ECONOMYNEXT – The United National Party which was decimated at this month’s Parliamentary General Elections will look to rebuild for the future starting this week, its leadership aspirant former MP Ruwan Wijewardene has said.
He told media in Kandy yesterday that he will come forward as the new leader of the party when the UNP Working Committee meets either on Wednesday or Thursday this week.
“We hope to work out the leadership without a contest but by acclaim,” he said.
Party sourced told EconomyNext that the date of the WC meeting would be decided later today (31).
Wijewardene was in Kandy to pay obeisance to the Mahanayake Theros of the two main Chapters of the Buddhist Clergy.
He met with the Mahanayake Thero of the Malwatte Chapter, Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thero and the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Nayaka Thero.
Later when he met the Chief Registrar of the Asgiriya Chapter Medagama Dhammananda Thero he received a ringing endorsement from the prelate.
“We will not be happy to see the demise of the UNP, a party that has served the country well,” Dhammananda Thero said.
“It is good that someone young with a good lineage is coming forward to accept the leadership,” he added.
This would end the 26-year reign of Wijewardene’s cousin Ranil Wickremesinghe as Party Leader.
The former four-term Prime Minister announced he would step down as leader of the UNP after the party received a thumping at the polls, failing to win an electoral seat in Parliament and getting only a single National List seat.
Wickremesinghe’s leadership has been controversial for some time as a number of leading members of the party left blaming him for being dictatorial.
The breakaway faction of the UNP the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) which won 54 seats at the election and emerged as the main Opposition in Parliament has accused Wickremesinghe of “engineering a split” in the party just weeks before the poll was first scheduled to be held.
Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, a former UNP Deputy Minister and now MP from the SJB accused Wickremesinghe and his “clique” for forcing anyone who opposed Wickremesinghe or called for internal party democracy to leave.
“This deprived the UNP of many good leaders who have left politics or joined Mahinda Rajapaksa,” Bakeer Markar told media.
An attempt by a group in the UNP to bring former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya into the leadership position may not succeed as doubts have been caused over his membership rights.
Jayasuriya has produced a valid membership card for the year 2020 and also reminded the party that he is a life member.
Former Cricket Captain Arjuna Ranatunga has also offered to lead the UNP, but he is unlikely get sufficient support.
Wijewardene and Wickremesinghe have said that it is time for a younger leadership to take over.
Wijewardene is the son of Media Owner Ranjith Wijewardene and Ranjani Senanayake. His maternal grandfather D S Senanayake was the country’s first Prime Minister and his granduncle Dudley was also Prime Minister several times.
J R Jayewardene the first Executive President of Sri Lanka and leader of the UNP was his uncle.
(Colombo, August 31, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana