Sajith violated Working Committee decisions, responsible for split ahead of polls – UNP

Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, on Monday (18), alleged that Sajith Premadasa’s camp acted in violation of a Working Committee decision to build a coalition to take on the government.

Instead, they had formed a political party – the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) at the expense of the UNP, attorney-at-law Kariyawasam told the ‘Salakuna’ live Hiru political programme, anchored by Chamuditha Samamawickrema.

The Former Kurunegala District MP claimed that the dissident group brazenly violated the WC decisions, taken in agreement with them. “We never thought they were going to form a new political party,” former lawmaker Kariyawasam said, insisting that the damaging split could have been certainly avoided if the dissident group adhered to the WC decisions. Sajith Premadasa had been a party to the overall agreement, on a solution, though, at the last moment, undermined the whole process, much to the disadvantage of the party.

Repeatedly asked whether former MP Kariyawasam, in his capacity as the General Secretary of the UNP, admitted the division in the party, a visibly disturbed party General Secretary said that split was obvious. The former Education Minister pointed out that the UNP, and the SJB, handed over separate nominations to contest the 2020 parliamentary polls, because of the split.

Responding to another query, the ex-MP acknowledged that there had been significant number of vacancies in the WC, at the time the decision-making body finalized agreement between the two factions. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe refrained from appointing members to the WC, in terms of the Constitution of the party, as he felt he would be accused of packing the body with his people.

The UNP Constitution stipulates the party leader enjoyed the right to name 20 persons to the WC.

Former lawmaker Kariyawasam said that of the 68 members in the WC, at the time consensus on a workable solution had been reached between the two parties, 48 were lawmakers.

The former minister alleged that interested parties interpreted the WC decisions for their advantage. Responding to accusations, directed at him by former colleague Ajith P. Perera, the UNP General Secretary denied ever receiving perks and privileges from the Rajapaksas.

Strongly denying the accusation that the  UNP entered the fray, at the behest of the Rajapaksas to divide the Opposition vote, ex-MP Kariyawasam explained how the dissidents finally settled for the telephone symbol, having examined a couple of other options. The UNPer emphasized that the party couldn’t have loaned its elephant symbol to the coalition, headed by Premadasa. In the absence of a proper system to deal with such a situation, the party refrained from taking an unnecessary risk, Kariyawasam said, alleging that a section of the party pursued personal agendas meant to divide it.

Asked how confident the UNP felt at the forthcoming parliamentary polls, as 80 members of the former parliamentary group would be contesting on the SJB ticket, whereas only 15 sought nominations from the UNP, while 12 opted neither to join the fray nor come on its National List, the UNP General Secretary said that the actual ground situation couldn’t be ascertained on the basis of the number of former lawmakers on nominations alone.

At one point ex-MP Kariyawasam alleged that a section of the media worked overtime for the government, while the Hiru anchor pointed out the UNP had been depleted to such an extent in some districts, it couldn’t find former MPs to lead district nomination lists. In the Kurunegala district where Kariyawasam contests as the district leader, the UNP couldn’t get another former lawmaker to join the fray, the UNP General Secretary was reminded.

Former education minister Kariyawasam said that he didn’t mind taking a risk, having quite rightly stood by the party. Asked as to why members opposed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe so much, Kariyawasam insisted that decisions taken as a party couldn’t be disputed, publicly. The UNP General Secretary declared that there was much more internal democracy than the party required.

Asked whether Sajith Premadasa remained the Deputy Leader of the party, in spite of the split, the UNP General Secretary said that disciplinary measures had been initiated in respect of dissidents. Former minister Kariyawasam said that Sajith Premadasa no longer functioned as the Deputy Leader.

The UNP General Secretary said that contrary to often repeated lies, the majority of theWC members wanted to contest the forthcoming parliamentary polls, under the elephant symbol. Responding to former UNP National List member Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s denunciation of UNP leader Wickremesinghe, former lawmaker Kariyawasam pointed out that the former Army Commander, having flayed Sajith Premadasa, subsequently switched allegiance to him.

Kurunegala District UNP candidate questioned the rationale behind the government launching mega projects at a time the country was struggling to cope up with unprecedented economic downturn caused by the corona epidemic. The UNPer said that the decision to build Sri Lanka’s largest cricket stadium, at Homagama, as well as the Central Expressway, couldn’t be justified.

Alleging that temporary reduction of price of salmon and dhal was meant to deceive the public, the UNP General Secretary claimed the government was busy printing money to meet the shortfall. Referring to relief provided by the government, to the people, since the eruption of the highly contagious disease, in March, the former minister claimed that such assistance couldn’t have been possible without printing money. The UNPer claimed that there couldn’t be any doubt as UNP leader Wickremesinghe, as pointed out by the Hiru panel, declared the government printed money during the crisis.

The UNP General Secretary claimed that money, amounting to Rs 164 bn, had been printed during this period. Therefore, continuation of money printing practice could cause sharp inflation, the former minister said, pointing out that Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President, revealed the pathetic situation recently when he urged public servants to donate their May salary, or at least part of it.

The UNP General Secretary emphasized that Dr. Jayasundera, who is also the head of the public service, couldn’t have made that statement on his own.

Asked about the UNP’s expectations at the 2020 parliamentary polls, against the backdrop of the damaging split, Kariyawasam said that the party would strive to do its best, though he couldn’t predict the number of seats. Declaring that polls wouldn’t be possible on June 20, as the coronavirus was yet to be defeated, the UNP General Secretary said that they were in the process of consolidating their position.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)