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Rebel UNP MPs give one week to resolve leadership crisis

Presenting an ultimatum to the party leadership today, a group of rebel United National Party (UNP) MPs demanded a speedy resolution to the party’s ongoing leadership crisis, failing which they would be compelled to take drastic measures.

MP Nalin Bandara said that if a solution to the issues pertaining to the positions of Opposition Leader and party leader are not resolved by the end of this week, the reformist MPs of the party may be forced to “take certain decisions”.

Bandara was speaking to reporters at the New Democratic Front (NDF) election office in Vauxhall Street this afternoon (03), accompanied by MPs Dr. Harsha De Silva, Harin Fernando, S. M. Marikkar and others who had backed former UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa at the recently concluded presidential election.

Calling for a fresh start, Bandara said the UNP should provide space for younger leaders whose names have not been tarnished by allegations of corruption.

“If we are to move forward as a party, the UNP must start fresh. It doesn’t matter that we have the elephant as the party symbol and green as the party colour. If we do not start afresh, our supporters will come out and speak against those who obstruct that.

“Many a professional and businessman want to support the party, but we have to make them actually like the party. If people linked to corruption scandals are in the party, they won’t support us,” he said.

Bandara accused the Rajapaksas of being behind the UNP’s leadership crisis.

“There is no need to drag the issue. We understand the Rajapaksas are behind this and that is why Parliament was prorogued,” Bandara said.

MP Harin Fernando said that he, too, is hopeful that the UNP’s internal issues will be resolved in the next few days.

“We believe an adequate answer will be given in the next few days. We’re not here for positions in the party. We’re here to fulfil the people’s demand. Our stance is that both the party leadership and the opposition leadership should be given to Sajith Premadasa whom the people want,” he said.

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Insisting that a majority of party supporters is yearning for new leadership, Fernando said the Premadasa faction does not wish to be stubborn.

“We love our party, so we will not take any stubborn decisions. If they fail to give the new leadership majority clearly want, there is a possibility that we will alternative methods. We do not like to split the party, but we do not know how this crisis will end,” he said.

On a different note, the MPs said that proroguing Parliament has led to further delaying the release of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)’s forensic audit report on the Central Bank treasury bond investigation. (Former COPE Chairman Sunil Handunetti subsequently said he is keeping the report confidential till the next COPE is appointed).

“COPE was supposed to issue the report today. The bond scam was one of the reasons we lost the people’s trust. So a question arises as to whether Parliament was prorogued in an attempt to postpone the release of the report,” he said.

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