Collapse of the unholy alliance of Ranil and Rauf
Rauf Hakeem, the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, is a man in
a hurry, switching erratically from one side to another, gambling for
high stakes. He didn't resign from Parliament and go to Mecca , after
tying up with Ranil Wickremesinghe, to lose the election in the East.
Nor did he cross over to Wickremesinghe's camp on the eve of the last
budget to lose his ministerial portfolio. In both instances he was
hitching his wagon to Wickremesinghe, quite sure of grabbing more power
to carve out a niche for himself in the east. His calculation was to
elevate himself to the level he aspires through (of all politicians!)
Wickremesinghe the sick man of Sri Lankan politics.
But Hakeem, who has missed his vocation as a pole-vaulter, met his
kismet this time when he jumped into Wickremesinghe's bullock cart.
Losing his power at the centre was bad enough but to lose in the Eastern
electorate, his home base, was a double disaster.
If he won under the UNP ticket he probably would have grabbed the job
of the Chief Minister to deploy the resources (billions by way of
development) and the power of office to consolidate himself as a
formidable force in the East. From that strategic position he would have
had the capacity to dictate terms to both the Government and the UNP.
Instead he has come down the slippery pole and hit rock bottom,
(Ouch!), leaving no space for political bargaining in the newly elected
Provincial Council. Without any political clout at the centre and
without any power to control his electoral base he has been reduced to
the desperate level of a political IDP.
So is his leader, Wickremesinghe - the man who has missed the
electoral bus each time he runs to catch it. Both were hoping to make
the East the launching pad for their flight into future. But both came
crashing down with all their theories, accusations, hopes and power
shattered to bits.
Like all losers both are singing the same tune, blaming the other.
This is the common pattern in all elections: the winners crow and the
losers blame the winners. What else is new?
With Wickremesinghe, of course, there is only one certainty when it
comes to elections: the only result that he will accept without moaning
and grumbling is the one that will declare him the winner.
But since that is not visible anywhere on the radar screen the loss
of the East should raise fundamental questions within the rank and file
of the UNPers about their future. Do they, in short, have a future at
all under Wickremesinghe? Isn't he jinxed? And isn't this because he has
brought it upon himself by aligning himself with the wrong allies and
the equally wrong ideologies?
In the presidential election he was operating on the misguided
expectation (like all his other expectations) that his co-signatory to
the CFA, Velupillai Prabhakaran, would reciprocate with gratitude for
handing over the North and the East to him. Predictably, Prabhakaran
pulled the rug under Wickremesinghe to send him to the limbo of politics
in which he is in now.
Prabhakaran fixed him again in the latest Eastern election by
exploding bombs in the Sinhala areas which reignited the fear of
Prabhakaran regaining control of the East with the kind of agreements he
signed earlier with Wickremesinghe and Hakeem the only two political
leaders with whom Prabhakaran had signed deals which he never meant to
Wickremesinghe and Hakeem haunt the mind of the Eastern electorate as
the close ally of Prabhakaran who had denied them their fundamental
rights and freedoms.
When I toured the East last December there was a genuine fear among
the Sinhalese that Wickremesinghe would enter into another agreement
with Prabhakaran and expose them to the bullets of the Tigers.
Wickremesinghe who was reluctant at first to fight the elections in
the east decided to gamble by joining hands with Hakeem an unholy
alliance where a pro-Muslim leader joins the regional leader of an
anti-Muslim league known as the International Democratic Union (IDU).
This was the first mistake made by both. How Hakeem could join
Wickremesinghe, the regional head of the anti-Muslim IDU, is, of course,
a secret shared by Hakeem and Allah.
Wickremesinghe, for his part, was relying on Hakeem to deliver the
votes to guarantee his victory in the East. After all, the east was
supposed to be Hakeem's political base. But the Muslims did not respond
the way he expected. This left Wickremesinghe high and dry.
Whichever way he turned, Wickremesinghe ends up as a loser. Let alone
winning the confidence of the voters in the North, South and the East,
he cannot even retain the loyalty of his own backbenchers and party
In any role of leadership it is the leader who is entitled to accept
full responsibility for successes as well as failures. Wickremesinghe's
record of leading the party into successive defeat entitles the future
generation of UNPers to erect a statue for him at Siri Kotha if there
going to be one at all with only egg on his face.
This would make the job easier for the sculptor because there would
be more egg than face in the statue.
Besides, if he has any self-respect the only option left for him,
particularly after his umpteenth defeat at the polls, is to resign and
hand over the leadership to the young Turks. The best bet would be to
hand over the leadership to Sajith Premadasa who is shaping up to be a
That apart, Wickremesinghe should know, particularly from his
knowledge of the democratic practices observed by members of the
pro-West and anti-Muslim IDU, that the standard rule is for all
democratic leaders to resign when they fail to win the confidence of the
people at the polls.
None of the democratic leaders in the IDU would ever dare to cling on
to leadership if they fail once or twice. But Wickremesinghe carries on
in the same old failed track which has produced no benefit to himself,
his party or the nation.
