The United National Party-led Alliance will bring a Social Democratic focus to its policies when contesting future elections, but the burning question as to who its candidate for the Presidential elections will be is yet to be settled, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters today 29, Aug.
Senaratne said that the Alliance leaders met on Tuesday 27 Aug night to work out outstanding issues pertaining to its Constitution and related matters.
He said the alliance, which is slated to be called the Democratic National Front, will have a UNP-nominated person as its General Secretary and its Headquarters will be at a “neutral venue and not at the UNP Headquarters Sirikotha.”
There was unanimity on these points, Senaratne said.
The GS post and the location were issues that the pro-Sajith faction in the UNP had raised some weeks ago when the Alliance Constitution had been proposed at a UNP Working Committee meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and attended by UNP Deputy Leaders Sajith Premadasa and Ravi Karunanayake, UNP Secretary General Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Chairman Kabir Hashim, Deputy Chairman Malik Samarawickreme, Rajitha Senaratne, Patalee Champika Ranawaka, Rauff Hakeem, Mano Ganesan, P Digambaram.
Agreement was also reached on another contentious issue, which is the appointment of Electoral Organizers. UNP leaders had earlier objected to members from other alliance partners being appointed as organizers. However, the alliance agreed to “accommodate alliance partners with the agreement of the UNP” Senaratne said.
He said that over the Constitution the constituent parties had reached a final settlement.
The alliance leaders also agreed to appoint a committee headed by Senaratne to create the principles and policies of the group. The members of the committee are Senaratne, Ranawaka, Ganesan, Nizam Kariappan, Rishad Bathiudeen, Hashim and Kariyawasam.
“With regards to the candidate, who will be chosen by the UNP, he will have to be acceptable not only to the alliance partners but to the civil society organisations that support us and other registered political parties who will support us from the outside” Senaratne said.
He added that the candidate does not have to be the leader of the UNP or the Alliance Chairman. “He or she can come from another party,” he said.
Senaratne said that the UNP could nominate someone who is not the leader of the party as the alliance candidate and if a difficulty arises the Party Constitution can be amended.
Senaratne also said that the Alliance Leader Wickremesinghe had instructed him that the future economic program for the group should be on Social Democratic lines. “So this is an innovative idea because always the UNP is being faulted for being a party that follows Neo-Liberal policy. It is a historic decision by the alliance,” he said.
However the UNP has for many years touted itself as a Social Democratic party for introducing free education, free healthcare and free schoolbooks.