UNP crisis worsens: Sajith walks out of Working Committee

The UNP party headquarters in Pitakotte/EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – The crisis in the United National Party appears to have deepened after a meeting of the Party’s top decision-making body, the Working Committee, ended inconclusively senior party members said.

The WC was to decide on two key issues, one was the ratification of the General Secretary of the UNP-led Alliance and the second was the emblem the alliance is to contest the upcoming Parliamentary General elections.

While the name of Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the alliance General Secretary was approved, there was deep division about the emblem.

Senior UNP leader and former Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that “the vast majority of the Members of the Working Committee are of the view that we should contest the elections under the Elephant symbol.”

This put paid to the Common Symbol that the Alliance was to offer so that the smaller parties could comfortably contest.

At that stage, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa who is also the Alliance leader had left the meeting, stating that he needs full control of the group to guide it during the elections.

After the meeting, MP Harsha de Silva said he feels that what happened at the meeting today leads him to believe that the attempt to build an alliance led by Premadasa to face the elections is being defeated.

“There is a group of people who want the MPs chosen under the Elephant symbol. That will make the Alliance redundant,” he told reporters outside the party headquarters Sirikotha.

He said that Premadasa feels that he is being made a fool of “and he told the party leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe to take the decisions as he sees fit.”

“The Leader said that he has received legal advice that the MPs can remain in Parliament only as members of the UNP. In fact, Sajith has been dealt a huge blow,” de Silva said.

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Kiriella also said that the final decisions would be made at a future meeting of the WC either on Wednesday or Thursday.

 Even before the WC meeting began the fissures were clear this morning between the two sides in the deeply divided party as it struggles to construct a viable campaign to challenge the rampant Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at a general election slated to be held at the end of April.

The Party has agreed that Premadasa would be the Prime Ministerial candidate and he would lead the campaign.

Premadasa will also be the Chair of the Nomination Board which will select the candidates.

A resounding defeat for the UNP would spell disaster for the Grand Old Party which is in danger of breaking up over Wickremesinghe’s insistence of remaining the party leader. (Colombo, February 10, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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