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UNP candidate must promote liberalisation ideology – Harsha

The United National Party (UNP)’s presidential candidate must be someone who promotes its current liberalisation trajectory and ideology, State Minister Harsha De Silva told RepublicNext.

The party has yet to announce its candidate for the upcoming presidential election, even as the rival Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is getting ready to formally announce its own candidate on 11 August.

Speaking to RepublicNext on the sidelines of a press briefing, the Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution said that his party will announce its candidate “hopefully soon after” the UNP’s Working Committee meeting to be held this Friday (1 August).

The party is still in the process of discussing who amongst its proposed names for the candidacy is best suited for the job, he said, and whether or not party leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe can pull the required number of votes at a national election.

“There are two things to consider: One is policy, the other is winnability. We need to put both together. There is no point in having a policy if we can’t win. There is no point in winning if we don’t have a policy,” said De Silva.

“This is the challenge we’re now trying to overcome. One must understand that developing a country cannot be done by distributing things. You have to have a plan. You have to do reforms. You have to liberalise. You can’t go back. You cannot nationalise,” he added.

De Silva, known for his social market economy reform agenda, particularly in the run-up to the 2015 polls, was emphatic that his party’s presidential candidate must stay true to its current reform trajectory.

“What is the policy that we’re going to follow? What is it that we’re going to do in the next five years? I think it is very clear with the current UNP dispensation that we’re more for a reformed, further liberalised economy,” he said.

“The candidate also has to be someone who is going to promote that ideology. Then the question is who is the candidate? Is our current leader of the party going to be able to obtain the right number of votes to win? These are the discussions we’re having,” he added.

Noting that there are “many contenders” for the spot (Minister Lakshman Kiriella’s name being the latest thrown into the mix), the Minister said the UNP will arrive at some consensus over the next few days.

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However, he would not commit to an exact date for an official announcement.

“We have a Working Committee meeting on 1 August. I’m sure we will discuss this at great length there and hopefully soon thereafter [make an announcement],” he said.

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