The UNP Leadership: Deer caught in the Headlights

By Rienzie Wijetilleke | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 20 2021

By Rienzie Wijetilleke

The UNP announced a spate of new positions that it expects will revitalise and reinvigorate the grand old party of Sri Lanka. In a matter of six months, the new leadership is expected to restructure the party in order to make a come-back following the less than stellar performance at the recent General Election. 

There were some newly appointed positions including Deputy Leader, Chairman, Vice Chairpersons, General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary, National Organiser, Secretary for International Organisational Affairs, Administrative Secretary, Secretary of Research and Policy Planning. 

The UNP Working Committee in its current state is really amicrocosm of what is wrong with many of Sri Lanka’s internal systems of administration. Overly bureaucratic, without clearly defined decision-making flows, with numerous officials marking time and playing musical chairs with the various positions of power and privilege, all in the service of a leader and their singular quest to cling to power. Many of the UNP old guard now find themselves clutching at whatever straws are presented. It seems that many of these politicians are holding on to power like their lives depend on it. However, it is not their lives, but their lifestyles they seek to preserve. 

Whilst all the changes take place within the UNP, that one constant remains and it will not be shifted. Ranil Wickremesinghe continues as the Leader of the UNP, apparently to oversee the restructure of the party. The newspapers mention that party ‘seniors’ and organisers had made unofficial requests that RW stay on as leader. It is not surprising that the seniors remain unnamed and the requests unofficial. 

Over the decades, RW has carefully manipulated and managed the exits of all potential leaders from the UNP thus creating a constant lack of succession which allows him to survive and thrive. This is detrimental to the party and the country but immensely favourable to himself. 

At a time when the present Government has a significant majority to generate legislation and a mandate that may at times resemble a blank cheque, it is vital that Sri Lanka’s opposition grows more unified and presents the alternative to the people. There is a pandemic to control, a national vaccination drive to rollout, an economy that needs stimulus, cultural issues to tackle, foreign interests to negotiate with and a global power shift to navigate through; the Sri Lankan Government needs to be kept on its toes.

While the SJB is making a decent fist of its position as the main opposition party, the UNP must not allow itself to become irrelevant. However, irrelevance is fast approaching and the leader, the deputy and vice leadership, the chairpersons and secretaries all resemble some frenzied tragic creature caught in the headlights. 

By Rienzie Wijetilleke | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 20 2021

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