Ministers supportive of Deputy UNP leader Sajith Premadasa have threatened to resign en mass from their posts unless the party names him as its presidential candidate, before the end of this month. A spokesman for them has said that they may even consider quitting politics in protest.
UNP MP Hesha Withanage, addressing the media, yesterday, on behalf of the Sajith group of the UNP, said all UNP legislators of his faction, functioning as ministers, deputy ministers, state ministers, non-Cabinet ministers and monitoring MPs, would give up their positions unless Premadasa was named as the UNP’ presidential candidate before the end of the current month.
He said they were so fed up with the affairs of the party that they might even consider leaving politics for good.
Minister Premadasa has already launched what he calls his presidential election campaign. He has so far held two successful rallies in Badulla and Matara to ratchet up pressure on the party leader to name him as the party’s presidential candidate. Some of his ministerial colleagues such as Ravi Karunanayake and P. Harrison are opposed to his move.
Non-Cabinet Minister Ajith P. Perera, speaking at a public event, yesterday, questioned the advisability of the UNP waiting until the declaration of the next presidential election to name its candidate. He said procrastination would be at the expense of the party’s presidential campaign.
Perera called Premadasa the People Power candidate and they would not take any steps backwards in their struggle to make the latter the President. He said that when the incumbent government was formed its leaders had promised to listen to the people, but that pledge had not been fulfilled. If they had listened to the people, they would have named Premadasa as the UNP’s presidential candidate, he said.
Meanwhile, party sources said that the UNP would name its presidential candidate after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s return from the Maldives, where he is on an official visit. He is expected to return on 05th September. They said there was no truth in Minister Mano Ganeshan’s claim that the UNP had already decided on its candidate. Ganeshan has said the UNP has picked its presidential candidate.
The UNP is coming under increasing pressure from the constituents of the UNF coalition to sort out its internal issues and name its presidential candidate before the end of this month.
The SLPP and the JVP have already named their presidential candidates—Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, respectively.