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President Sirisena should have adopted a soft approach not only with party members, but also with Rajapaksa | (File photo)

One might pose the question whether President Sirisena acted with responsibility during the election campaign. Did the president maintain a neutral role during the campaign?  Definitely not. A moderate Tamil from the north would advise President Sirisena to learn neutral play from the Chief Minister of Northern Province CV Vigneswaran

The United National Party (UNP) won in 11 districts while United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) dominated in 8 districts in a closely contested General Election held on August 17. Although the mandate given by the people favors UNP, it is not a clear one.

We should give full credit to UNP who carried out the campaign successfully with the blessings of many including President Maithripala Sirisena. But the UPFA gave a good fight amidst many challenges which included the negative attitude shown to members of the alliance by its own chairman.

When former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga handed over the party to Mahinda Rajapaksa, it was expected that there must have been around 80% members labeled as her loyalists. Mangala Samaraweera was one of the senior members respected by Kumaratunga. But still    Rajapaksa united everyone, roping in Samaraweera along with the coalition partners of UPFA, and faced the 2005 Presidential Election successfully. It should be noted that before we name one as a Kumaratunga loyalist or a Rajapaksa loyalist or President Sirisena loyalist, we should understand that he or she is a member of the party. When we talk of successful political campaigns, it totally depends on party politics and not on individual politics. We should not leave room for individual domination when it comes to party politics. We should always think how well we can consolidate and move forward as a party, nothing else. Had President Sirisena adopted a soft approach with Rajapaksa the UPFA would have won the election easily with a majority. President Sirisena and even Rajapaksa know this fact. Once you win the election, you can solve internal issues.

It is obvious that when the party leadership is handed over to a new person, one cannot expect the whole party to offer support to the new leader. It is not mandatory as well. On the other hand, the new leader of the party cannot expect the full support from the party members overnight. It all depends on how a leader makes moves to win the confidence of members. Sometimes you may have to have good ties with former leaders as well. But when you make a move, it has to be for the benefit of the party and not to settle personal issues. When talking about the UPFA leadership, the Constitution states that the leadership should be handed over to the incumbent president of the country. But one must understand that a person who broke ranks in the middle and joined the opposition to contest as the opposition’s common candidate will definitely find it uneasy when he returns to his own party to take over the leadership. You cannot expect the party members to offer support to the leader unless the new leader adopts a friendly cordial approach. President Sirisena should have adopted a soft approach not only with party members, but also with Rajapaksa. The slight downfall of the UPFA was mainly due to the internal rift between the so-called loyalists of Sirisena and Rajapaksa. But one should understand very clearly that there is no one called loyalists of an individual. In general, all are considered as party loyalists or members. But, the SLFP and UPFA will understand in the near future about the extent of damage done to party politics due  to individual rifts. Fortunately, this did not occur during the time of Kumaratunga or Rajapaksa.

However, the party which benefitted due to the internal rift of UPFA most was the UNP. We should also not forget that the UPFA led by Rajapaksa also adopted similar tactics to break the backbone of UNP. Although the UNP suffered some setbacks during the past 10 years, the party grabbed the golden opportunity and made maximum use of it this time around. The UNP was waiting for this opportunity. Given the present situation, President Sirisena and his newly reformed SLFP will feel the heat in future regarding the re-building of a vote base which was successfully established with various difficulties by his predecessors namely Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa.

One might pose the question whether President Sirisena acted with responsibility during the election campaign. Did the president maintain a neutral role during the campaign?  Definitely not. A moderate Tamil from the north would advise President Sirisena to learn neutral play from the Chief Minister of Northern Province CV Vigneswaran. What this writer is penning into this article are comments and suggestions coming from different people who really respect good governance. One hopes the readers will take these comments in good spirit. The readers are the genuine judges who have the sole authority to reject or appreciate these comments.

As a strong believer in various religious values, I would say, “ A tit-for-tat WRONG will not make another WRONG , RIGHT”.Be careful when you dig a pit for an enemy, because sometimes you may fall into your pit.”