By Chandani Kirinde
Unanimously endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate, an upbeat UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa yesterday said he was supremely and absolutely confident of winning the upcoming election.
“I am supremely and absolutely confident of winning against (SLPP candidate) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, because I know the majority of the people of this country are with me,” Premadasa told a packed media briefing at the UNP headquarters Sirikotha in Kotte.
Premadasa faced the media after the UNP’s Working Committee (WC) unanimously endorsed him as the party’s candidate for the 16 November presidential poll. His name was proposed to the WC by UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Later, the UNP Parliamentary Group unanimously ratified the WC decision.
He will contest as the candidate of a broad political alliance, led by the UNP, called the Democratic National Front (DNF), the electoral symbol of which will be the swan.
A second proposal on devolution and constitutional reforms too was endorsed yesterday by the WC. “We remain committed to take forward the constitutional reform process commenced during our Government with regards to devolution, electoral reforms, and the Executive Presidency. We will consult all stakeholders,” the second proposal said.
Premadasa said that this proposal will take forward the policies of the United National Front (UNF) put forward in 2015. “There will be maximum devolution under a unitary state, as well as change in the electoral process, and changes to the Executive Presidency. I will not sign any MOUs with anyone or act in a way that will harm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he said.
When asked if he would accept the help of President Maithripala Sirisena loyalists, Premadasa said there is room for any party or persons within the broad alliance that he is building, if they agree to the policies.
Premadasa also thanked members of the UNP for keeping faith in him, and said his nomination is the beginning of a journey where the people of this country will come first.
“I invite all citizens of this country to put aside all differences, to join in our journey to build a new country, a country in which humanity will reign,” said Sajith, the son of former President the late Ranasinghe Premadasa.
UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam told reporters that UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will continue as the Party Leader. “Today was a great victory for the UNP, as both the Leader and the Deputy Leader agreed to work together. Today we have managed to make an important decision without allowing the Party to break up, and come to a decision that safeguards everyone. We will contest under a broad alliance inclusive of the UNP, as well as the United National Front (UNF),” he said.
Kariyawasam said that the UNF annual convention will be held on 3 October while on 9 October the UNP-led alliance will begin their election campaign, with a massive rally at Galle Face Green. UNP Chairman Kabir Hashim will lead the presidential election campaign.