PM bets on UNP’s democratic credentials

PM bets on UNP’s democratic credentials

  • Younger UNP leaders after Exco meeting next week
  • Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake takes office as new National Organizer
  • PM promises more young leaders as part of reform process 
  • Says unlike Pohottuwa, UNP has leaders who respect democracy and earned their political credentials 
  • Questions Pohottuwa’s lack of new faces, insists efforts only aimed at bringing “Rajapaksa regime II” to power    
  • Insists UNP dedicated to ensuring no military rule in SL, calls on public to join a party which respects democracy 

 

By Uditha Jayasinghe

A revamped United National Party (UNP) complete with younger office bearers is likely to be announced after the Executive Committee meets next week, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, striking a contrast with the opposition and insisting the UNP was blooding fresh leaders to take the country forward.

Speaking at the ceremony where Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake assumed duties as the UNP National Organizer at the party headquarters, Wickremesinghe spoke warmly of Dissanayake’s leadership qualities and insisted that he had won the position through decades of hard work for the party. He also recalled that in 1970 Gamini Dissanayake also came forward to assist in rebuilding the party, eventually becoming its presidential candidate before his death.

“I see many of the same qualities as his father in Navin Dissanayake and I have had the opportunity of working with him and observing him for several years. He is dedicated to this party and I have every confidence that he will discharge his duties admirably. These are the sorts of leaders that we will be selecting to lead the party in the future and I am confident several more names will be revealed once the Executive Committee concludes its discussions,” he said.

The Prime Minister also sought to contrast the working of the UNP with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the extended Joint Opposition. Speculation has been rife among the public that the greater public presence of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa signals the possibility of him coming forward as a presidential candidate.

Declining to mention names, Wickremesinghe referred to a “retired army official’s team” gaining prominence within the SLPP. He pointed out that unlike the SLPP the UNP was investing in new and younger leaders who had earned their political credentials over many years of campaigning and parliamentary participation to take the party forward and was not promoting the same set of “discredited politicians” as the SLPP.

“Who are their new faces? It is the same rank and file as existed under the Rajapaksa regime. There is just a retired army officials’ team. Is there one poster of a parliamentarian who speaks up for the people in Parliament? No. All they have are retired army officials. It is the same army officials who joined to establish the Rakapaksa regime who have now joined the Pohottuwa. Those who speak in Parliament have become the puppets of these retired army officials.”

Wickremesinghe emphasised that unlike in the SLPP it was possible to see democratic principles being followed within the UNP as it has systematically changed leadership over many decades to suit the needs of the country. While the SLPP in his view had little succession planning, Wickremesinghe insisted the UNP was readying to introduce younger politicians to top positions within the party and set in place a structure whereby the public could see who would take over the party in the next decade.

“The aim of these people is to pave the way for a return of the Rajapaksa regime. It could be titled Rajapaksa regime II. Today we have young democratic leaders with us. On the other side we have a group of retired army officials who worked with the Rajapaksa regime and were sent home. How can we be confident they will protect our democracy? What will they do? In the past Lasantha Wickramatunga was murdered and Eknaligoda disappeared.”

“I will stress one point – even the media personnel who support these people could end up disappearing if these people come to power. That is how they work. I need not remind you of that. This is putting a noose around your own necks. This point will not be published in newspapers tomorrow but we don’t have a problem with that. Our supporters must remember that it is our intention to never let military rule flourish in this country. We must understand what they mean under a different name. You must decide whether you want democracy or Rajapaksa regime II.”

The Prime Minister also called on all young party members to support reforms and assist the new leaders to perform well for the benefit of the UNP and the country.

Courtesy: Daily FT

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