Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunge who came in for strong criticism over his decision to accompany President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his recent trip to the Middle East, has been appointed a member of the UNP Nomination Board for the Southern and Western Provincial Council elections.
Amaratunge will be tasked along with other members of the Nomination Board with deciding on which candidates the UNP will field at the next crucial round of provincial polls.
Controversy raged when Amaratunge, who has long been suspected of tacitly working with the Rajapaksa administration, hopped onboard the Presidential jet to visit Israel and Palestine. Speculation abounded that Amaratunge had travelled with the President for talks about a potential crossover to the Government. The Opposition Whip claimed later that he had obtained permission from UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to travel with the President.
But most UNP members were furious over the move at a time when the combined opposition is vehemently anti-Rajapaksa and deeply critical of state extravagance. The decision by the Chief Opposition Whip who spearheads an opposition campaign in Parliament to take a joyride with the President eroded public confidence in the UNP’s commitment to effect a change of regime in the country, UNP MPs said. With the Leadership Council now in place and in charge of discipline, the MPs felt Amaratunge should have sought permission of the Council for his trip and his failure to do so should result in censure by the Council.
The failure to hold Amaratunge to account for his actions because he is known to be a Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalist erodes the party’s credibility at a time when it is calling for an unified commitment and approach to take on the ruling regime, the MPs believe.