UNP reforms deadlock?

Split inevitable says reformists

UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema said yesterday that the joint proposals of individuals and organisations who envisaged reforms to the party will come before the UNP convention on November 19.
Asked whether UNP National Organiser, S.B. Dissanayake’s proposals would come before the convention, he replied that “there is only one joint proposal that would include proposals by Dissanayake, John Amaratunga and others.”
Party General Secretary designate, Tissa Attanayake also confirmed that a set of joint proposals will come before the party convention. He said that the John Amaratunga report on the restructuring of the working committee was 90 percent similar to Dissanayake’s proposals on the constitution of the working committee.
According to Attanayake, the working committee will be expanded upto about 90 members and not 117 as proposed by Dissanayake.
He said that Dissanayake had proposed both president and secretary of the district organisation to be members of the working committee, making it a large outfit. Attanayake said that in his opinion, only one member from each district organisation should represent a district in the working committee.
He said the proposals put forward have nothing to do with the legal format prepared by Romesh De Silva.
Contrary to this, seniors close to Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said there was a deadlock at the moment, since Dissanayake was insisting that the six resolutions he proposed be passed as constitutional amendments at the next convention.
However representatives of the party leader are of the view that these proposals are ultra vires the constitution and hence should be reconsidered by the working committee and later at a special convention. He said there is no decision right now as to what they should do.
But sources from the opposing camp said this is a move by the Ranil Wickremesinghe camp to fizzle out reforms as done earlier and if this happens a split in the party is inevitable.
They said that if the reforms are not introduced as envisaged, Wickremesinghe will appoint all his nominees to the working committee under the present constitution, which is more of a dictatorial nature, and try to have his way.
Meanwhile proposals of the reformist group headed by Karu Jayasuriya in its legal form and relevant amendments to the UNP constitution drafted by Romesh De Silva had been handed over to Party General Secretary designate Tissa Attanayake.
Professor G.L. Peiris said yesterday that four copies had been sent with translations to Tissa Attanayake. He said that they have undertaken to present the resolutions at the party convention.
Presently it is learnt that these amendments are being studied by President’s Counsel K.N. Choksy, D.M. Swaminathan along with party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Swaminathan had apparently given an undertaking to Karu Jayasuriya and said that they would see to it that these proposals would be implemented.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the reformists said that they are armed with all necessary legal advice to challenge in court if any decision is taken contrary to what was agreed at the Working Committee meeting.
He said that at the Working Committee meeting party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed that all reforms proposed by the group headed by Karu Jayasuriya would be implemented except for the nomination for the post of the general secretary. The reformists conceded to the nomination of Tissa Attanayake.
He also said that both Tissa Attanayake and Rukman Senanayake would not be able to hold these positions without amending the present constitution. The present constitution stipulates that the bearers of the posts of the Chairman and the General Secretary should not be parliamentarians.
He further said that refusal of these proposals at any stage can lead to a split in the party and the reformists are likely to sit as a separate entity in Parliament.
There are over 28 members who support this move, he said. If this happens the UNP is running the risk of losing the position of Opposition Leader in Parliament.