“Next year, I will conduct the presidential election as mandated by the Constitution. Subsequently, parliamentary elections will be held, and perhaps Provincial Council elections in early 2025,” -President Ranil Wickremesinghe at UNP Special Convention

Apparently ending speculation, President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday confirmed that the elections cycle will begin from next year.

Speaking at the UNP’s convention, the President outlined the timeline for upcoming elections in line with the constitutional provisions, detailing that the presidential election is slated for the following year, followed by parliamentary elections.

Furthermore, local Government elections are expected to transpire in the first half of 2025.

“Next year, I will conduct the presidential election as mandated by the Constitution. Subsequently, parliamentary elections will be held, and perhaps Provincial Council elections in early 2025,” he told the UNP convention and stressed the party should begin preparations now.

His confirmation may put an end to speculation that Wickremesinghe along with Rajapakse-backed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) were exploring multiple options not to conduct or postpone elections scheduled from next year.

However, some sceptics opined that President’s declaration on Saturday was more to rally the UNPers at grassroots level, a base which had dwindled following the party’s failure to elect a single candidate at the last Parliamentary election in 2020.

“We have acknowledged our mistakes and worked diligently to rectify them. The public knows who has taken action, and we don’t need to boast. I invite others to join us. Our vision is to build a smart country and to achieve this, we need a clean and corruption-free system. We believe that other political parties will support this vision. Let us move forward. The United National Party should be the embodiment of this intelligent approach,” the President told the UNP convention.

He also said that through this economic crisis, people have come to a realisation and people are disenchanted with the current political party system.

Stressing that Wickremesinghe is addressing the convention as the leader of the UNP and as the President, he said: “I am not only the leader of the United National Party but also the President of every other political party. Whether friend or foe, I am the President for all. It is with this perspective that we will work. We must separate these two roles to avoid conflicts.”

“When I assumed the presidency, every political party in the country supported me. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet were in place, and there were parties without affiliations. We must safeguard,” Wickremesinghe added.

He also noted that today’s politicians are losing favour, labelled as untrustworthy, and people are distancing themselves from political parties. “This is the reality we must acknowledge, even though some political parties are in denial. They believe that they will naturally ascend to power, but this is a fallacy. We must confront this reality and seek answers. Some parties advocate for constitutional changes, while others call for reforms in the presidency and Government. They request a change in leadership. However, I want to convey one thing: I cannot rejuvenate this country without the support of other political parties,” the President said.

The theme for this year’s UNP Anniversary convention was “Smart Country – 2048.” The vision behind this concept is a vision of an intelligent and prosperous Sri Lanka, where every citizen recognises their potential, upholds virtuous goals, and embraces diversity while harnessing modern technology and nature to cultivate a nation of adept and resourceful individuals. The “Smart Country” concept envisions the creation of a prosperous nation.

Departing from conventional party politics vying for power, the main objective of this year’s UNP Special Convention was to adopt a nation-centric approach to reorganise the party for this purpose. Party leader President Wickremesinghe also presented an amended party constitution designed to facilitate this transformation.

Speaking of the new Constitution presented at the UNP Convention, Wickremesinghe said “We have crafted this new Constitution with a focus on the future.”

Through the new Constitution, UNP is now permitted to establish online organisations, and capability to operate through their own social media platforms.

“This move is aligned with our forward-looking vision,” he said adding “These amendments are designed to digitise the party. Our goal is to create a smart party for a smarter country.”

The new Constitution delegates the primary powers of the Working Committee to the Executive Council. “The leader is now appointed by the executive council, and significant policy decisions are made within this council. The Executive Council is scheduled to meet once every three months, but due to digitalisation, discussions can take place every six weeks. The Working Committee’s role is to implement the decisions made by the executive council,” President said.

“With an Executive Council comprising 300-400 members, there is no longer a need for a large Working Committee. Our focus should always be on politics, and thus, we have established a supreme body to formulate political strategies. These are the main amendments, and they promise to bring about a revolution. Through these changes, Sri Lanka’s first digital party will be born. We should not dwell in the past but look toward the future,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that the new UNP Constitution will take effect from 1 January 2024.

Notable speakers at the conference included UNP President and MP Wajira Abeywardena, Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena, National Organiser Sagala Ratnayaka, Deputy Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara, Minister of Lands and Tourism Haren Fernando, along with General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara and former Minister Ravi Karunanayake. A multitude of senior officials, United National Party members, former ministers, and religious dignitaries led by the Maha Sangha graced the occasion.

Courtesy:Daily FT