“Despite the criticism, Wickremesinghe seems set to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear challengers to his rule at this time,” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.
The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and discuses the UNP’s internal crisis after the 2005 April parliamentary election. The cable is signed by the US Ambassador to Colombo Jeffrey J. Lunstead on May 12, 2004.
The ambassador wrote; “Long-standing UNP members have also criticized Wickremesinghe’s election strategy, though mostly in private. In a May 10 meeting with the DCM, for example, former Interior and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said the UNP had lost the election due in part to a lack of charisma on Wickremesinghe’s part. Amaratunga stated: ‘You have to at least give the impression that you are willing to die for what you stand for.’ During the May 10 UNP meeting, Amaratunga related that one party member had complained to Wickremesinghe’s face that his constituents were unhappy that the former PM never smiles and they wonder why they should vote for the UNP. Amaratunga said Wickremesinghe did not respond, remaining stonefaced. In a conversation with Ambassador on April 8, former minister Milinda Moragoda remarked that Wickremesinghe ‘did not have the common touch.’ Moragoda, who is a close adviser to Wickremesinghe, compared him unfavorably with former President J.R. Jayawardene, who ran a series of strong UNP campaigns in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. (One major exception to the mainly quiet nature of complaints about Wickremesinghe by UNP figures was former foreign minister Tyronne Fernando, who went public with his opposition to Wickremesinghe in late April. Fernando’s outburst appeared more linked with the UNP’s decision not to give him a “national list” seat in Parliament, however, than actual animus toward Wickremesinghe. Fernando has since resigned from the UNP.)”
Under the subheading “Despite criticism, no clear alternative” the ambassador wrote; “Despite the criticism, Wickremesinghe seems set to hang on as party leader, as there are no clear challengers to his rule at this time. In the May 10 conversation with the DCM noted above, for example, former minister John Amaratunga said that he had recently been in several UNP meetings at which there had been ‘frank discussions’ as to whether Wickremesinghe should be replaced. Amaratunga said the conclusion from the meetings was that Wickremesinghe should not be forced out right away. He also said he felt that former Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya — who some interlocutors have recommended as a possible replacement for Wickremesinghe — was ‘not a viable option.’ Amaratunga noted that he was not impressed with Jayasuriya’s organizational and leadership abilities, for example. Party dissidents themselves, such as Premadasa and others, have also failed to name a definitive alternative to Wickremesinghe. In the meantime, in his meeting with the Ambassador, G.L. Peiris indicated that he did not think that efforts to remove Wickremesinghe would go anywhere. He added that reported tensions in the party were ‘much exaggerated.’ (According to observers, aside from Jayasuriya, other possible replacements for Wickremesinghe include: Joseph Michael Perera, a senior UNP MP and former Speaker; K. Rambukwella, a senior MP and former minister; and Milinda Moragoda.)”