DNF formation at final stage; Sajith group hands over amendments

Sajith Premadasa

United National Party Chairman Kabir Hashim on Friday handed over amendments to the proposed Democratic National Front (DNF) from the Sajith Premadasa faction, as party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that the formation of the alliance was now at its “final stage.”

Speaking at a public event in Ankumbura near Kandy, Mr Wickremesinghe said agreement had been reached among various parties of the proposed alliance to amend certain clauses in the DNF’s draft constitution that had “created issues.” “We will name the Presidential candidate after forming our new alliance through the support of all parties and organisations, with a new vision and new policies. We are working on this now. We are currently in discussion with other parties,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

Mr. Hashim’s submitted the amendments to Minister Rajitha Senaratne. The task of finalising the final draft of the DNF Constitution is being undertaken by the UNP Chairman and Minister Senaratne representing the proposed alliance partners.

Among the key amendments submitted by those from the Premadasa faction were that the DNF Secretary should be from the UNP and that the UNP should hold veto power when taking policy decisions related to the new alliance. It had also been proposed that the majority of the DNF’s Leadership Council should be made up of UNP members.

There is some disagreement if the UNP presidential candidate should be announced first, or with the signing of the DNF Constitution.

In Matara on Friday, addressing a public rally organised by the party faction backing him, UNP Deputy Leader and Housing Minister Premadasa reiterated that he would“definitely contest” the upcoming presidential election as the UNP/DNF candidate.

Mr Premadasa pledged to implement a new development strategy that would put “Sri Lanka First,” and bring an era of prosperity to the country.

Among the ministers and MPS attending the rally were Mangala Samaraweera, Harin Fernando, Ajith P. Perera, Harsha de Silva, Nalin Bandara, Chandrani Bandara and Ranjith Maddumabandara.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe hosted a dinner for MPs at Temple Trees on Friday evening. Many MPs who attended the public rally in Matara also went to the dinner at Temple Trees later on Friday night. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs, including leader R. Sampanthan, were also present at the dinner.

UNP sources said Sajith Premadasa, Mangala Samaraweera, Harin Fernando and Buddika Pathirana were among the notable absentees at the dinner hosted by the PM.

“The dinner was not to discuss politics but to mark the fourth anniversary of the Yahapalana Government,” UNP backbencher Hector Appuhamy, who attended both the Matara rally and the dinner at Temple Trees, told the Sunday Times.

Galle District UNP MP Wijepala Hettiarachchi said MPs from the TNA as well as Ministers P. Digambaram and Rishad Bathiudeen were also present at Friday’s dinner. He too claimed no political discussions took place on the the occasion.

Earlier in the week, a TNA delegation led by its Leader R. Sampanthan met Mr. Premadasa at a dinner hosted by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, a staunch Premadasa backer. The dinner was held at Minister Samaraweera’s Colombo residence on Wednesday (21) evening.

The dinner which was scheduled to begin at 8 pm, was delayed for a couple of hours due to the late arrival of Mr Premadasa and went on till past midnight. Along with the TNA Leader, Party Spokesperson M. A. Sumanthiran and Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) leader Mavai Senathirajah also took part in the dinner-meeting.

“It was a casual dinner, not an official meeting between the two parties. We talked about many things including the current deadlock of the new Constitution making process, solution for the ethnic issue and abolishing the executive presidency,” Mr. Senathirajah told the Sunday Times while emphasising that the UNP is yet to make an official announcement over its Presidential candidate playing down the fact that the TNA had raised several issues with Mr. Premadasa.

(Source: The Sunday Times)