- Karu Accepts Leadership Change
The unending twists and turns in the battle for leadership in the UNP took a new turn this week with Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya admitting to the need for a change in the party leadership.
Last week was filled with action for the UNP seniors with many meetings and decisions being made on the party’s future leadership.
On Monday (December 27), UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met with UNP MP Kabir Hashim, who had returned to the country after a tour in Afghanistan.
Before leaving on a two-day visit to India, Wickremesinghe briefed Hashim of the events that had taken place in his absence. He had asked Hashim to meet with Bodhi Ranasinghe who had played the role of mediator in Hashim’s absence.
Hashim had met Ranasinghe the same evening. Ranasinghe had explained to Hashim about the many discussions that had taken place and the decision arrived at by Sajith Premadasa and his group.
Hearing the stance of the Premadasa faction, Hashim had said that Wickremesinghe had requested for some time to make a graceful exit.
The two had then decided to meet with former UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.
During the meeting, Samarawickrema had told Ranasinghe and Hashim that Wickremesinghe had understood that Premadasa was definitely going to be the next leader. However, he had said that Wickremesinghe had requested for some time.
Samarawickrema had asked that Premadasa’s group give at least a period of eight months for Wickremesinghe to make an honourable exit from the party.
However, when asked as to what was needed to be done to facilitate Wickremesinghe’s graceful exit at the present moment, Samarawickrema had not made any comment.
On Tuesday (28), Premadasa and his group of parliamentarians met at 8 pm for a discussion. Hashim was also invited for the meeting and he informed the gathering of Wickremesinghe’s proposal.
He had said that Wickremesinghe had requested to be the party leader till December 2011 and for Premadasa to take over after the party convention in December 2011.
Premadasa’s group had vehemently objected the proposal and said that Wickremesinghe had to leave and make way for Premadasa to take over the party leadership.
Although several requests were made by Hashim to work out a way of accommodating Wickremesinghe, members in Premadasa’s group have firmly rejected the UNP leader’s proposal.
Hashim had then telephoned Wickremesinghe who had by then traveled to India and informed him of Premadasa’s response to his proposal.
On Wednesday (29), Premadasa together with 13 other members from his group, met with Jayasuriya at his residence at 6 pm. After Premadasa had explained the current plight of the party and his desire to move forward to bring victory to the party, Jayasuriya had said that a majority of the people who have spoken to him have said that Premadasa should be the leader of the UNP.
Premadasa had also informed Jayasuriya of Wickremesinghe’s proposal.
Jayasuriya had said that it was a matter for Premadasa and Wickremesinghe to resolve. Nevertheless, he had said that Premadasa was definitely everyone’s choice to take over the party leadership and that he would support the move.
He had added that everyone must get-together and do what was good for the party and proposed that a discussion be held with the party leader.
Keeping to his word, Jayasuriya met Wickremesinghe on Thursday (30) morning.
During the meeting, Jayasuriya had informed Wickremesinghe that there was no turning back as Premadasa had the majority support. He had called on Wickremesinghe to make a graceful exit and make way for Premadasa to take over the leadership.
The UNP leader had said that he needed some time to decide and Jayasuriya while parting, had asked Wickremesinghe not to take too long as it would only deepen the party crisis.
Meanwhile, throughout the week, members of Premadasa’s faction met with UNP seniors like Joseph Michael Perera, John Amaratunge and several others to explain their stance and the need for a change in the UNP leadership. Wickremesinghe has to now make his decisions fast – whether it is going to be a graceful exit or remain in power against the majority call.
Split Within The NFF Deepens
The split within the NFF led by Housing and Construction Minister Wimal Weerawansa has deepened with several members leaving the party.
The clash between Weerawansa and Party Member and Parliamentarian Achala Jagoda has now dealt a blow to the party structure.
Although Weerawansa has already taken steps to remove several NFF organisers and party leaders supportive of Jagoda on various charges, he has so far not taken any open action against Jagoda.
The NFF Central Committee that met on Friday (December 24) initially planned to decide on action to be taken against Jagoda. However, the committee decided not to make any such move as it would result in a massive crisis. Jagoda was not invited for the meeting.
Several weeks back, Jagoda sent a letter to the party’s central committee asking them to conduct an inquiry if they have enough evidence to prove anything against him or to stop leveling false accusations against him.
Ironically, Jagoda’s letter to the central committee was the same as that given to the JVP by Weerawansa before his defection from the party. Amidst all the chaos, Jagoda has opted to keep silent and wait for Weerawansa and his supporters to make a move.
Knowing how Jagoda would react, Weerawansa has decided to carry out a secret operation within the party to discredit Jagoda among the party membership.
Weerawansa is of the belief that it is much safer to allow Jagoda to make the first move and move out of the party than the party’s decision making body’s deciding to remove him.
After all, Weerawansa does not want Jagoda to open a can of worms if antagonized, as he was one time Weerawansa’s closest confidant.
Govt. Yet To Make A Final Decision On LG Elections
The government is currently weighing the pros and cons of holding the local government elections this year. The local government bodies are to be dissolved this week and elections called for March.
However, the announcement of dissolving the local government bodies this week and calling for elections in March has activated the political circles that have been somewhat dormant since the general election last April.
The government believes that the local government elections should be concluded before March 31. However, the government is also quite concerned about the string of budgets that were defeated in several local bodies in the past few weeks and comments made by senior ministers against leaders in the government.
It is also concerned over the growing dissent among the masses against the rising cost of living.
The governing party’s budgets for this year were defeated in many local bodies including the Municipal Council in Anuradhapura.
While the government believes that the elections for local bodies should be held at the earliest before its popularity among the people declines, it is also weighing the difficulties it would have to face with many disgruntled governing party members in local bodies who have voted against their respective budgets together with the opposition.
However, party leaders of the UPFA met on Friday (December 31) to discuss the local government elections.
The JVP is to announce this week about its stance on the local government elections and the UNP has so far not made any official remarks about the election.
The government has said that elections to the local bodies would most likely be held under the proportional representation system (PR).
The Electoral Reforms Bill meanwhile is to be presented to parliament on Tuesday (4) for approval. Once approved, the new electoral system, which is a combination of the PR and first past the post system, would come into effect.
UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha says that when the bill is being passed, a provision could be included to say that the new electoral system would be effective for elections that would be held after the local government elections this year.
Nevertheless, it is learnt that the government has not completely ruled out the option of postponing the local government elections.
In the event the government decides to postpone the elections, one reason to do so is the introduction of the new electoral system.
The government in such an event could postpone the elections by a period of one year claiming that time was needed to make the necessary arrangements to hold the election under the new electoral system.