A fresh crisis is developing in the UNP
with its Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya
taking a tough stance against President Rajapaksa`s government amid ongoing consultations between the SLFP
and the UNP over proposed constitutional reforms.
Political sources say the UNP seems to be sharply divided over its strategy, though the party recently managed to resolve the leadership crisis at least for the time being.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
had three one-on-one meetings with Sajith Premadasa
to defuse tensions over the leadership crisis in the party. Sources say a consensus is developing that the post of the Deputy Leader should go to MP Premadasa, while some suggest responsibilities can be divided between incumbent Jayasuriya, MP and MP Premadasa. Political sources said that this was a contentious issue, which could trigger tensions among various factions. Jayasuriya on Saturday called for a common Opposition front against President Rajapaksa. In a hard hitting statement issued in his capacity as the Deputy Leader, Jayasuriya appealed for opposition forces ``to shed old wars and ideologies`` and unite and emerge strong against `a common and ruthless enemy.``
He appealed to JVP
leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, DNA`s Sarath Fonseka
, TNA leader R. Sampanthan, SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem, Democratic People`s Front leader Mano Ganesan
and Wickremabahu Karunaratne and all those in government ranks who could no longer condone the tactics of the present regime to join the campaign.
Political sources pointed out that UNP leader Wickremesinghe went ahead with another meeting with President Premadasa on Monday (Aug 23), though Jayasuriya called for an attack on the government. Wickremesinghe went to the extent of expanding his delegation by inviting SLMC leader Hakeem to join the talks along with Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, who had not taken part in previous deliberations.
Contrary to expectations of the Wickremesinghe camp, President Rajapaksa told the UNP-SLMC delegation that he would seek a third term, though they had earlier discussed the possibility of replacing the executive presidential system with and executive premiership.
UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and UNP Chairman Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, who had been involved in previous talks at Temple Trees, were not present.
Although the UNP had requested the SLFP to send in its constitutional proposals aimed at paving the way for President Rajapaksa to contest a third term for discussion at the working committee, the party could not agree to that, sources said. In that scenario, the UPFA would go ahead with its plans to engineer several crossovers, sources said.
MP Jayasuriya also urged a joint effort to pressure the government to release former Army Chief General Sarath, who led Sri Lanka
`s successful war against LTTE
UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premjayantha on Monday accused MP Jayasuriya of trying to divert the attention of the public from internal disputes in the party. Addressing the media at the SLFP headquarters, Minister Premjayantha ridiculed the latest effort to combine opposition forces against President Rajapaksa.
Sources said that MP Jayasuriya had conveniently forgotten that one of the three persons who testified against MP Fonseka at the First Court Martial was the Assistant General Secretary of the UNP Lakshman Seneviratne, one of those leading the campaign against Wickremesinghe. The UNP could not also ignore the fact that Johnston Fernando and Gamini Abeyratne, too, testified against MP Fonseka in their previous role as UNPers.
Meanwhile, the UNP pointed out that President Rajapaksa was making an attempt to secure a third term at the tail end of his first term. President Rajapaksa is expected to begin his second term in the third week of November 2010. Sources said that President JRJ had made a bid to secure approval of the working committee for a third term during the tail end of his second term. Sources said that JRJ removed two of the then Premier Ranasinghe Premadasa`s staunch supporters in the working committee and brought in two of his loyalists, though the plan failed, due to strong opposition from party seniors.