By Nuwan Senarathna
A month after his presidential loss MP Sajith Premadasa yesterday said he would not spearhead the UNP’s parliamentary campaign as a prime ministerial candidate unless he is given the party leadership as well.
Premadasa made the comments when addressing party faithfuls for the first time since his defeat, at a private venue near the party headquarters in Pita Kotte. He was joined by Parliamentarians Ajith P. Perera, Dr. Harsha De Silva, S.M. Marikkar, Chandrani Bandara, and Ranjith Madduma Bandara. Addressing the gathering, Premadasa stressed that he does not expect to face the upcoming General Election as a prime ministerial candidate without the party leadership.
“The party leadership is not the decision of one individual. However, if the party values the opinion of its members, justice must be done by them,” he stated. “I do not expect to lead the Parliamentary Election campaign unless I am also given the party leadership.”
Premadasa emphasised that he was prepared to make all necessary sacrifices in order to win the upcoming general elections, calling on all party faithful to unite and move forward. “We need to think anew, to move away from traditional frameworks and be open to out-of-the-box thinking that is friendlier towards the youth and lead the party in a new direction,” he added. Echoing his election manifesto, Premadasa called for more people-centric policies and governance.
The former Presidential candidate claimed he was ready to carry out the duties of the Opposition Leader ahead of the Parliamentary Election, moving away from the pettiness and dishonest political culture, which in his view was practiced earlier. Premadasa said that he would support any Government initiative that is beneficial for the country, pledging to rally support in the house to pass beneficial legislation.
While acknowledging the public mandate received by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Premadasa said that he will support to implement all policies in the Rajapaksa manifesto, claiming that if needed, he will ensure the complete support of the Opposition parliamentarians not affiliated to the UNP as well.
“I will provide parliamentary support if the Government decides to tear up the MCC (agreement),” he said, referring to statements by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in the run-up to the election on the controversial Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement.
Premadasa was steadfast in stressing that he will ensure the safety, security and well-being of all party supporters, and pledged to work to protect them from the alleged political victimisation they were being subjected to.