The rank and file of the United National Party (UNP) and parliamentary back-benchers have pledged support to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and urged him to form a new UNP government in the midst of moves by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to position himself to take over the premiership with the support of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena, who had earlier pushed for Wickremesinghe’s resignation, had told a group of UNP MPs that he was willing to replace Wickremesinghe with Jayasuriya as the Prime Minister. Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the attempt to foist Jayasuriya in the Prime Minister’s seat was pushed by his son-in-law and UNP MP Navin Dissanayake and Killi Rajamahendran, the owner of the Capital Maharaja Organization and a close confidante of President Sirisena. According to sources they had told Sirisena that Jayasuriya could muster the support of around 30 UNP MPs.
Rajamahendran has used his television stations to continuously attack Wickremesinghe. Even as the results of the recently concluded local government elections were being released Sirasa TV devoted a panel discussion to blame Wickremesinghe for the by then obvious defeat of the UNP.
UNP stalwarts as well as back-benchers and loyalists who agitated outside Temple Trees have argued that Sirisena has no right to talk about the UNP and its leadership since his party received just over 12% of the total votes cast. Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the overwhelming majority of Parliamentary group and Working Committee members of the party concur with this position.
This is not the first time that Jayasuriya has tried to oust Wickremesinghe. Various coup attempts against Wickremesinghe over the years have resulted in inglorious defeats.
One such attempt saw him bribe news websites to get political milage and position himself as the Common Candidate of the Opposition at the last Presidential Election.
On October 23, 2014, Karu Jayasuriya telephoned the Colombo Telegraph editor and offered him a monthly payment of Rs. 50,000 ‘in appreciation of the work that Colombo Telegraph does’. Jayasuriya did not state for how long this payment was to be made. The issue did not arise because the editor politely declined the offer. Furthermore, the editor reminded Jayasuriya that it was he who interviewed Jayasuriya when the latter first came into politics in 1995. At that point, Jayasuriya told the journalist that he hoped to work towards strengthening independent media. The Colombo Telegraph editor pointed out to Jayasuriya that his media entity functioned as an independent one and said he did not need any money.
One week after the aforementioned phone call, Karu jayasuriya was given a lot of prominence in several websites. They even ran fake opinion polls to show that Jayasuriya was more popular than Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was then the Opposition Leader. They suggested that Jayasuriya was a ‘better choice’ than Wickremesinghe to run for Presidency in 2015.
These developments compelled Colombo Telegraph to question whether he made similar offers to those websites in appreciation of the work they do or for any other reason.