Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the opposition occupies a curious position in the political arena. He is regularly blamed by the Government for all manner of ills, from the Ceasefire Agreement to the possible loss of GSP+ concessions from the EU. He is criticised by the government and its supporters for his background, for having a squeaky voice, for wearing a suit even for being effeminate. He is painted as a traitor bent on discrediting the country at the very least and possibly even plotting its very destruction.
All this leaves Mr Wickremesighe quite unmoved. He rarely responds to any particular charge and never seem perturbed, let alone worried by what is said about him. In Sri Lanka this seems to be taken as a sign of guilt - most supporters of the government seem to agree with all of this something the local blogosphere bears testimony to.
His party and his supporters on the other hand are left wringing their hands in despair. He does not seem capable of mounting any challenge to the government. The few rallies and protests organised have not really taken off - that despite the mounting problems of the government. Even if he can't organise public protest he could release press statements that can highlight the many flaws in the Governments policies but presumably feeling that anything he says will be used against him he remains silent. He can't even hold his party together with parts of it now supporting the government and what is left of it in danger of splitting apart.
He is almost like the Batman villain, the Joker; who is characterised as the villain we love to hate; something that conceals his importance to the regime in power.
The ruling coalition would would be in deep difficulties if not for the help of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The perennial leader of the opposition is the best thing that any government in power could hope for.
The UNP is a large party, some would say the largest party in the country. In the hands of a Mangala Samaraweera, a Chandrika Bandaranaike, an S B Dissanyake even perhaps Sajith Premadasa or Karu Jayasuriya it would be a formidable political machine instead of being divided, disinterested and ineffective.
None of this is to detract from Mr Wickremesinghe's qualities as a potential Head of State; he would I believe be quite effective in that role; it is the party politics and the pulse of the common man that he fails to grasp.
The Government should be offering poojas to him, in secret every night, even as they pillory him by day.