Presidential election 2019: Mangala: 2/3 of UNP group supportive of Premadasa

Mangala Samaraweera

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, yesterday, said he saw nothing wrong in the conflict between two groups in the government over the presidential candidate to be named. He said so in response to a question, raised by The Island, at a hurriedly summoned press conference at the Finance Ministry.

Having compared the performance of the previous Rajapaksa administration (2005 Nov-2015 January) with the current dispensation, Samarawweera stressed that the economy was in a much better shape.

Asked by The Island why a section of the party felt the need to promote Deputy Leader of the UNP Sajith Premadasa as its presidential candidate at a time the situation was improving further primarily thanks to two key projects-Gamperaliya and Enterprise Sri Lanka as

claimed by the Finance Minister, an irate Samaraweera alleged a section of the media had what he called a slave mentality. Minister Samaraweera said that they were used to living in a country run by dictatorial rulers.

Having compared the internal battles for top leadership in political parties in the US and the UK with that of the situation in Sri Lanka, Minister Samaraweera said that there were several persons seeking nominations from the party to contest the presidential election. “There were no restrictions,” lawmaker Samaraweera said, describing the UNP as a modern democratic party.

The Minister said that discussion/disagreement among members of the UNP in this regard shouldn’t be considered a weakness under any circumstances.

Samaraweera declared that the country was now enjoying what he called seven-star democracy.

Responding to questions regarding UNP Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam demanding explanation from State Ministers, Sujeewa Senasinghe and Ajith P. Perera for throwing their weight behind Premadasa, Minister Samaraweera initially questioned the veracity of the reports to that effect. When the media said that they had copies of Kariyawasam’s letters sent to Senasinghe and Perera, Minister Samaraweera said that no single individual could decide on disciplinary action and would be the prerogative of the decision making Working Committee.

The Matara District MP said that their party followed democratic principles and there weren’t slaves in the UNP.

Referring to a recent media reports, Minister Samaraweera pointed out that even Minister Daya Gamage was ready to take the presidential challenge.

When asked to reveal his position on those vying for nominations, Minister Samarawera declared Sajith Premadasa as the main contender on the basis that two-thirds of the UNP parliamentary group backed him (Premadasa)

Both Finance Minister Samaraweera and State Minister Eran Wickremaratne dismissed a spate of media questions regarding deepening political instability and chaos in the run-up to 2019 presidential election. State Minister Wickremaratne said that the government would definitely complete its full term.

Commenting on the progress in post-Easter Sunday recovery process, Minister Samaraweera said Sri Lanka had made much faster progress than some other countries affected by terrorist attacks.

Asked to comment on critical US statement on the appointment of newly promoted Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva as the Commander of the Army Minister Samaraweera said that the UNF government was committed to assurances given to the international community as regards accountability issues.

Samaraweera reiterated the UNP’s strong commitment to the signing of an agreement with the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on a large scale five-year project meant to promote what the minister called inclusive economic growth.

The Minister said that he was in touch with the MCC. Describing the US readiness to accommodate Sri Lanka in the MCC project as a unique victory for the country, Minister Samaraweera claimed that originally the agreement was to be finalized in early 2004 during Ranil Wickremesinghe tenure as the Premier.

Claiming that following the change of government, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, had sought to finalize the MCC project, Minister Samaraweera said that the US had discontinued it in the wake extra judicial operations undertaken by that administration. Samaraweera acknowledged that he functioned as the foreign minister of that administration.

Samaraweera said that under the direction of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe he had resumed talks with the US in that regard following the change of government in 2015 January.

The move to finalise the MCC agreement on Dec 17, 2018 was disrupted due to the constitutional coup perpetrated in late Oct 2018. However by January 2019, the MCC project had been back on track, Minister Samaraweera said, acknowledging the absence of consensus between the UNP and President Maithripala Sirisena regarding the MCC compact.

Declaring that Sri Lanka should enter into the agreement with the US worth USD 480 mn, Minister Samaraweera vowed that it would be finalized by the new UNP government.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinand)