appointment of Ranil as PM
continue our serial of B. Sirisena Cooray's book
on President Premadasa - Premadasa And I - Our Story
I went to see Mr. Wijetunga he reiterated this. I think he wanted to
make sure of my support because he knew that I could have challenged
him for the presidency since the majority of the UNP parliamentarians
were with me. So I told him not to worry and that I would help him.
Then he offered me the prime ministership. He said: "Siri, Ranil
is the leader of the house. But the constitution is very clear that
the person who commands the support of the majority of the
parliamentarians should be the prime minster. I know they are all with
you; that you are the most popular member of parliament. So I want you
to be the PM." I said: "Sir, don't create a problem here.
Let Ranil be the PM." He then said: "Siri, then you be the
leader of the house." I said: "Wijepala Mendis is the chief
whip; he is a very senior man; offer that to him." The President
then raised his hands to his head in a gesture of worship and said:
"Siri if there is a man I respect, it is you."
I was coming out of the President's office after this meeting I met
Ranil. I told him: "Ranil I am backing you to be the PM." He
said: "I know you are always with me Siri." That was why in
his acceptance speech on SLBC and Rupavahini he thanked me: "I
also would like to convey a special word of thanks to Hon. Sirisena
Cooray for his magnanimity in clearing the path for my appointment to
think I did the right thing in refusing that offer. I was not ready
for leadership at that time. I must be confident that I can do a job
before accepting it and given my emotional condition I did not have
that confidence. And because of the enormity of my loss, I had lost
interest in continuing in politics. Since I was not a senior
parliamentarian, I think with my refusal I also diffused the
the first working committee after the provincial council election of
1993 I offered my resignation as
general secretary to President Wijetunga. My argument was that
since the general secretary should work very closely with the party
leader, he must be someone in whom the leader can have absolute and
implicit trust. Mr. Premadasa and I had worked together for a very
long time. He had complete confidence in me. That was why I managed to
do a successful job. I had my doubts whether this could be so under
the new leadership. When I said this, everyone started saying that I
must stay on. President Wijetunga said: "I have implicit trust in
you. Please don't leave."
now I had decided not to contest the next election. Mr. Premadasa was
the only reason I continued in politics. After he was gone I knew I
was alone. Therefore I had little interest in continuing in politics.
I agree that in making that decision I may have betrayed his trust in
me because I know that he wanted me to continue in politics. That was
why he handed his Colombo Central electorate to me.
of the problems was that I was unhappy about the way things were
moving. For example there was that speech President Wijetunga made
soon after Mr. Premadasa's death about not having blood stained hands.
I was in my office in parliament
when the Editor of the Sunday Observer, H. L. D.
Mahindapala came running and told me about this. He was furious
and so was I. In making this speech the President took all of us by
surprise. And he also went back on a promise he himself made to me. He
had told me earlier when I promised to support him: "Siri I will
not do anything without consulting you, Choksy and Ranil." In
fact the three of us always used to go together to meet him. But as
soon as he felt stabilised he started violating that undertaking.
this time I could see clearly which way the party was headed. I did
the only thing I could - I wrote to the President and warned him.