A united UNP, a must to contest elections - Daya Gamage | Sunday Observer

A united UNP, a must to contest elections - Daya Gamage

Marching to different beats- UNP and SJB

One of the oldest and the biggest political parties, the United National Party suffered a major split, a week ago with its Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe deciding to contest the up coming parliamentary election in April separately, breaching an earlier Working Committee agreement. Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa has clung to his guns and have declared that he will along with his support group within the UNP will contest the election under the newly formed alliance - Samagi Jana Balawegaya. Former Minister Daya Gamage and Former State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe who are supporting the rival groups within the UNP explain the back ground to the decisions taken so far.

Q. A General Election has been declared but the main opposition party the , UNP is divided with different opinions and factions. How can the UNP face the election in this state?

A: It is indeed a sad situation as the UNP is the main political party in the opposition. Even last time, we contested as a coalition and formed a government after winning the Parliament majority. Now, the deputy leader of the UNP is given the responsibility to form a coalition by the Working Committee of the UNP. But certain politicians know very well that they cannot enter the Parliament this time. Therefore, they want to be identified as members of the Sajith Premadasa faction. In other words, they try to survive by being supporters of Sajith Premadasa. That is the latest situation.

Q. As you said, the new alliance, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya was approved by the Working Committee of the UNP. Then why did it fail?

A: There is a group which does not like the unity between us. Another group, whose demands we have not entertained is trying to get what they want from the other group. I hope that even at the last moment, we will contest as one group. But I doubt whether this will happen.

On the other hand, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya was introduced as an alliance, but it has the constitution of a political party. According to that constitution if a member of the UNP contests under the alliance, his or her UNP membership will be suspended according to the constitution of the UNP.

Once nominations are submitted and if someone challenges it in court, there will be a possibility of our nomination list getting cancelled. Therefore, the majority of the UNP members decided, not to take a chance because; we had a similar experience at the Colombo Municipal Council, elections some time ago.

Q. If there are two factions of your group at the election, what would be the final result?

A: We will not be able to form a Government. If we contest as one group we definitely can win and form a government because the current Government is in great trouble right now. The revenue of the Government has gone down. As a result, the Government has failed to meet expenses. Suppliers and contractors of the Government are not receiving payments now. Development activities are on hold. In this background , we have a clear chance of receiving more than 100 seats in Parliament.

Q. Isn’t it a challenge for the UNP to find suitable candidates while a large number of party members are with theSamagi Jana Balavegaya?

A: Perhaps this could be a challenge as well as a blessing. On the other hand, the people of this country demand new faces in Parliament. Hence, it will be an opportunity for many new faces to enter Parliament. But at the same time, the people need an experienced, hard-working and uncorrupted set of politicians in Parliament. However, it will not be difficult to find good candidates for our party.

Q. But the Samagi Jana Balavegaya says that they have 95 per cent of the UNP local government members with them. Is this correct?

A: I think it is a 50-50 divide. Some members are keeping a foot on both sides. They just want to get into Parliament somehow.

Q. After the 2018 local government election, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was decimated and the SLPP emerged. Don’t you think that the UNP is also facing a similar challenge?

A: In the history of the UNP, there were times when we received only eight seats in Parliament. But we won the following election with a five sixth Parliamentary majority.The UNP faced a similar crisis in 2010. After I was appointed as the National Organiser of the party, I visited all corners of the country to re-organise the party. I told everyone that we can form a Government in three years. As I said, we formed a Government in 2015. The Buddhist vote base is what we lack at the moment. In that context, I believe that in spite of our having to re-organise the party, we can easily get 35-40 seats in Parliament I believe.

Q. Political critics claim that the arbitrary political decisions of UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe has been the reason behind the downfall of the UNP. Do you see any truth in that claim?

A: After J.R. Jayawardene , there was no President in Sri Lanka who had a clear vision for the country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for an early presidential election based on the fact that the country was about to face a severe economic crisis. Mismanagement of the Rajapaksa government was the reason behind this crisis. However, our government pursued financial discipline to get the country back on track. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the person behind all this work. He deserves that credit.

Q. Members of the SLPP signed their nomination papers last week. When will the UNP members sign nominations?

A: Generally, the UNP submits its nomination list at the last minute. We are still preparing our nomination lists. We have time until March 19.