By Akitha Perera
Having failed to reach a consensus with the group headed by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the forthcoming general election, UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, yesterday (02) launched Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and several other Wickremesinghe loyalists boycotted the event.
General Secretary of the new coalition Moneragala District MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that those who were advancing the government agenda weren’t present at the event.
The Premadasa faction decided to go ahead with the planned launch after talks at Sirikotha, on Sunday night, failed to yield the desired outcome. The group said that it wanted to contest under a symbol other than the elephant unless the UNP leader agreed to name MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the General Secretary of the UNP at the expense of Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.
In spite of the UNP parliamentary group’s inability to sink differences, all constituents of the UNP led coalition joined SJB. Jathika Hela Urumaya General Secretary Patali Champika Ranawaka, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and All Ceylon Makkal Congress leader Rishard Bathiudeen were seen with Premadasa on stage.
Gampaha District MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who is on bail after being arrested over leaked audio and video clips was present along with Colombo District MP Hirunika Premadasa, one of those who figured in the controversial phone recordings.
Although the UNP leader skipped the SJB launch, over 50 elected on the UNP ticket at the last parliamentary poll in August 2015 were present at the event.
Premadasa faction refrained from revealing what the SJB symbol would be.
Addressing the gathering Sajith Premadasa declared that the SJB would contest Provincial Council polls and future elections as well.
Premadasa vowed that the grouping would end the practice of a few persons taking decisions on national issues.
The UNP Deputy Leader said that terrorism and extremism wouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.
Premadasa vowed to go ahead with the SJB project as it had been endorsed by the decision making Working Committee of the UNP.
Alleging that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government had failed to live up to public expectations, lawmaker Premadasa said that the country was being militarised with the judiciary was under pressure.
Premadasa invited all those who believed in democracy to join Samagi Balavegaya.
There were more than 50 parliamentarians including UNP MPs Ranjith Maddumabandara, Sujeewa Senasinghe, Thalata Atukorale, Chandrani Bandara, JC Alawathuwala, Ajith P Perera, Harshana Rajakaruna, SM Marikkar, Kabir Hashim, Sydney Jsyaratne, Bandulal Bandrigoda, Dilip Wedarachchi, Niroshan Perera, Hirnuka Premachandra, Edward Gunasekera, Ranjan Ramanayake, P Harrison, Harsha de Silva, Chaminda Wijesiri, Indika Bandaranayake, Mangala Samaraweera, Hesha Withanage, Sarath Fonseka, Mayantha Dissanayake, Harin Fernando, Thusita Wijewickrama, Mujibur Rahuman, AHM Haleem, Sanjaya Perera, Nalin Bandara and UNF MPs Mano Ganeshan, Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen, P Digambaram, V Radhakrishnana, Velu Kumar, Faisal Cassim and Karu Parnavitana.