Sajith faction gathers momentum

United National Party Heavyweights at the SJB Nomination Board meeting chaired by Sajith Premadasa/Facebook.com

ECONOMYNEXT – The nomination board of the Sajith Premadasa-led Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) met yesterday and claimed that it had finalized two-thirds of its candidates for the upcoming Parliamentary General elections.

Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, a member of the Board said that they were confident that all the nominations would be ready for the March 12 deadline.

On the Board are United National Party heavyweights Kabir Hashim, Lakshman Kiriella, Mangala Samaraweera, Thalatha Atukorale, Eran Wickremanaratne, Malik Samarawickreme, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Ravindra Samaraweera.

The meeting came amid further roiling between the two factions of the UNP.

The SJB says that more UNP ex-MPs were supporting their faction and named activist MP Thusitha Jayamanne as one of them.

United National Party heavyweights Kabir Hashim, Lakshman Kiriella, Mangala Samaraweera, Thalatha Atukorale, Eran Wickremanayake, Malik Samarawickreme, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Imtiaz Bakeer Markar and Ravindra Samaraweera at the Nomination Board meeting on Wednesday chaired by Sajith Premadasa/Facebook.com

Former MP Mayantha Dissanayake has also pledged to join the SJB but his brother, former Minister and National Organizer of the UNP Navin Dissanayake is yet to declare his position.

The decision that will be crucial to the future of the Grand Old Party will be that of Navin’s father-in-law former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

Jayasuriya emerged as a colossal, highly acclaimed figure when he stood up for the supremacy of Parliament and the Rule-of-Law during the October 2018 Constitutional Coup that temporarily made Mahinda Rajapaksa Prime Minister.

Sources close to the matter told EconomyNext that UNP Secretary-General Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had met with Jayasuriya and requested him to helm the party during the elections. Reportedly Jayasuriya has turned them down.

The SJB faction did not attend Wednesday’s UNP Working Committee meeting.

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The current division in the UNP stems from a series of events.

At first the party’s top decision-making body the Working Committee endorsed the proposal that Premadasa would head a UNP-led alliance at the elections. It also endorsed Madduma Bandara as General Secretary.

However later at a subsequent WC meeting, some members brought a proposal that the alliance should contest under the easily recognizable and potent Elephant symbol.

The Sajith faction demurred at that, contending that not all members of a proposed alliance would be comfortable with that suggestion.

The second option was the Swan symbol under which Premadasa contested and lost the Presidential election.

However, the symbol is held by Shamala Perera, a UNP-activist and supporter of Ravi Karunanayake. The former Finance Minister had offered symbol on the condition that he be appointed Deputy Leader of the SJB.

That proposal was rejected by the SJB leadership, sources close to the matter said.

Meanwhile, the Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake imposed a travel ban on Karunanayake and 10 others in the on-going investigation into the Bonds Scam.

Symbol or not the SJB went ahead with their launch on Monday that appeared to build momentum around Premadasa and away from the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led faction. (Colombo, March 5, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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  1. Sajith has handled this whole episode excellently thus far. His patience and political maturity have now been proven in outsmarting RW in his own game. The matter is yet not a close file. There can be maneuvres by RW especially I see kiriella Mangala showing favour. This must be looked with suspicion and precautions taken to complete the last lap prior to nomination day

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