The people have entrusted the UNF and its leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe an enormous responsibility with Wednesday's mandate — a
responsibility that is nothing short of frightening.
Amidst the euphoria of victory, let's also make no mistake about the
fact that this is in all probability the last chance for a UNP government.
If the UNP does not seize this chance and commit itself wholeheartedly
and absolutely to the task of alleviating the problems of the people, the
fate that overtook the PA is bound to catch up with it all too soon. The
most powerful political parties have become effete - the radical Left Labour
Party swallowed up the powerful Liberal Party of the 1900s in England.
As a political philosophy for the immediate future, the UNF may well
consider a commitment to national healing, whether it be in terms of race,
community or political preference. Whether this sentiment should be translated
into an all-party government with limited objectives, is a mater for the
victor to think over.
If the opposition is to be kept occupied, there must be productive ways
of doing this. The mind-boggling task ahead defies comprehension, almost.
It is too much for one man to be expected to shoulder this burden. There
are ambitious and capable people in the party. But they should keep their
ambitions on hold for the moment and dedicate themselves to the collective
national task over the next few years. Divisive tendencies at this stage
will only bring about a political debacle which will swallow all in its
As for Ranil Wickremesinghe it has been a long rough journey. This for
him is maturing season. He refused to be drawn into the circus of political
vilification and instead treated it with disdain. Many of his overt critics
have privately expressed, even grudgingly, the hope that he will pull this
country out of its third world back water status, and give back our people
a measure of self respect. That's the hope we all must share.
But self-respect must also come from being able to elect a government
of one's choice. After 70 years of adult franchise, we are no better- probably
even worse -than a banana republic. The UNP, by neutralizing PA thugs in
pre-emptive strikes, provided an environment for at least the modicum of
security that was evident on election day. The President lost her cool
on at least two occasions on the run up to the polls, but she had it well
within her power to bring things under control. Her being ineffectual led
many people to believe that hers was a credo of "do anything but don't
Who started the trend of election malpractice is not a worthwhile productive
question. How and how soon will it be ended are the questions which demand
The Commissioner of Elections meanwhile braved all odds, and a barrage
of mud slinging from eight Ministers from the SLFP, CP, MEP and LSSP and
delivered the cleanest possible elections under the circumstances. The
IGP needs to take a bow too; he did a good job despite the obvious pressure
brought to bear on him.
Finally, the new dispensation has to be one that doesn't say "if you
are not with us you are against us." It should not go about labelling people
as anti-government merely because they have different views. What's needed
is a government that will deliver the goods, not just for itself but for
the people too.
It needs to be a government that empathizes with the pain and the sentiment
of the large mass of people — in short a government for the people and,
might we say, one that makes us proud and not ashamed to be Sri Lankans.