Enter the Speaker; Karu trying to bring peace to UNP
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is stepping in to try and end the civil war in the United National Party, RepublicNext reliably learns.
A source close to Jayasuriya said he is “trying to bring Sajith Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe together, and that meeting will happen today or tomorrow.”
The Party is still struggling with the issue of who will lead the party’s campaign in the upcoming Parliamentary Elections with the factions supporting Wickremesinghe and Premadasa still locking horns.
The first target that the Premadasa faction is aiming for is the vacant Leader of the Opposition position after the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister.
A letter signed by 45 UNP MPs was sent to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya urging him to appoint Premadasa as the Leader of the Opposition, but that was countered by the party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam who formally requested the Speaker to choose Wickremesinghe.
Yesterday, Nov 25, Kariyawasam told RepublicNext that the “Speaker has accepted our position,” meaning that Wickremesinghe would be the Leader of the Opposition.
Last week Jayasuriya told a Party Leaders’ meeting that the Parliamentary tradition has been to appoint the leader of the biggest political party in the Opposition to the post, and it is customary for the Secretary to the Party to nominate the candidate.
However the Premadasa faction continues to contest the position and plans to send a letter with the signatures of 75 MPs, a majority of the 92 it has in the House, asking the Speaker to appoint their man.
Jayasuriya told RepublicNext that if the Premadasa faction can prove he has the majority of UNP MPs with him then he could consider a change “but the letter must come through the Secretary.”
Kariyawasam also told reporters yesterday at a press conference held at the party headquarters Sirikotha that Wickremesinghe “will not be the party leader forever.”
The Leader of the Opposition gets an office with staff, a residence in the City and other perks at the level of a Cabinet Minister.
Premadasa who fought a bruising battle inside the party to become the candidate at the recently concluded Presidential election lost to Gotabaya Rajapaksa who garnered ten percentage points more.