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Wednesday July 6th, 2022

Champika seeks to shed his Sinhala-Buddhist cloak to broaden his appeal

FILE PHOTO – Patali Champika Ranawaka

ECONOMYNEXT – Patali Champika Ranawaka is embarking on a “new political journey” after resigning from the post of General Secretary of the party he founded the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) today.

This is clearly a move he is making as a bid to shed his current image as a Sinhala Buddhist leader and widen his appeal to the electorate.

Ranawaka, 55, is a two-time former Cabinet Minister who served under both Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena and has won elections contesting from both sides of the political divide.

In a speech made at a meeting of the JHU in Colombo today announcing his resignation, he said he wishes to “give leadership to the new generation of Sri Lankans who are shaping our future.”

Ranawaka said that the “false image created for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has now been exposed and the deification of this person has crumbled.”

He said that as the “true picture of these leaders emerge we can see that the hopes of the people are being dashed.”

Ranawaka charged that the foundation of the ruling SLPP is made up of “crooks and thieves.”

He said the public is now realizing that the ruling party is controlled by the illegal sand-miners, the kassippu brewers, drug-dealers and other criminals.

“It is disturbing that there are Buddhist Monks who support these people,” he said.

“Today the Buddhist Monks who are backing the current administration are not deeply philosophical but controlled by Oligarchs and political interests,” Ranawaka charged. “That is why they are known as Voice Cut Sadhus.”

Ranawaka accused the government of mismanaging the economy to the point that Sri Lanka is now not able to pay its debts.

“We have never defaulted on our loans but Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa went to India and pleaded with them to postpone our loan payments,” he said.

He also pointed out that the country was only able to sell only 44pct of the Treasury Bills and to cope the “government had to print money.”

In the past he said although there was an awakening of the indigenous people’s rights in the 1950s, the leadership of the country “remained with a class of people who believed they have a Brahminical right to rule. That has to change.”

Ranawaka said that the social and economic development the country has seen in recent times has come from a new class of “educated people who are from the new generation and not the old elite.”

He said he would join the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) “which has promised to be not a new United National Party but a truly democratic institution.”

However, although he sits in Parliament as an SJB MP as an alliance partner he would take “a little time to join as a full member.” He said he wants to see whether the SJB would be true to its word.

Ranawaka who cut his political teeth in the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna-led protest movements of the 1980s said it is time to for him to shed the image of being “just a protest movement and join the mainstream.”

He was seen as an anti-Tamil racist figure when he backed the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) which helped changed the anti-separatist war from a national security issue to one against the Tamil minority.

He said the movement he joined as a youth was led by principled Buddhist Monks such as Gangodawila Soma Thero and Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero who he upheld as exemplary monks.

At today’s meeting the entire Central Committee of the JHU quit their posts and new individuals were elected in their place. (Colombo, December 12, 2020)

By Arjuna Ranawana

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