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Ranil Stands On A Burning Deck

[The Sunday Leader.lk, Sunday, 18 December 2011 09:23 No Comment]

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out”

— Thomas Babington Macaulay (English Historian 1800-1859)

The Mahanayakes have spoken. The four supreme prelates are concerned with the state of the nation. Their thought-process clearly shows that the country is sliding down a precipice and the cause for it is not the government by itself. Caution was thrown to the winds when the prelates in unison identified the opposition as the main cause for the present state of events in this country. And they placed the blame  for this deterioration (of a nation spiralling down a slippery slope) at the feet of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the Opposition .

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa does not take heed of alternative opinions from the Parliament . The government has a thumping majority and can steam roll its will. The ruling combine is concerned only when the people react in an overt public display which could lead to the unpopularity of the President and then the government. The United National Party of Ranil Wickremesinghe is unable to do so within the Parliament nor are they able to spur the public to take up causes that affect them. Not before and certainly not anymore. The opposition led by the United National Party of Ranil Wickremesinghe is not even in the same tournament as the government. The main rump of the UNP is preoccupied with the sole intention of preserving the position in leadership of one man called Ranil Wickremesinghe.

When the government was in the first flush of introducing the Pensions Bill the workers in Katunayake were able to reverse the unilateral decision of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government. Ranil was not able to do so  through the Parliament or his party. The Cardinal of the Catholic Church by his non-confrontational but firm statement — that he will not take part in public functions of the government — was able to prod the Attorney General to withdraw charges against the Moratuwa Prem Nivasa nun who was charged in court. Ranil Wickremesinghe was not able to do so. When the Dambulla traders protested violently over the government’s push to regularise the transportation of vegetables in plastic crates , the government relented. Where was Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the Opposition?

He was busy accusing the media for exposing his lack of leadership. He took time to take a swipe at two Editors of newspapers. That too in an indirect manner. Though he named the two Editors ( yours truly being one) his wry sense of humour got the better of him when he failed to bring his thoughts together before speaking. Was he saying that White Vans be used to spring the Editors or was he saying that the two named should be purchasing White Vans?  The use of White Vans is synonymous with abductions and he knows it best; as his party cadres have suffered most from it.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, the parliamentarian, is the most experienced MP in the house and his knowledge of governance and traditions are perhaps unmatched by any in the present Parliament. His speeches in the house would match favourably with those stalwarts in the calibre of N M Perera, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, for content. Delivery, however should be best forgotten. Let us give him credit for the content and be charitable about the poor delivery, for it maybe due to an inborn trait. The present parliamentary debates have degenerated to quarrels at best and Ranil Wickremesinghe trying to wade in and match the Handiye Chandiyas is pathetic. He does not have the ability to do so and is complimentary. The prelates advice is that he continue in the position of Leader of the Opposition whilst relinquishing the post of UNP leader.

The exodus from within the ranks of his party does not seem to faze him nor the fact that he is under siege from those who remain within . One could almost hear Mr Wickremesinghe and his closest allies saying “Let those who wish go and the party will be cleansed.”  The grass roots of the UNP have been bludgeoned into submission, collectively between the Rajapaksas and a single Wickremesinghe. A powerful Executive Presidency can in the wrong hands bring an opposition to its knees. A firm Leader of Opposition, who can muster the other parties within the parliamentary opposition becomes paramount to overcome the omnipresence of an emerging dictatorial regime, as is evident now.

Wickremesinghe seems to be fire fighting all the time. He has his hands full with his duties as the Leader of the Opposition. He is called to defend his position as the leader of the United National Party by his own rank and file. His other political allies who rallied round a single banner at the last elections, both Presidential and Parliamentary, have deserted him and yet he takes on tasks that would distract him from his quest to stay in control till the big fruit, the Presidency falls on his lap. Wickremesinghe being no spring chicken would know that it is the media that could make or break a politician. It is this sentiment that pushes rogue politicians to bludgeon media personnel into submission. Ranil Wickremesinghe, being the architect of the abolition of the Criminal Defamation Law should know this best. An astute politician be it in government or opposition would woo the media even in times of adversity.

During the early days of the Roman Republic, three soldiers held off an entire army to give the Romans time to destroy a bridge over the Tiber River. This is what the opposition ( The UNP, TNA, JVP ) must do — and any three  of them should be worth ninety thousand of others was the message that Lord Macaulay  penned in his poem on Horatio’s exploits.

“It stands in the Comitium, plain for all folk to see; Horatius in his harness, halting upon one knee: And underneath is written, in letters all of gold, How valiantly he kept the bridge in the brave days of old.”

But it appears that Ranil Wickremesinghe seems to be reading from a different text. “The boy stood on the burning deck — whence all but he had fled.”

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