Speaker of Parliament and United National Party Member of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya seemed to officially throw his hat into the ring for the upcoming presidential election, saying he would only contest if all political forces united around the primary issue of abolishing the executive presidency.
Those political forces would also have to be committed to strengthening the democratic reforms enacted in the 17th amendment to the constitution and later reinforced through the 19th Amendment to the constitution, a media release from Jayasuriya noted.
If he were to respond to multiple calls that he come forward as candidate, the Speaker said he would do so for a fixed and limited term and only out of a sense of commitment and duty to laying the foundation for a secure, civilized and prosperous democratic country. “I have no desire to hold presidential office,” the release said.
Numerous religious leaders, Buddhist clergy, civil society activists, academics, professionals, youth organizations and political activists had met with him and asked him to put himself forward as a presidential candidate, the release said.
The common theme of all these discussions was the need for a leader to safeguard democracy, end political instability and ensure just and stable governance, it added.
“I would only consider this request if all mainstream political forces unify on the main issue of abolition of the executive presidency, which is a position we have consistently maintained since 1995,” Jayasuriya noted.
The Speaker added that he also felt that if he were to be the nominee of the UNF led alliance, the nomination should be in accordance with the party constitution and with the blessings of all parties concerned.
Jayasuriya’s assertion follows revelations at a press conference held this morning (17) by UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, who said he needed the proof of “scientific surveys” before he decided whether the presidency should be kept or scrapped. Asked by journalists if the 2015 election mandate was not proof enough of the people’s desire for the system to be done away with, Premadasa replied: “Mandates get outdated.”
The remarks shocked moderates and civil society groups that looked to throw their weight behind the UNP led alliance, since the party has taken the official position that it was committed to the abolition of the presidency and a return to a Westminster Parliamentary model. “The most shocking thing was Mangala Samaraweera’s behavior as his chosen candidate makes these statements. He was terrified that Premadasa would say something more and ruin their chances further with the influential liberal constituency so he tried to stop the journalists from probing the issue further,” one civil society activist who was watching press briefing in Samaraweera’s garden told Colombo Telegraph.