The amicable and unanimous resolution by the UNP last week, of the controversy over party reforms, constituted a victory for democracy and an example for democratic conduct within political parties. The leaders of the party should be complimented for thwarting efforts by some prompted apparently by selfish motives to disrupt party unity and reaching decisions to bring about changes to democratise the party.
They should particularly be commended for avoiding disruption and confusion in the party at a time when the country is facing a crucial situation requiring the party`s assistance in steering the country clear of the imbroglio.
This outcome also conveys a lesson to those who attempt to promote selfish interests and agendas at the expense of party unity and national interests and also to those who resist reforms and adjustments needed to make any organization to keep pace with changing times and requirements.
An attempt was made by some to externalise the internal party issues providing ammunition to the detractors of the party to destroy its unity. The deputy leader of the party himself had to resort to media communiqués to emphasise the need for party reforms. This development would not have occurred had there been a positive response from other sections of the leadership to the needed reforms.
That there was a growing perception that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was not well disposed towards the moves for party reforms was no secret. It was surmised that he opposed the reforms for fear of losing his grip on the party. This view was gaining ground in the party in spite of his manifest commitment to democracy.
His reputation as a democratic leader spreads beyond the shores of this country being the present Asia Pacific Region chairman of the International Democratic Union. Some sections in the party blame him for failing to lead the party to victory in a series of recent elections. Some with superstitious beliefs attribute his failure to his unfavourable planetary position in his horoscope.
Whatever the criticisms and prognostications that some party members and outsiders have against him, the preponderant opinion in the country is that Wickremesinghe possesses the attributes expected of a national leader whose contribution is needed by the country at this crucial moment. He has the courage and moral strength to stand by his convictions. Above all, his commitment to the task of promoting consensual politics and avoidance of personal invective on his political adversaries qualify him as a leader that the present times need.
There is, however, need for Wickremesinghe to move closer to the people. Some suggest that adjustments are necessary even in his dress to identify himself more closely with ordinary people. The time has come, according to them, to change over to the cloth and banian which is the symbol of identity with the ordinary people.
Although most politicians wear this dress to deceive people nevertheless gives the impression of simple life that they are expected to lead. The western attire that Wickremesinghe customarily sports on the contrary evokes resentment in ordinary people who view it as a symbol of foreign domination and alien ways. In any event, UNP Leader Wickremesinghe`s task of taking the party forward on his path to consensual politics will not be easy.
There are some sections in the party whose main concern is to get into the seats of power after toppling the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration irrespective of the fate that would befall the country as a result of pursuing such a policy at the present juncture. Those who have defected from other parties and joined the party in recent times seem to be the most vociferous advocates of such a policy.
Obviously, there are many aspects of government policies and actions that warrant criticism. And there cannot be any objections to voicing of such criticism as long as it is done constructively without malicious or destructive motives. However, it remains the duty of all patriotic sections in the party to assist the leader in implementing the nation-building agenda that the two main parties have decided upon.
This was a historic agreement that the country sorely needed but was denied for long as a result of these parties pursuing unprincipled, opportunistic and confrontationist politics.