Party leaders must work together to rebuild UNP – Ruwan Wijewardene | Sunday Observer

Party leaders must work together to rebuild UNP – Ruwan Wijewardene

20 September, 2020

United National Party (UNP) newly appointed Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene said that party leaders must work together to rebuild the UNP, adding that party members left the party because of a crisis.

The people distanced themselves from the party due to its inability to fulfill the promises to the people, conflicts with the party leadership and for not reorganising the party, he said.

One person cannot lead a party to the victory, Wijewardene said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.


Q: The long awaited change has been made in the United National Party (UNP) and you have been appointed Deputy Leader of the party. This is a challenge, isn’t it?

A: I have been appointed to this post at a time when the party has suffered a major defeat. I have accepted it as a major challenge. I believe the result obtained by the UNP is a message to us all. It made us understand that the party must be restructured. My main aim is to find out where we went wrong. We should think about what we did and why our party members and supporters distanced themselves from us. As a political party that has produced Prime Ministers, Presidents and Ministers, it is imperative that the party be rebuilt. I believe we can achieve this through a young leadership.

Q: The Samagi Jana Balawegaya was formed by a group of UNP stalwarts, including a former UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa. How will you go about in gaining their support back to the UNP?

A: We must gain the trust of our party members and then gather them around the party. A major restructuring must also take place. We hope to have discussions with the SJB in the future. I must stress that we have no issues regarding this. We will have to hold discussions not only with the SJB but also with other political parties.

Q: Does this mean the SJB and the UNP will become one camp?

A: Yes, we, anyway, belong to one camp. This is because the majority in the SJB including its leadership are those who represented the UNP previously. We have worked together and can do so in the future as well.

Q: Following your appointment as the Deputy leader of the party, your first challenge would be to face the Provincial Council Election. What is your plan for this?

A: It will not be an easy task. We will have to implement a massive plan to face the election. I cannot say that we will secure a significant victory. But we must become proactive. We must implement a plan to face the election by rebuilding the party.

Q: Has the restructuring of the UNP already begun?

A: We are planning it. We hope to implement a reorganisation campaign from the Grama Niladhari Divisional level to the national level. When selecting provincial council candidates, we will take steps to nominate qualified leaders as requested by the people. We hope to give more opportunities to the youth who are educated, intelligent and have team spirit.

Q: After you were elected as the Deputy Leader, it was publicised on social media that the leadership crisis of the UNP has only taken a turn for worse. Is this true?

A: There is no crisis now. Our party members left us because there was a crisis. The leadership was criticised many times. But there is no such a scenario now. Our leaders must work together to rebuild the UNP. One person cannot lead a party to the victory.

Q: It is said that 1.6 million people did not vote for the UNP and remained independent at the recently concluded General Election. Do you have any message to them?

A: We must admit that more people than that number, have moved away from us. We must regain their trust. For that, we need to act with a right vision. The people distanced themselves from us due to our inability to fulfill the promises to the people, conflicts with the leadership of the party and for not reorganising the party.

Q: You were in the Government that brought in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The current Government is seeking to repeal it and bring in the 20th Amendment. Will you support the new amendment?

A: No, I am against the 20th Amendment. As the United National Party, we are all working against the move.

Q: Why is the UNP against the 20th Amendment?

A: This amendment will be a blow to democracy. We brought in the 19th Amendment because there was no democracy before that. The amendment was made with the intervention of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera in particular.

The main thing we did was to remove the dictatorship and the executive powers of the President. We gave the powers of the President to Parliament. Commissions were empowered to function freely. We gave an opportunity to public sector institutions to function without political influence.

Bringing in the 20th Amendment will be a U-turn and a move towards an old dictatorship rule. The other issue is that the Government is working to bring powers that the President has never had before through the 20th Amendment.

Q: Do you mean that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a dictator?

A: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa can bring this amendment with good intentions for the betterment of the country. But people are afraid of what kind of leader will come after him and how he will use these powers. Former President J.R. Jayewardene enacted this constitution and implemented many development programs in the country. But the question arises as to what will happen if a leader who abuses these powers is elected.

Q: Do you not accept that the President is doing a service to the country?

A: The President has made many good decisions for the betterment of the country. We appreciate them. If wrong decisions, such as the 20th Amendment are made, we will take action against them.