By Chathuri Dissanayake
United National Party (UNP) Parliamentary group meeting heated up yesterday with some members openly calling for nomination of Sajith Premadasa as the presidential candidate.
First time to be discussed, Minister Kabir Hashim raised the question of presidential candidate during the meeting nominating Sajith Premadasa, sources privy to the meeting told Daily FT.
The suggestion received support from a large crowd present with number of other MPs including Minister Malik Samarawickrama, Minister Thalatha Athukorala, Minister Harin Fernando, Non-Cabinet Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe and Parliamentarian Ranjith Madduma Bandara speaking up to support the presidential hopeful, Premadasa.
Number of MPs including Fernando had spoken backing Premadasa, highlighting the need to appoint a new leader to face the upcoming Presidential Elections with a candidate within Party ranks.
Only one Parliamentarian in the group has made reference to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, another name floated as a possible candidate for the upcoming polls.
Members present have emphasised that the Party needed to select a winning candidate even though there may be “personal disagreements”, with a need to select “the popular candidate”, as the need was to “win election first”, and “deliver on people’s demands”.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who chaired the meeting has responded “positively” and promised to “discuss the matter again in two weeks’ time”.
Speaking of the proposed broader alliance to be announced on 5 August, the Prime Minister had said that candidate nominated should have acceptance from parties willing to come aboard with the alliance as well.
“However those present insisted that it has to be decided on by the Party on our terms,” one member who was present at the meeting told Daily FT.
Dr. de Silva took to Twitter to note his satisfaction on the discussion said: “At the Government members group meeting we had a frank discussion on the upcoming #SriLanka Presidential Election. Many spoke. Very positive. I am certain we can agree on the winning strategy, alliance n the @officialunp candidate soon. @RW_UNP @sajithpremadasa @KaruOnline”
Non-Cabinet Minister Perera on his Facebook account claimed “unanimous, it is Sajith”.
However no final decision has been taken, with the meeting ended abruptly when Minister Ravi Karunanayake attempted defending himself on accusations levelled against him.
When the discussion focused on party members criticising each other, with Karunanayake being referred to as a dealer, the latter has attempted to defend himself noting that whatever his actions were, it has been for the benefit of the party. However when Karunanayake attempted responding to allegations for the second time amidst boos from the audience, members present walked out calling the meeting to an abrupt halt.