UNP crisis at tipping point: Group threatens to quit if Sajith not given leadership

Ranil Wickremesinghe

The United National Party (UNP), which once again has become the main Opposition Party, is to hold a special meeting within the next few days to iron out several critical issues, including that of the Party leadership, internal Party sources said.

The long prevailing internal crisis, between two factions, those loyal to Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and those backing defeated Presidential Candidate Sajith Premadasa, has now reached volcanic proportions with Premadasa loyalists threatening to quit party politics if he was not given either the Party Leadership or the Opposition Leadership.

An attempt by the Premadasa loyalists, to get the Opposition Leadership for the former Deputy Leader of UNP, was shot down by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya last week at a Party leaders’ meeting held at Parliament complex.

A letter signed by over 40 UNP members was handed over to Speaker Jayasuriya requesting to name Premadasa as the Opposition Leader. This was hours after UNP General Secretary Akila Kariyawasam, wrote to the Speaker informing him to recognise Wickremesinghe as the Opposition Leader.

Speaker Jayasuriya accepted Kariyawasam’s letter stating he could only accept official letters sent by the Party.

When the Premadasa faction attempted to protest Speaker Jayasuriya’s decision, he had pointed out precedents, citing the letter sent by UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera following the end of Constitutional Coup that would otherwise have seized the Parliamentary seat of incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this year.

However, several UNP Parliamentarians have already voiced their opposition to the continuity of Wickremesinghe as Party Leader while threatening to quit politics.

Kurunegala District Parliamentarian Ashok Abeysinghe has said that several MPs, including himself, are prepared to retire from politics if the Party leadership and Opposition leadership are not given to former Minister Sajith Premadasa.

UNP Parliamentarian Thushara Indunil also has said that UNP needs a new beginning with a new face. He noted that failure to do so will result in his retirement from politics.

(Source: Ceylon Today – By Gagani Weerakoon)