UNP still searching for Ranil’s replacement, Karu’s offer shot down
ECONOMYNEXT – The United National Party (UNP) will meet next week to decide on a new leader for the country’s Grand Old Party, party insiders told EconomyNext.
The party’s Working Committee, the top decision-making body, met yesterday to discuss two issues, the party leadership and whom they will nominate to occupy the National List seat.
The meeting failed to reach a consensus as to who will be their leader yesterday.
The priority issue is to find a replacement for Ranil Wickremesinghe who has said he will step down after the party suffered its biggest ever defeat in the Parliamentary General Elections held on August 5.
Wickremesinghe, a four-time Prime Minister, has been the UNP leader for 26 years.
The UNP failed to win a single seat electorally in this month’s elections and won just the single seat on the National List.
After former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya publicly offered his name to be the leader, his name was proposed at the WC meeting by former Minister Navin Dissanayake.
Dissanayake, who is Jayasuriya’s son-in-law, appears to lead a faction in the party leaning towards rebuilding relations with the breakaway Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) which has emerged as the biggest Opposition group in Parliament.
His brother who has joined the SJB was appointed to Parliament on the SJB National List.
However, at the Working Committee Jayasuriya’s name had been shot down by other members who pointed out that he has resigned from the Party and will also be 80 years old at the end of next month.
The Party Constitution stipulates that the leader must be chosen from among party members. Jayasuriya resigned from the party after he was appointed Speaker of Parliament in 2016.
The consensus, party sources said, was that the UNP should appoint a younger person as the leader so that it can rebuild to contest the 2025 elections.
Wickremesinghe and his supporters in the party favour the former State Minister of Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene who is the former Prime Minister’s nephew to be the new leader.
Wickremesinghe himself is the nephew of former UNP leader and President J R Jayewardene.
As to whom they will nominate to Parliament will be decided after the leader is found, these sources said. (Colombo, August 26, 2020)