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“Leadership Council Could Help The Situation” – Ravi

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Ravi_-Interviev_front_viewNational Organiser of the UNP and Colombo District parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake sees the formation of a leadership council as the best method to bring unity and direction to the party to face a “dictatorial, politically streetwise, lethal President.” Karunanayake told The Sunday Leader that any replacement to the party leadership must be better than the existing one.

Q: As of now is the UNP in or out of crisis?
A: A problem never existed in the party until a problem was created. The problem creators seem to be getting a thrill out of the problem as it is a problem for whom it is being created. Internally if there is a problem, then the Working Committee, which is held responsible, has not manifested such a situation. What issue has the Working Committee, which is entrusted to do so according to the new Constitution, not addressed? This is the problem and they cannot come to terms with who wants what done. There were many people who want a challenge. Why has the challenge not been taken and moved forward? If they did not want a challenge then why make a noise in the first place? That is the million-dollar question and this is affecting party politics. However, there has been a huge change of activities. People are now realising that this problem comes only during an election. It is obvious that this is happening for the greater good of some person and not for the party. Otherwise why is the battle stopping at our feet instead of being taken to the government?

Q: Let us be frank. Do you honestly believe that the UNP can and will emerge victorious at the forthcoming LG polls after having lost 20 elections under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe? Who is kidding whom here?
A: The SLFP would have lost 50 elections before coming into power. We have been losing elections, but we won in 2001. We were unable to retain it since we have been democratic and not politically streetwise. If we were streetwise we would be in power and this obnoxious administration would have been in the opposition. If we were losing, how did we win in 2001? We could not retain it since we introduced the 17th Amendment and tried to bring in more democracy than was needed. We are still regaining ourselves from that lost opportunity and trying to re-position ourselves. I feel at this particular moment that there is nobody that can replace Wickremesinghe to put the party in a winning mode. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are. He certainly has a lot of weaknesses but his weaknesses and strengths have not been matched by anyone who can replace him. At the Presidential election we fielded Sarath Fonseka and not Wickremesinghe, but we still could not win. Where is the error? Successes have many fathers, failures are orphans.

Q: Why do you continue to support Wickremesinghe?
A: I am a party man and unlike those who cut their nose to spite their face, if there is no alternative, you make best use of the existing talent and strength. You do not need to grin like a Cheshire cat to win votes, but it is better if you can think. Some started calling for a change after the 2010 April elections, but then they come to the start of the race and backed out. Are these types of spineless people for the betterment of the party? For 10 months they shouted for the good of the party and then backed out when they come to making the change. It is an indication of the lack of genuineness and leadership qualities.

Q: But in the best interests of the party do you not think a change in leadership is now an absolute necessity?
A: The first move should be to establish a leadership council that would include about three or four party seniors in order to show unity. A sense of direction and consistency would also be shown in such a move. The replacement must be better than the existing one. The leadership council is a must.

Q: The UNP has been campaigning for democracy in the country. Yet you seem to be part of an internal campaign in your party that is anything but democratic. Is this not the height of hypocrisy?
A: If you say there is no democracy in the party then how come the problem has gone so far with nobody being sacked? Does democracy mean freedom of the wild ass? Does it mean you take a party member to court rather than keeping the government at bay? There are so many issues in the government that need to be dealt with. Nobody takes the government to task, but they take a colleague to court because he is not in their group.
It is absurd. People who have been shouting about democracy in the party have gone to the President and remain silent at the hands of a dictator. All these problems started when the UNP lost the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) elections by 2,000-3,000 votes. The government seeing that the UNP would start gaining power if the EPC was won started talking about internal democracy. The election was lost due to stuffing of ballot boxes by the governing party. It is not democracy that is at stake, but honesty.

Q: Why are members from the pro-reforms group continuously being penalised for calling for a more democratic party structure and a change in the leadership?
A: There are no reformists. The new thinking, the new Constitution precluded the right of a leader to appoint 40 to 50 people and brought it down to 20. When there are 20 members to be appointed, how should it be done? Should it be 20 acolytes or people who make the most noise who need to be included? No, you put the best team. If 50 people have to be reduced to 20, then some will have to be left out. They are talking about two or three people, but what of the 30 people who have been left out in the new system. This is just a way of trying to get attention. No noise is being made about the rest who are being left out except for a few. The party must have discipline first. The leadership must be blamed for doing too little too late.

Q: Does it really matter anymore whether it is Sajith or Karu Jayasuriya who takes over as leader? Given the depths to which the party has descended does it matter who takes over now?
A: Why only two when there are many others. If you are getting a replacement, the next person should be far better than anyone. It could be all three of them and even people like us. We are also part and parcel of the UNP. Nobody can disregard that.

Q: Do you believe that you would be an ideal choice to lead the UNP out of its current mess?
A: I will not say so. I will be dishonest in saying so. I say all of us should get together against the dictatorial, politically streetwise, lethal President. It is best to work as a strong group rather than an individual against such a force. Therefore, it is a leadership council that could help the situation. It would be naïve to overestimate ourselves when we know what we are up against.

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema