By Chandani Kirinde
The final decision on the United National Party’s (UNP) candidate for the upcoming Presidential Election is likely by the end of the week, sources in the Prime Minister’s office said last night as the likelihood of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya being the likely compromise candidate for the Party gathered momentum.
A delegation of Buddhist monks who met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday as well as a delegation representing the civil society group ‘Purawesi Balaya’ who met him yesterday told the UNP leader that Jayasuriya should be fielded as the common candidate with a pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency.
“The Prime Minister was open to the suggestion and a final decision on this should happen by the end of the week,” sources at the PM’s office said.
The public demand for Jayasuriya to be fielded as the UNP candidate came as UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa also sought to consolidate his candidature meeting with leaders of the constituent parties of the UNP on Saturday.
Democratic People›s Front (DPF) Leader Mano Ganeshan, who was among those who took part in the talks held at the Colombo residence of Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, said those present had reiterated the need not to drag the issue of naming the UNP/UNF presidential candidate beyond this week under any circumstance.
Among those present at the meeting with Premadasa were Champika Ranawaka (JHU), Palani Digambaram (TPA), Rauff Hakeem (SLMC), Rishad Bathiudeen (ACMA) as well as Minister Malika Samarawickrema, Kabir Hashim and State Minister Eran Wickramaratne.
Premadasa is expected to meet with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) later this week to seek their support for his candidacy.
Meanwhile Purawesi Balaya, the civil society movement led by the late Ven. Madulawawe Sobitha Thera that was in the forefront of the 2015 campaign that brought President Maithripala Sirisena to office, said the 2019 election presidential candidate should be someone who can muster votes across all communities and named Jayasuriya as the person who could do so.
The delegation led by Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Gamini Viyangoda, Lal Wijenayake and K.W. Janaranjana also emphasised the need to consolidate the democratic gains achieved by the Government under the ‘Yahapalanaya’ movement in 2015.
A delegation of members of the Buddhist clergy led by Ven. Matale Dhammakusala Anu Nayaka Thera who met the Prime Minister on Saturday urged that Jayasuriya be named the UNP candidate and the Presidential Election campaign be carried out with the promise to abolish the Executive Presidency within six months of being elected.
“There were requests that the 20th Amendment be passed in Parliament before the polls but the Prime Minister explained that this could not be done in a hurry while pointing out that the Bill could not go through in its present form without some amendments as it could be lead to constitutional problems.”
The Prime Minister also met a delegation of the Civil Society and Trade Union Collective yesterday which included Ven. Dambara Amila Thera and Dr. Wickremabahu Karunaratne who emphasised the need for unity within the UNP to face the election.
The delegates said that the delay in naming a candidate would affect the Party as the other main group was already campaigning for the polls.
Sources said that the UNP leader had assured that the Party would overcome its differences and so that the candidate would be named by consensus.
“What he (Wickremesinghe) wants to avoid is going to the working Committee and having a split vote which could be a major setback for the Party at the upcoming election. He has asked the Deputy Leader to come forward with his program to face the poll and will take that also into consideration,” sources at the Prime Minister’s office said.