Ranil refuses to budge
Ranil Wickremesinghe is refusing to step down as Leader of the United National Party but is open to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya leading the charge at the upcoming Parliamentary General Elections, sources close to the former Prime Minister said.
Efforts to make Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa the Party Leader and spearhead the campaign for the elections expected in the last week of April have thus far failed.
A majority of the UNP MPs support Premadasa to be the Leader, but the UNP Constitution requires the leader to be chosen by the Working Committee, where Wickremesinghe holds a comfortable majority.
The same deadlock appeared in choosing the UNP-led coalition’s candidate for the Presidential Election in November last year.
Premadasa was the candidate and he was roundly defeated by Gotabaya Rajapaksa by a huge margin.
President Rajapaksa can dissolve Parliament at the end of February paving the way for the April election.
If Jayasuriya were to accept the Party Leader position, he needs to step down as Speaker. As of last night, there were no such indications.
Premadasa complained that his Presidential campaign was hamstrung by the Wickremesinghe faction in the UNP and towards the culmination of the race he ran out of resources.
Before the campaign, Wickremesinghe proposed that Jayasuriya be the candidate, but that did not gather support within the party as Premadasa’s support base had already built momentum.
Efforts to arrange a meeting between Wickremesinghe, Jayasuriya and Premadasa to sort out the differences have failed. The more optimistic UNPers are saying “everything will be sorted out by Friday.”
This has left the UNP with the grim possibility that they would have to go into battle at the next elections, wounded and limping.
Jehan Perera - Executive Director National Peace Council