By Chandani Kirinde
The UNP Working Committee yesterday unanimously approved the name of MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the General Secretary of the new UNP-led alliance to be formed to contest the upcoming General Elections, but differences over the symbol under which the polls will be contested led to several members walking out of the meeting.
“No other names were proposed, and the WC unanimously agreed to support Madduma Bandara,” a UNP source said.
However, while there was consensus on the General Secretary’s post, there was no agreement reached on whether to contest under the elephant symbol or make an alternate selection. A majority in the UNP WC had wanted to go with the elephant symbol, but a group of members supporting MP Sajith Premadasa, who has been named the leader of the alliance, had insisted on contesting under a new symbol.
Party sources said that Premadasa, along with several of his loyalists, had walked out of the meeting due to disagreements over the symbol, with Premadasa saying he could not lead the alliance if obstacles continued to be placed in his path.
Another meeting of the WC is scheduled for Friday, to decide on the other officer-bearers of the alliance. The newly-named General Secretary is also expected to present the constitution of the alliance to the WC on that day.
Meanwhile, a group of UNP MPs met with members of the Election Commission last Friday, and held discussions on the name and symbol under which the upcoming elections will be contested. The group, led by MP Sujeewa Senasinghe, told the EC that Our National Front (ONF) or Ape Jathika Peramuna, a party which is already recognised by the EC and bears a telephone as its symbol, had agreed to the use of its symbol by the new alliance for the election.
“There was a request to change the office-bearers of the ONF, and the EC informed the delegation that there was no opposition to it. and they could do so by convening a convention of party members and agreeing to the new names and informing the EC about it,” Commission sources revealed.
With regard to a request to change the symbol from the telephone to the shape of a heart, the EC said that the heart symbol was not among approved symbols gazetted by the EC, but this could be overcome if a request was made after the elections were announced.
“The EC can issue a new gazette recognising the heart symbol, if there is a request made after the date on which the election is announced,” an EC source asserted.