by Shamindra Ferdinando
UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa’s Camp, yesterday, January 31, assured that it wouldn’t press for the leadership of the party.
Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, No 30, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Premadasa faction’s spokesman Nalin Bandara, MP, admitted that they couldn’t pressure incumbent leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to give up the party leadership.
When the media pointed out that the Premadasa camp never publicly admitted such a situation before and in fact vowed to secure the leadership by whatever means, lawmaker Bandara said that nothing could be done about Wickremesinghe’s refusal to give up party leadership.
The Kurunegala District MP said that they had explored ways and means of securing the party leadership for Premadasa though the Constitution of the party effectively thwarted their efforts.
Asked by The Island whether Wickremesinghe had exploited the Constitution to his advantage, lawmaker Bandara asserted that as the Constitution had some dictatorial features changes were required.
Bandara said that in spite of recent differences among members of the parliamentary group et al, they had been able to reach a consensus on a common programme this week.
At the onset of the briefing, Bandara explained how one-on-one between Wickremesinghe and Premadasa on Wednesday, January 29 had led to a consensus being reached on several important issues. However, no consensus had been possible as regards some issues; MP Bandara refrained from revealing them.
Having reached a consensus on some critical issues, the party leadership had caused a fresh crisis by leaving Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, MP, Ajith P. Perera, MP, former MP Imthiaz Bakeer Markar and Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake out of the decision making Working Committee, lawmaker Bandara said.
Responding to The Island query, Bandara said that they had decided to boycott Thursday’s Working Committee meeting in protest against the way some key people had been deprived their membership of the Working Committee. Asked whether Premadasa’s Camp had been represented by Mangala Samaraweera and Malik Samarawickrema at the Sirikotha meeting; MP Bandara said that the duo represented their interests.
Former Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Bandara explained the role played by Samaraweera and Samarawickrema in finalising the agreement on four key issues. Bandara said that they were quite satisfied with the outcome of the one-on-one between the leader and the deputy followed by the Working Committee. He emphasized that in the wake of agreement on consensus formula, the leadership was no longer an issue.
Bandara confirmed a statement issued by UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, MP, on Thursday night, as regards agreement on four issues namely (1) Sajith Premadasa to be the leader of proposed coalition to contest the forthcoming parliamentary election (ii) prime ministerial candidate of the proposed coalition (iii) Chairman of the Nomination Board of the proposed coalition and the authority to appoint the General Secretary of the proposed coalition in consultation with the Working Committee.
Asked by The Island whether the proposed coalition would contest the forthcoming general election on the New Democratic Front (NDF) ticket with Swan as the symbol, lawmaker Bandara said that a decision was yet to be made.
Lawmaker Bandara said that the coalition would be formed next week. The UNPer said that they wanted a large scale political set up under Sajith Premadasa’s leadership.
The former Deputy Minister said that the new coalition would be able to overwhelm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the parliamentary polls expected to be held in late April 2020.
Alleging that the President hadn’t been able to meet the aspirations of the electorate, Bandara said that the 2.5 mn of 6.9 mn, who voted for him at the last presidential in Nov 2019 would desert him in April.
The others would vote for the Rajapaksas regardless of their shortcomings, waste, corruption and irregularities, the MP said.
When the media pointed out the UNP-led coalition in spite of having a President elected on its vote and being in power couldn’t secure 113 at the last parliamentary poll, MP Bandara reiterated they would comfortably get a simple majority in Parliament.