With an alliance between UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga likely ahead of the forthcoming elections in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, the leader of the opposition will not give in to ongoing efforts to clip his wings, political sources said yesterday.
The sources said Wickremesinghe s recent appearance on a political platform along with Kumaratunga and SLFP breakaway Mangala Samaraweera had marked the beginning of a new alliance. UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake accompanied the UNP leader to the first Convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (M) held at the New Town Hall last Thursday.
According to MPs supportive of Wickremesinghe, the new alliance could take on the SLFP-led ruling coalition but a leadership tussle would definitely undermine their campaign. In fact, it would give the state controlled media the opportunity to manipulate the electorate to Rajapaksa s advantage, the sources said.
The former SLFP leader is likely to address election rallies in the provinces in support of opposition candidates, these sources said. Others said a section of the UNP believed Kumaratunga s presence on the UNP platform would be counter productive.
They said Wickremesinghe would use Kumaratunga s re-entry into active politics by his side to re-assert his authority against the backdrop of call for an urgent leadership change in his party.
Those pushing for his removal were of the opinion government s growing unpopularity due to skyrocketing cost of living coupled with the general perception that massive corruption had contributed to the sorry state of affairs in the country would give the opposition a fighting chance to defeat the government.
An influential section of the party has suggested that the UNP leadership should be handed to Rukman Senanayake and Wickremesinghe should function as the leader of the proposed opposition alliance.
The deteriorating relationship between the government and the JVP would be an added advantage to the UNP-led alliance, the sources said.
The recent attacks on JVP protests at Arachchikattuwa carried out by government activists under the very noses of police had prompted the JVP to declare that it wouldn t back the monthly extension of emergency.
Unlike the previous elections to North Central and Sabaragamuwa PCs when the JVP ran with ruling party, it will contest on its own this time, the sources said. They were confident that the National Freedom Front faction under Wimal Weerawansa would not be able to cause any significant damage to the JVP.
Although the SLFP and the NFF were yet to formalize an agreement, well informed sources said the latter would definitely contest the election on the government ticket.
An alliance between the SLFP and the NFF is certain, the sources said, asserting the JVP rebels would find themselves in an extremely embarrassing situation after the government unleashed its goons on the JVP.