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Government Gazette

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.

Ranil Wickremesinghe Rauf Hakeem Pillayan Hisbullah

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 keep.

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 members!

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 promising leader.

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 Wickremesinghe's leadership.

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 different story.

Even before any violence or irregularities occurred in the East The Island and the Divaina were predicting defeat for the Wickremesinghe-Hakeem combination.

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 combination?

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.

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