Ranil Given Ultimatum
- 25 UNP MPs threaten to sit as Independents in Parliament
By Faraz Shauketaly
25 United National Party Members of Parliament including Sajith Premadasa, Thalatha Athukorala and Dayasiri Jayasekera have told the UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that they will all sit as an independent group in Parliament if proposed party reforms are not addressed immediately. Ms Athukorala told The Sunday Leader that a final decision will be taken after the UNP Parliamentary Group meeting is held.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday (7th) 28 UNP parliamentarians signed a petition addressed to their leader demanding that he convene a special meeting of the Parliamentary Group to discuss amongst other issues, the reaction to the 18th Amendment. Wickremesinghe had rudely brushed aside the written and signed request which was presented to him by Kabir Hashim and Ms. Athukorala. A week ago at the Working Committee meeting of the party, Hashim had wanted the UNP Leader to issue a statement stating that President Rajapaksa had indeed “hoodwinked” the UNP at discussions on amendments to the constitution. Wickremesinghe had taken issue saying he disagreed with those words.
Sajith Premadasa who had been cheered on Tuesday (7th) by the relatively small crowd – of some 1,000 who had turned up to protest the 18th Amendment – speaking exclusively to The Sunday Leader said that this latest turn of events is a “direct result of inaction from the party leadership” on implementing the proposed reforms.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, twice Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, had his own rather inimitable manner in dealing with The Sunday Leader. When phoned to ask for his reaction to the news of an independent group being formed by UNP MPs, he hung up not once but nine times in succession after being told that it was The Sunday Leader on the telephone.
In the event that the 25 MPs do sit as an Independent Group, Wickremesinghe will cease to be Leader of the Opposition. Ms. Athukorala hoped that it would not amount to this and that Wickremesinghe would see and feel the frustration of party reforms not being implemented. Premadasa confirmed that if everyone else also decides to sit as a Group he too will join them. The Party’s Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya said that he was not aware of the demands made public by Dayasiri Jayasekera formally but acknowledged that proactive action on educating the public on the full ramifications of the 18 th Amendment was not done because the party had been weakened as there was a lack of unity.