Ranil boycotts UNP alliance launch

ECONOMYNEXT – The United National Party’s headlong rush into oblivion looks like it is well underway after Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe boycotted the launch of the UNP-led Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Monday.

Led by Sajith Premadasa, the launch attracted most UNP MPs in Parliament as well as the majority of Provincial Council Members as well as Local Government representatives. The SJB General Secretary former Minister Ranjit Madduma Bandara claimed that “ninety-five per cent” of the UNP MPs were present at the Nelum Pokuna launch.

The UNP’s erstwhile allies signed on to the new formation. They included the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the Tamil Progressive Alliance, Rishad Bathiudeen’s group and two break-away parties from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party as well as the United Left Front.

At today’s event, 12 parties signed documents joining the alliance.

Apart from Wickremesinghe, UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, former Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella, Vajira Abewardene and Sagala Ratnayake were not present.

The break-up which has been months in the making even before last November’s Presidential Election, came to a head, on Sunday when the party Working Committee which had earlier authorized Premadasa to lead an alliance voted not to grant the Elephant Symbol to the formation.

The Symbol that Premadasa contested the Presidential poll, the Swan was also not made available to the alliance by the person holding rights, Shamala Perera. She is a supporter of former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake.

Karunanayake is said to have imposed certain conditions on Premadasa to permit the use of the Swan symbol.

The governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has already formed a powerful alliance and has hit the campaign trail.

Coming into the Parliamentary Elections in the after-glow of the massive electoral victory it won in the Presidential election, the SLPP-lead Sri Lanka Podujana Nidahas Sandhanaya (SLPNS) is an almost certain winner.

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However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party does not want a mere simple majority in Parliament but a two-thirds of the House so that it can re-engineer the Constitution to restore executive powers in the Presidency. (Colombo, March 2, 2020)

–Arjuna Ranawana

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