wijewardene (45) was elected the Party’s Deputy Leader by the UNP Working Committee. (See also Ceylon Today’s web edition of 14 September and its print edition of 15 September).
Forty seven years and four months ago, i.e. on 1 May 1973, then UNP and Opposition Leader J.R. Jayewardene (70), an uncle of Wickremesinghe and Wijewardene, launched the UNP’s first successful political rally at that year’s May Day celebrations at Campbell Park, Borella, after the UNP’s drubbing at the 27 May 1970 Parliamentary Poll and led his Party to a record five-sixths majority win at the 21 July 1977 Parliamentary Poll.
Jayewardene assumed the leadership of the UNP upon the death of the then UNP Leader Dudley Senanayake (62) 18 days earlier, on 13 April, 1973. Senanayake was a grand uncle of Wijewardene and a grand uncle-in-law of Wickremesinghe, but no relation of Jayewardene.
Jayewardene’s relationship to both Wickremesinghe and Wijewardene was due to Jayewardene’s mother being a Miss Agnes Wijewardene, related to Wickremesinghe’s mother, a Miss Nalini Wijewardene, whose father, D.R. Wijewardene, the founder of the Lake House Group of Newspapers and Agnes were brother and sister. A son of DR’s was Ranjit, the founder of the Wijeya Group of Newspapers. One of Ranjit’s sons is Ruwan.
Prior to Jayewardene taking over the leadership of the UNP, at the 27 May1970 Parliamentary Polls, the UNP, which was under Senanayake then, was reduced to 17 seats, its second lowest at a Parliamentary Poll, then, won by the UF Coalition headed by the SLFP led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike which obtained a two-thirds majority, winning 113 (78 per cent) of the 145 seats on offer.
Though the UNP was reduced to 17 seats, it was still the second largest political party in the then Parliament. Meanwhile, Senanayake, who won his Dedigama Electorate by the skin of his teeth, relinquished the Opposition Leader’s role to Jayewardene who had convincingly won his Colombo South Seat. However, Senanayake held on to the Party Leadership Post.
In worst developments, the UNP, under Wickremesinghe’s leadership, at the 5 August 2020 Parliamentary Poll suffered its most humiliating drubbing in its 74-year history, where, it was unable to win a single seat in the ‘now’ expanded 196 seat electorate. The UNP however won one National List seat of the 29 offered at the Poll. Both Wickremesinghe and Ruwan lost their seats at the 5 August Poll.
And with today marking the 57th day after the end of the 5 August 2020 Parliamentary Poll, the UNP, tragicomically, is yet to nominate its Representative to Parliament from the National List.
Since the last Parliamentary Poll, Parliament has sat on 12 days thus far, with no representation from the UNP. Parliament is due to sit again in another five days time on Tuesday (6 October). But the UNP is yet to list its National List nominee.
It’s said that Wickremesinghe will relinquish the Leadership of the UNP by the year end (Ceylon Today of 21 September 2020). It would then most probably follow that Ruwan will take over the Party’s Leadership, then.
If Ruwan is good enough to be the UNP’s next leader, isn’t he then also not good enough to be the UNP’s solitary representative in Parliament?
If in the event Ruwan takes over the leadership of the UNP and if he wishes his Party to survive and not go the way of the Old Left which was wiped out from the country’s electoral map 43 years ago in 1977, he should then step down and give over the UNP leadership to the SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, its rightful heir, who was deprived of this Post due to the short sightedness and selfishness of his first cousin Wickremesinghe.
Such a step, if taken by Ruwan, would assure the continuity of his Party, founded by his great grandfather D.S. Senanayake in 1946, a step which would also transform an otherwise ‘Sedawatte Tragicomedy,’ to a ‘Sedawatte victory.’ The Wijewardenes hail from Sedawatte.
Ruwan should learn from history, of the steps taken by his uncle Jayewardene to ensure the survival and continuity of the UNP, twice, first, 63 years ago in 1957 and the second and last 31 years later, in 1988.
In 1956, the UNP suffered its worst drubbing at a Parliamentary Poll then, being reduced to a mere eight seats. The UNP then was led by Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala. Jayewardene took over the Party leadership because Kotelawala deserted the Party, post-1956 Poll. Jayewardene had the foresight to invite Dudley, who had resigned from politics after the 1953 Hartal, which took place when Dudley was Prime Minister, to once more take over the leadership of the UNP.
Jayewardene repeated this statesmanship 31 years later in 1988, when the country was in flames due to the IPKF. Jayewardene, who was then the President, had the vision to propose Premadasa’s father Ranasinghe Premadasa as the UNP’s Presidential candidate for the December1988 Presidential Poll, thus ensuring the survival and the continuity of the UNP, then.