Following the end of the local government elections, the heat is back on the UNP’s leadership battle. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Hambantota District Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa are now preparing to fight for the party leadership.
According to amendments introduced to the party constitution at the UNP’s Convention in December, appointments to senior party posts have to be made before April 12.
Wickremesinghe and Premadasa agreed to keep aside the fight for the party leadership during the local government election period. Premadasa supporters, who form a majority of the pro-reforms lobby in the UNP are to meet to decide on the future course of action.
Meanwhile, UNP members in the villages have decided to travel to Colombo in order to hold peaceful protests outside the party headquarters, Sirikotha, calling on Wickremesinghe to step down from the leadership and make way for Premadasa to take over.
A majority of the party members who contested the local government elections last week have asked Premadasa to help them travel to Colombo in order to express the sentiments of the party members to the party seniors.
These UNP members have said that although the party constitution has vested powers only with the Working Committee and the Parliamentary Group to vote in the event of an election to choose the party leader, the sentiments of the party membership needed to be made known.
They have said that UNPers around the country are of the opinion that Premadasa should take over the reigns of the party.
As a first step, over 2,000 youth including university students representing the UNP have decided to hold a peaceful protest outside Sirikotha.
A majority of the UNP local government representatives and candidates have called on Premadasa to organise the protest campaigns within the next two weeks.
They have even expressed their willingness to meet with Working Committee members in order to express their sentiments about the party leadership and the need for change.
Members of the Premadasa camp have also decided to have one-to-one meetings with Working Committee members loyal to Wickremesinghe to discuss the need for a change in the party leadership in order to rejuvenate the party.
Ranjan’s Reality Check
Loyalists of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had recently reprimanded UNP Ratnapura District Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake.
Ramanayake had been asked by several party seniors during the local government election campaign to organise a public meeting in the Balangoda electorate where Wickremesinghe would participate.
Ramanayake had said he would do so, but had added that the UNP seniors would have to bring the crowd for the rally. He had said that although a meeting could be organised for Wickremesinghe to attend, the party should not expect a big crowd.
According to Ramanayake, the only solution to the problem was to bring crowds from Colombo to attend the rally in Balangoda. Angered by Ramanayake’s response, the UNP seniors had reprimanded him and questioned his loyalties.
Ramanayake however has said that he spoke the truth and it was something every one needed to take notice of. He has also said that Wickremesinghe did not get any prominence during the local government election campaign due to popularity issues.
MR Puts Ministers On Edge
Reports of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s evaluation of government ministers before going for a cabinet reshuffle has caused panic among some government ministers.
Rajapaksa has been closely monitoring the activities of all government ministers and is reportedly ready to evaluate them based on their performance.
The state owned media last week reported citing ‘highly placed authoritative sources’ that the President is in the process of making a final evaluation of the ministers’ performances.
According to the sources, the President will be deciding on the future course of action based on the performance of ministers who would be completing one year in the job in April.
Government members believe that the President is contemplating conducting a cabinet reshuffle after the Sinhala and Hindu New year in April. Nevertheless, ministers are on edge wondering which way the wind will blow.
However, most ministers do not expect a complete reshuffle in the portfolios, but believe some of the subjects assigned to certain portfolios may be changed.
The Senior Ministers meanwhile are hopeful that the subjects assigned to them would be streamlined in the reshuffle.
Also, some members who have defected to the government from the opposition and hopeful of portfolios are now cross fingered wondering if they would finally get what they were promised.
Parliamentarians Prabha Ganesan and P. Digambaram were last year promised portfolios in April and news of the President’s plan to carry out a reshuffle has brought hope to these members.
The President’s evaluation is said to be focused on uplifting the economy of the country to achieve at least 8-9 percent growth this year, and is therefore expecting development-oriented results from his cabinet of ministers.
Narrow Victory For Namal’s Tangalle UC
The Rajapaksa fiefdom in Tangalle has been shaken by the outcome of the local government elections held for the Tangalle Urban Council.
The President’s eldest son, Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa played a key role in the local government election campaign in the Hambantota District, especially in Tangalle.
However, the results of the Tangalle Urban Council came as quite a shock to many, especially because of the role played by Namal in the area. In the run up to the election, Namal was based in Tangalle.
Nevertheless, the governing UPFA managed to win the Tangalle Urban Council only by a majority of a mere 100 votes.
The UPFA recorded 2,389 votes while the main opposition UNP recorded 2,289 votes.
Meanwhile, the JVP lost its stronghold in Tissamaharama at the elections.
The Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha was held by the JVP since 2002, but lost it at last week’s elections. The JVP could not secure power in any local government body where elections were held.