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The 'Nommara Eké UNP Kaaraya'

It's a nice tagline isn't it? Sorry, we are talking about the UNP of 2010, I almost forgot. A correction is therefore in order: 'It would have been a brilliant line 30 years ago'. Thirty years? Yes, it's been that long since people didn't have to feel shy about admitting to being a UNPer.

Today, in the month of March, 2010 and barely three weeks from a Parliamentary Election, there aren't any UNPers left who could say 'I am a green' with the kind of aplomb and confidence that J.R. might have exuded in 1977.

So, Nommara Eké UNP Kaaraya is perhaps not as great as it sounds or as it could be, i.e. if circumstances were different. Still, for someone who is trying to secure a manaape from a voter who prefers the UNP, it is as catchy as anything else.

But who fits the bill? Muzammil? Naah!

Seriously, who is the No. 1 UNPer? We can leave aside the greats who are no more. If we included them then it is indeed a hard task that we set ourselves for this party has had personalities endowed with a wide range of positive and rare attributes. That was then, this is now, and the task is infinitely easier or so one would think.

Every party and indeed every organisation can have a No. 1 person. A boss. Someone who commands the respect of everyone else. Even a 'Maranadara Samithiya' has a boss. Some bosses are elected, some are not.

Gamini Dissanayake

Lalith Athulathmudali

Gamini Athukorala

The No. 1 spot does not always go to the person who wields executive authority. Mahatma Gandhi was neither Prime Minister nor President of India, but if there was a Nommara Eké Indian Kaaraya after India won her independence it was most certainly he. Vladimir Putin is no longer President of Russia, but he's the Nommara Eké Rusiyan Kaaraya. Ban Ki Moon might think he is No. 1, but he is not.

On the face of it few would object to Ranil Wickremesinghe being pinned with the No. 1 UNPer badge. Karu Jayasuriya, after crossing and crossing back, has more or less given up any ideas he may have entertained about becoming party leader. SB tried and failed.

Sajith seems to be waiting for the right moment. Milinda Moragoda, in my book the true heir to JRJ threw in the towel. Early. Rukman might be the person with the best credentials but he's clearly too lazy and doesn't have enough ambition.

So, thanks to assassinations and death (no cartoonist would have bothered to lampoon Ranil had people like Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake and even Gamini Athukorala been alive today) and defections (voluntary and induced), Ranil remains No. 1.

When Muzammil, contesting the Western Provincial Council a few months ago, claimed he was a Nommara Eké UNP Kaaraya he was not saying he was No. 1 and better than Ranil (that may or may not be true); he was essentially saying that he belonged to the top bracket of the party in terms of loyalty, defence of ideology and party's political position, organising capacity etc. That too is something the party might have to deliberate on. I know only one thing: he doesn't even come close to being a Nommara Eké UNP Kaaraya in terms of the attributes listed above. He is nothing compared to someone else I know.

His name is Sarath Shantha Munasinghe. Fifty one years of age. Originally from Matara, he was as a young man an ardent supporter of Dr S. A. Wickramasinghe and the Communist Party. He now resides in Kesbewa. He became a UNPer in 1983. According to him, that was the result of an ideological shift produced by experience and maturing.

'Mune' is a security officer. I've known him for close to six years. His loyalty to the colour green and the elephant symbol has been absolute.

He has stood with the party in ways that I doubt even party leaders have. He has, to the full extent of his argumentative skills, defended each and every decision of the UNP, justifying every single move. That kind of commitment I have not seen in anyone in any party.

Mune doesn't do his bit come election time. He does more. He employs every ounce of creativity in him to support the UNP, from putting up a green flag to using whatever material he can lay his hands on to create poster. His most recent effort was to play with MTV's 'News First' logo, the number '1' to promote the UNP candidate with that preferential number.

I am sure there are many other Munasinghes who defend the UNP and whose loyalty is of a kind that will not be purchased, whatever the price. Indeed, most UNP supporters would wish their leader and those who want to oust and replace him had a fraction of this loyalty, this commitment, this need to defend the party at every turn.

Actually most parties depend on people like Munasinghe and in many instances far more than they depend on self-appointed ‘stalwarts’.

No one knows Sarath Shantha Munasinghe. Everyone knows Ranil Wickremesinghe. No one how has met Mune would doubt his loyalties. What of Ranil? Well, I got this email a short while ago from someone who had read what I wrote for Monday, ‘Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Nationalist Moment’. I quote fully.

“1. Ranil did a great service to the nation by intentionally and gradually destroying the UNP. So Mahinda won the Presidency with the help of Mangala and Tiran Alles in 2004, which made it possible for the President to defeat the LTTE militarily.

2. Ranil intentionally provided the best people in the UNP to the government of Mahinda Rajapakse, for the President to utilize them in the best possible way in his Cabinet.

3. Ranil intentionally will not allow the UNP to organise properly, as he wants Mahinda rule the country, without much problem, for a very long time.

I used the word ‘intentionally’ because Ranil is doing all this which may be bad for the UNP but good for the country. Seriously I am of the view that he is thinking of the country before the party.”

No one knows Sarath Shantha Munasinghe. Everyone knows Ranil Wickremesinghe. If they shifted places, like Suba and Yasa, I think the UNP would be less of a laughing stock. If only Simon Navagaththegama was alive!

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