|Death knell for Ranil
By Munza Mushtaq
The leadership battle in the crisis ridden United
National Party (UNP) is set to explode in the coming weeks, with
a rigid Ranil Wickremesinghe unexpected to make any moves to
please some of his party members who are demanding his immediate
However, an equally adamant group – led by several seniors of
the likes of Lakshman Seneviratne, Johnston Fernando, Jayalath
Jayawardena and Thalatha Atukorale – has threatened to launch a
campaign to ensure his removal from the party.
During a meeting on Friday evening with Wickremesinghe,
Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando had warned the UNP Leader that
he and his group were like “suicide bombers,” ready to fight for
the good of the party.
He had added that even in the event Wickremesinghe sacked him
and the other vociferous members from the party, they would
fight to ensure his removal from the UNP leadership.
At the meeting, the group – comprising Fernando, Seneviratne,
Jayawardena, Atukorale and Indika Bandara – had instead proposed
that Wickremesinghe should hold a position similar to that of
India’s Congress Leader Sonia Gandhi, but that it should be a
However, it is learnt that Wickremesinghe had not responded to
any of the calls positively and had instead told the group that
he would look after them well with ministerial positions once
the party won an election.
The group had then retorted that as long as Wickremesinghe led
the party, it would not win any election, and asserted that past
records were proof of this.
“The party needs a change; we have been very faithful to Ranil
Wickremesinghe, we have protected him in the past during other
crises, but today he has to step down if the party is to survive
and perform. We have made it clear that we will fight until he
makes way for a new face as the party leader,” party front-liner
Fernando told The Nation yesterday.
He was of the opinion that Wickremesinghe should move out and
let party strongmen Rukman Senanayake, S.B. Dissanayake and
Sajith Premadasa take over its leadership.
“There are rumours that we are going to join the government.
This is utterly false. We are not looking for a party change. We
are only looking for a party leadership change. Some interested
parties are attempting to shift the attention from the crisis by
creating false rumours,” Fernando noted.
At the meeting, the group had also challenged Wickremesinghe on
how he hoped to win elections if he decided to remain in his
post. In response, the UNP Leader had pointed out that he had
brought in many new faces such as popular actor Ranjan
Ramanayake and Major General Janaka Perera, who amassed a large
number of preferential votes at last Saturday’s election.
However, the group had pointed out that there was no point in
them performing well if the hierarchy was not performing well.
They had also said that most new faces had a tendency of coming
and going from the party, which would not help the UNP in any
“If a vote is called for, Wickremesinghe will stand no chance
even within the party. So why should such a person be the
leader?” the UNP MP queried.
“He has no option but to leave, we are going to bring in
amendments to the Party Constitution after we get approval, then
we can move him out from the party,” Fernando said.
“We will do everything possible to ensure he resigns,” Fernando
added. The group, which apparently has the backing of some 27
UNP Parliamentarians, intends to hold close door discussions in
the coming days to discuss the amendments that should be brought
If Ranil goes, rebels might return
UNP rebel turned Government Minister Rajitha Senaratne has
disclosed that his group was willing to enter into a dialogue
with a new UNP leadership to discuss a possible return. “We have
always wanted Ranil Wickremesinghe out. If he does leave and if
a new leader is appointed, then, yes, we are ready to discuss a
possible return to the UNP,” Minister Senaratne told The Nation.