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Leadership transition without disruption at Sri Lanka’s UNP: Ranil

ECONOMYNEXT – Leader of Sri Lanka’s United National Party has promised a ‘transition without disruption’ after the ‘good governance’ credentials of the unity administration was hit by his appointments starting from the central bank governor.

"The UNP Is carrying out a massive restructuring program," Wickremesinghe told reporters.  "I mentioned in the 70th anniversary (of the UNP) in 2016 that a new leadership group has to emerge and take over the party.

The transition has to start after the local authority elections are over.

"Now we must ensure that this transition takes place, and a new leadership group appears and takes over responsibility and re-organize the party in time to come.

"We want the transition to take place without disruption."

Wickremesinghe is known to have appointed Arjuna Mahendran as central bank Governor despite objections from members of the cabinet including Rajitha Senaratne who pointed out that his son-in-law’s Perpetual Group was involved in stock market scams involving the EPF.

Wickremesinghe’s move not only blocked investigations into the scam but also paved the way for the largest securities scam, which undermined the credentials of the administration when no action was taken leading to accusations of a cover-up.

In a classic US – style ‘the cover up is worse than the crime’ scenario, the scam also undermined the credentials of several UNP members who defended the scam, in a bid to curry favour with the leadership.

Deputy Policy Minister Harsha de Silva, who raised objections to the scam was transferred from the economic policy ministry to the foreign ministry.

The UNP also lost its credential for economic liberalization and good management after a disastrous 2015 budget, which generated a balance of payments crisis, on top a drought.





A collapse of the currency pushed up inflation, ensuring that even the price of imported goods remained high. The currency was allowed to collapse, despite the UNP coming into power, on the back of economic hardships form a currency collapse, both in 2001 and 2015.

Critics had also blamed Wickremesinghe for not giving an opportunity for young leaders who had helped bring the party to power, but kept them as junior ministers. Only Harin Fernando was given a cabient post.

Among the more contentions appointments were Malik Samarawickreme, and Tilak Marapone, as well as some of the ‘old guard’ of the UNP who ran into controversies not in keeping with the aspirations of voters who brought the administration to power hoping for a clean government.

Police Minister Sagala Ratnayake as well as President Sirisena had been come under fire for blocking investigations so that people were left with the impressions that claims of fraud in the last administration were not correct. 

Critics have also blamed President Sirisena for putting his party before the promises made to the people.

An economic committee under Prime Minister had also been blamed for blocking projects. One of the biggest economic failures of the administration is to finish building the East container terminal at Colombo port, for which big names in international shipping bid.

Wickremesinghe has also come under fire for creating a party constitution that undermined internal democracy.

Wickremesinghe told reporters that restructuring of the party will begin after members are appointed to local councils.

"It will not happen in 24 hours," he said.

Wickremesinghe had been a master at delaying party reforms in the past, according to his critics.  (Colombo/Feb19/2018)

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