By Asiri Fernando
Newly-appointed United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene yesterday assured that he was ready to take up the challenge of rebuilding the party.
Speaking to the press following a religious function at Gangaramaya Temple yesterday morning, Wijewardene called on all those who once supported the party to rally around the green banner, and restore the UNP.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us; it is a challenge and I am ready to face it. We need to rebuild this great party. We have to restore confidence in our party members and give hope to the public. We have to rally all who support us under the UNP banner again,” Wijewardene said.
He expressed confidence that the UNP can get the support of some of the senior politicians who have distanced themselves or joined other parties. However, Wijewardene stressed the need to restructure the party, pointing out that many within the party want more young people in leadership roles.
“There has been a call for younger leadership, for a new face and new image for the party. We need to act in unison,” he opined.
Wijewardene rejected rumours that he will enter Parliament using the UNP’s single National List seat, noting that the UNP has not decided on it yet.
“I have no intention of using the National List seat, it hasn’t been decided yet. My aim is to rebuild the party. However, I’m sure the Working Committee will meet within the next week or two and appoint someone suitable for the seat,” he explained.
Wijewardene said that the UNP will stand against the proposed 20th Amendment, pointing out that there was resistance against it from within the Government. “The proposed 20th Amendment will lead to dictatorship, we the UNP will stand against it. There is wide criticism of the Amendment, including from within the Government,” he added.
He downplayed the shortcomings of the 19th Amendment, claiming that a dispute between the then-President and Prime Minister led to the Amendment not being utilised properly.
The former State Minister for Defence stated that he was ready to work with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in the role of the Opposition in Parliament. “I see no problem working with the SJB, I have been in discussion with them. Many of them want to see the UNP revived. I plan to work with them in the future,” he opined.
Wijewardene said that he is willing to seek the Party Leader role in December, if the Working Committee continues to have faith in him.
Efforts to revive the UNP following the humiliating defeat suffered by them at the General Elections in August has been hampered by the issue over the party leadership. The 73-year-old UNP lost all electoral seats it contested, and have not been able to agree on who will represent the party in Parliament, using the one National List seat they have obtained.
The long-running battle over UNP leadership has plagued the party at the 2019 Presidential Elections, as well as the General Elections held this August.