It was depressing to learn that internal conflicts within the UNP have now spilled out into open violence. It is the very last thing that we need.
The problem is with the leadership of the party. Dayan Jayatilleka presents a decent analysis of why Ranil must go, while Mangala Samaraweera explains why he feels he needs to support Ranil.
I agree with everything that Samaraweera says save his conclusion. Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot be elected, his reputation has been tarnished beyond repair and the whole party offering looks tired, dispirited and disorganised.
In political terms, Ranil has gone beyond his 'sell by' date; regardless of his intellect and abilities he cannot inspire or move people and therefore cannot lead. His time is up and he must go, as soon as possible.
The whole party apparatus is equally bad: I attended one of Eran Wickremeratne's forums on constitutional reform - it was an unmitigated disaster. They did not seem to have a clear idea of what they were hoping to achieve through public discussion, had not thought through their ideas properly, had not grasped that the public at large have no capacity to understand the intricacies of constitution making-unless the problems are simplified into real, tangible day-to-day issues, which was not done.
I came away from the meeting thinking that if this was the oppositions grand plan, the situation was beyond hopeless.
The UNP party constitution is structured in such a way that it is impossible to remove the leader, therefore the UNP'ers need to do the next best thing: walk out in a body and form a completely new party.
They need to take the core of the UNP and try to woo the few decent people in other parties. One or two walking out is not enough, there needs to be a large exodus and the new party must have enough critical mass to survive on its own. This is easier said than done, especially since there is so much money to be made by being with the Government, but there may be some who have by now put away enough to decide to take a stand on some principle.
This new party must form the core of a joint opposition, joining hands with all other opposition parties to present a single candidate. The face of the new party must be a new, technocratic one; someone who presents a break from the past, with no political baggage and can appeal to younger voters. Perhaps someone from overseas, like India's new Central Bank chief.
Timed well and played right, this may work. The opposition needs to work fast, the next Presidential election is likely to be called in early 2014.