Who’s going to be Leader of the Opposition, Ranil or Sajith?

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is facing an unprecedented situation in the Sri Lanka Parliament. There are two contenders for the position of the Leader of the Opposition, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and failed presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa.

In a brief note released to the Media this evening the Speaker said that he had received two letters with regards to the selection of the Leader of the Opposition.

One was from Akila Viraj Kariyawasam the General Secretary of the United National Party requesting the Speaker to appoint Wickremesinghe and the other signed by 40 UNP MPs asking him to appoint Premadasa. The letter which appears on several trusted websites has 45 signatures on it and includes those of the two Jathika Hela Uurumaya MPs as well as that of Rishard Bathiudeen.

The post has never been contested before in Sri Lankan Parliamentary history.

The principle Jayasuriya would have to follow is to find out who commands the majority of the Members of the Opposition.

The United National Front Coalition has 106 MPs making it the largest grouping in Parliament.  Of them, 92 are UNP MPs.

The Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiriella told RepublicNext that Parliamentary tradition established over the last 10 years has been to accept the recommendation of the Secretary to the Party with the largest number of MPs in Opposition to choose the Leader of the Opposition.

A source, who did not wish to be named from the Premadasa faction said they hope the Speaker will look at the situation in a “democratic manner” chose the person who really commands the majority.

This has now brought the fracture in the UNP out into the open in a manner that has left party members scratching their heads.

This morning thousands of Premadasa loyalists came to see him at the campaign headquarters at Vauxhall Street in Colombo.

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Premadasa’s availability to see supporters was announced last evening asking them to come to the UNP Headquarters Sirikotha in Kotte.

A little later UNP Secretary Kariyawasam sent out a note saying that the Sirikotha event was not happening, throwing the entire event into confusion. The Premadasa faction cried “sabotage” and asked their supporters to come to Vauxhall Street, which they did.

Kariyawasam later sent out a Communique saying that Premadasa was requested not to hold the Sirikotha event today, but had told him that as people had been invited they would be asked to come to Vauxhall street.

“We were all agreed on what happened,” Kariyawasam said. A pro-Sajith MP said Kariyawasam was lying.

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