Calling for unity in the increasingly fractured United National Party (UNP), Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake said that, if the party is to win the upcoming presidential election, its top two leaders must work together.
Without naming names, Dissanayake said that it is vital that the No. 1 and 2 of the UNP resolve their differences and find a way to work together in the run-up to the polls.
“In the UNP, there was always room for the party leader to be its presidential candidate. If not, the deputy leader must come forward. Number 1 and 2 of the party are well positioned. The deputy leader is a popular leader whose wide appeal is an asset. For the party two win, it is essential that 1 and 2 work together. If they didn’t, it could prove detrimental to the party,” said the Minister, speaking at an event held in Nuwara Eliya earlier today marking his 50th birthday.
“Some say 1 can be removed by appointing 2. There is no road ahead for 1 without 2; and vice versa,” he added.
Dissanayake was also highly critical of President Maithripala Sirisena for not delivering on promises made to the people of Nuwara Eliya, the former’s electorate, who overwhelmingly voted for Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election.
“If anyone takes the throne with our votes and then choose to neglect us, we too would have to make a decision. Seventy percent of our votes in the last presidential election went to that candidate, but there was no response in kind. The people of Nuwara Eliya has a lot of trust in the UNP, however. [My late father] Gamini Dissanayake’s base is intact,” he said.
Vowing that neither he nor his brother Mayantha will allow the UNP to be divided, Dissanayake said that the party’s 68-member Working Committee – 48 of whom are represented in Parliament – can feel the pulse of the people, and will make a final decision on the candidacy.
“Politics can change overnight. We believe the people will choose a moderate leader who is a true democrat. Sri Lankans have never liked military leaders. Mahinda Rajapaksa is a democratic leader, but Gotabaya Rajapaka is not,” he said.