The intra party war within the United National Party (UNP) should be dragged out for as long as possible and under no circumstances should Speaker Karu Jayasuriya become the UNP compromise candidate, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa advised his political loyalists last week.
“As Leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe should be the candidate how can he give that position to anyone else? It has to be him” the former President noted. He added that the public battle against for the candidacy was keeping the UNP fractured and in serious turmoil. “Eka apita waasi” the former President told his allies, Colombo Telegraph learns. Mahinda Rajapaksa added that it was highly unlikely that Wickremesinghe would give way to Premadasa. “Kula prashnayakuth thiyenawa ne” (there is a caste issue too) he chuckled. The real threat was elsewhere, he emphasised.
He expressed concern that some factions of the UNP were trying to broach the speaker of Parliament as a compromise candidate to break the deadlock between Wickremesinghe and Premadasa.
Former President Rajapaksa said that resolution to the UNP crisis would dash SLPP hopes of winning the presidency.
“Sajith must not give up the battle, and that he must keep on fighting and he must refuse to work with Karu Jayasuriya,” the former President said.
“Tiran eka bala ganiyi” (Tiran will look after that matter), SLPP frontliner Basil Rajapaksa who was present at the meeting replied, Colombo Telegraph learns. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dinesh Gunewardena, Dulles Alahapperuma and several others who have not yet been identified were also present, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Tiran Alles remains a staunch backer of Premadasa, but is fully backing former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election campaign. He was present at the SLPP convention on 11 August. Sources close to Alles say he is convinced Premadasa cannot win the 2019 election. However Alles hopes that by running, Sajith Premadasa can wrest control of the UNP leadership and party machinery even if he loses, the sources added.
Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the current deadlock over the UNP candidacy was giving the SLPP a major advantage as the weeks tick by to the presidential election. He said the SLPP campaign events were well underway and the whole party and constituent allies were beginning to rally around Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Pohottuwa candidate.
“If they decide on Karu it will be a problem since he will unite the UNP. On top of that, he could even get the JVP and “NGO karayas’ to join the movement. This would be a big risk” the former President warned recalling how the same alliance had defeated him at the 2015 election. “Demaluth Karu ta kadey yayi (Tamils will also support Karu). That will make things difficult for us,” he explained. “Sajith Karuth ekka ekathu wunoth Sirisena wunath e paththata paniyi, (If Karu and Sajith get together even Sirisena could jump to that side)” he added.
He urged SLPP politicians to step up attacks against Jayasuriya and his credibility. “Keep saying he is a biased speaker of parliament” the former President urged recalling Jayasuriya’s positions during the October 2018 coup.
The former President confided to his party faithful that he had already made arrangements to convey this message to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. “But I explained that he must not give way to any other candidate since he is the leader of his party and he must contest,” Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
SLPP sources told Colombo Telegraph that the former President may have indicated to Wickremesinghe that even if he loses the election, the new Government would ensure his future was secure.
Last week an increasingly isolated Wickremesinghe dug in his heels and vowed to contest the presidency if the Working Committee vote went in his favour. Having lost nearly all his one-time allies the UNP Leader is determined to fight Premadasa’s insurgent presidential campaign by challenging him to a vote at the Working Committee. With both sides refusing to give way, calls are mounting for a compromise option that will break the gridlock and allow the UNP and its alliance to get its presidential election campaign off the ground. Speaker Jayasuriya has remained non-committal on stepping forward as the candidate, insisting that he would only do so if the entire party rallies around him. (By TB Bambaradeniya )