Of course, all this leads to the conclusion that he has the Midas
touch in reverse: whatever he touches turns into poisonous lead. There
isn't a single achievement that stands out as a milestone in his
political journey. His greatest claim to fame is the Ceasefire Agreement
which is now at the bottom of his wastepaper basket. If his past is a
dismal failure what can he offer the future?
S.B. Dissanayake, the National Organiser of the UNP, is dead right
when he said that the UNP had thrown its chances away by not exploiting
the divisions within the JVP which opened the way for the UNP
campaigners in the East to grab those votes.
He also claimed that he could have won the East if the campaign was
under his command. Whether he is right or wrong on this it is clear that
he is openly challenging Wickremesinghe's leadership and his capacity to
win elections. Even within the ranks of the UNP the finger is pointed at
He has lost 17 elections and each time he loses he runs to the
Western embassies as if they have the necessary votes or the power to
declare him the winner. His unashamed invitation for the Western
diplomats to intervene on his behalf is a deplorable confession of his
weakness as a leader.
If the people reject him repeatedly then the only honourable course
left for him is to resign. And that is the advice that the Western
diplomats should give him based on their political conventions . (More
of this later.)
Of immediate concern to the UNPers would be to ask: what can he offer
the party now to restore some confidence in his leadership? Consider ,
for instance, the kind of leadership he has offered in the East.
First, he denigrated the victory of the heroic soldiers in the East.
He said it was a useless patch of jungle and rock. Then he boycotted the
local council elections on grounds of security. Those elections proved
to be one of the most peaceful elections.
Then when he realised (rather late as usual) that there were great
political opportunities in gaining control of the rock and jungle in the
east he waded in, allied to the most formidable ethnic base in the East.
But neither Hakeem's prayers at Mecca nor the Wickremesinghe's
posturing at the pro-Western, anti-Muslim Mecca in Sydney succeeded in
producing the miracle they hoped.
Where do they go from here? From the look of things, only to press
conferences to blame and threaten the winners with streets
demonstrations and protests crying foul. It is true that every election
has its quota of violence and irregularities. But are these the factors
that led to the defeat of Wickremesinghe-Hakeem combo? The facts tell a
Even before any violence or irregularities occurred in the East The
Island and the Divaina were predicting defeat for the
This duo, however, refused to accept that they were doomed from the
start. Further evidence came from the mouthpiece of Wickremesinghe, the
anti-national Leader, which wrote off Hakeem as the possible Chief
Minister a week before the election.
Amantha Perera wrote: They (the locals) also feel chief ministerial
aspirant, M. L. M. Hisbullah would not stand a chance, but acknowledge
that SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem will come a close second to Pillayan in the
stakes. "It is not a question of a candidate's popularity or lack of it.
This region won't elect a Muslim chief minister," noted a TNA
Parliamentarian on the basis of anonymity.( The Leader May 4, 2008).
In short, independent analyses and the pro-Wickremesinghe Leader
reported that the locals and the pro-LTTE TNA believe that Hakeem will
come a close second to Pillayan. And that is what happened.
The impending doom of Wickremesinghe-Hakeem combination was not only
on the cards but it was predicted long before the violence and the
irregularities occurred. So why blame the violence and the
irregularities when the fault was with the Wickremesinghe-Hakeem
The available evidence demonstrate that the voting trend was running
against Wickremesinghe-Hakeem duo and there was no way they could win
the east with or without the alleged irregularities.
Besides, the results have proved that the UNP-SLMC alliance was not a
wining combination, nor were their strategies viable.
No doubt, Wickremesinghe believes that the nation is behind him when
even the polls conducted by the pro-UNP-LTTE Centre for Policy
Alternative revealed that the majority of the people are behind
President Mahinda Rajapaksa. All in all , it is pretty plain that there
is no one else to blame except the Wickremesinghe-Hakeem combo.
In summary, it means that (1) Wickremesinghe-Hakeem alliance lost the
earlier mass appeal after they sold the east to Prabhakaran; (2) their
electoral strategies, as stated by S. B. Dissanayake, were doomed to
fail; (3) the endorsement given by the pro-LTTE TNA to
Wickremesinghe-Hakeem alliance was the kiss of death; (4) the violence
unleashed by the Tigers in Trincomalee and the Amapara districts raised
old fears of Wickremesinghe surrendering to Tiger tyranny and (5)they
failed to impress the East that they were not the Trojan horses of
Prabhakaran who would sign another agreement to sell the people of the
east to the Tigers one of the key issues hammered home by the UPFA.
The UPFA, on the contrary, was presenting an alternative to the
Tigers through Pillayan, whatever his faults may be. As in other parts
of the nation the primary concern is to find an alternative to
Prabhakaran and Pillayan fits the bill in the East.
The question of him being armed has been played up ad nauseam by the
NGOs and the pro-Wickremesinghe media.
They attribute violence to Pillayan. But the facts here too
contradict the accusations of the UNP and the NGOs. This aspect will be
explored in another article.