Angered by reports that the United National Party leadership has embarked on efforts at party reunification ahead of three key provincial elections, private media organisations deeply critical of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe have launched campaigns to scuttle these moves.
Weekend newspaper reports that Wickremesinghe met with former UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya at the Nalandaaramaya temple in Nugegoda has been viewed by the UNP’s Leader’s critics in the media as a betrayal of the reformist struggle within the party by Jayasuriya, the Colombo Telegraph learns.
During the meeting Jayasuriya made his position clear that he believed all warring factions of the UNP should be brought together and disciplinary inquiries against dissident members of the party dropped as a trust building measure going forward. Jayasuriya has in recent days renewed calls for the UNP to pull together in order to put up serious resistance to the incumbent Rajapaksa administration. Wickremesinghe has already decided to drop disciplinary inquiries against party strongmen Palitha Range Bandara and Asoka Abeysinghe, following the defection of UNP Kurunegala District MP and reformist Dayasiri Jayasekera and speculation that more crossovers were to follow.
The Sirasa Media network headed by Kili Rajamahendran and the Ceylon Newspapers group publishers of Mawbima and Ceylon Today owned by DNA MP Tiran Alles have launched campaigns to discredit the moves by Jayasuriya, it is learnt.
The two media organisations work in close coordination and are keenly focused on discrediting Wickremesinghe’s leadership.
The two organisations will use Jayasuriya’s history of having crossed over to the Government with 17 UNP members as evidence that these latest talks with the Ranil camp are a signal that the former deputy leader will betray the Sajith Premadasa led reformist movement within the main opposition party.
At a press briefing held today, Jayasuriya was mercilessly grilled on his bona fides relating to the meeting with Wickremesinghe at the temple last Friday by reporters from Sirasa media. Jayasuriya was asked whether true to form he was about to leave the ‘progressive’ faction of the UNP in order to join Wickremesinghe’s camp and obtain prominence within the party. They demanded whether Jayasuriya was entering into a secret pact with Ranil Wickremesinghe. “Why didn’t you take Sajith Premadasa with you to this meeting? Why did you go alone? Why did you do this all in secret? As usual are you about to decamp?” the reporters threw question after question at the senior UNP politician.
Jayasuriya responded that it was on behalf of reformists and UNP members who had fallen out of favour with the Party Leadership, including former deputy leader Sajith Premadasa that he had spoken during his meeting with Wickremesinghe. It was his right, Jayasuriya said, as a senior member of the party and its deputy leader from 1995-2011 to attempt to reunite the UNP. “None of this was done in secret. As late as last week I told a media conference I would be raising these issues with regard to party reunification with the Party Leader,” he retorted.