UNP national list MP nomination unlikely before 20A debate – John Amaratunga | Sunday Observer

UNP national list MP nomination unlikely before 20A debate – John Amaratunga

4 October, 2020

UNP stalwart and national list aspirant John Amaratunga says the re- organisation of the party including the reshuffling of top positions and naming of the new Leader, will precede the nomination of their National List candidate to Parliament although almost two months have elapsed after the General Election where the ‘grand old party’ suffered a humiliating defeat. The party lost all districts it contested and was reduced to a single national list slot in Parliament.

He said that the UNP Leader was keen to re -organise the party before appointing the National List member to Parliament and that among other issues, the re-organisation committee will come up with names to be appointed to important positions in the party.

Amaratunga said the recommendations are expected to be submitted at a Working Committee meeting next week. However, the invitations for the meeting are yet to be received by party members.

Q: it has been almost two months since the General Election. The UNP is yet to nominate it’s National List member to the Parliament?

A. My name is first in the national list submitted by the UNP. I count 42 years in politics and after the Leader I am the most senior member in our party. Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has assured that the candidates who contested and lost in the general election will not be nominated under the national list. That is the principle on which he will make the nomination. We have left it in his hand.

Q: Has there been any internal discussions in this regard lately?

A. There were no discussions in this regard recently. The Leader has said that he wants to reorganise the party before appointing the National List member to Parliament. He has already elected a person of popular choice to lead this effort - that is the Deputy Leader, Ruwan Wijewardena. He has also appointed a committee to look into the aspect of reorganising the UNP. Among other issues, the committee will come up with the names of persons to be appointed to important positions in the party. Apparently, we will have to wait and see what those recommendations are.

I think once those recommendations are put forth, the other positions of the party will be filled.

Q: Is there a time limit for the ‘reorganisation recommendations’ to be handed over?

A. I think the recommendations will be submitted by next week. There will be a Working Committee meeting in which the recommendations will be forwarded. The members of this committee are former UNP Minister and one time Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China, Karunasena Kodituwakku, UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Party CEO Shamal Senarath and former Minister Sagala Ratnayake.

Q: Will the UNP National List nominee be made before the 20th Amendment debate in Parliament?

A. I am not sure if that will be made before the debate. The Leader is more keen on reorganising the party before the nomination is made. The Party General Secretary has also opted to step down. I don’t know whether that has been accepted by the Leader. We will have to wait and see.

Q: Has the party begun preparing for the upcoming Provincial Council Election?

A. In the 20th Amendment, there are some provisions that the Provincial Councils should be scrapped and some other system should be adopted. But there is no finality, no date has been fixed for the Provincial Elections. There is nothing to assure us that if the Provincial Elections will be held soon or if it will be scrapped for good.

However, the new Deputy Leader is going around the country to address our grassroot members and supporters, in line with the current reorganisation bid.

Q: Has Leader Wickremesinghe officially informed the party members that he is going to step down by the year’s end?

A. He has said by the end of the year he wants to leave the leadership completely and give it to somebody recommended by the Kodituwakku Committee. There are many aspirants but no in-fighting for the leadership.

Q: You are one of the most senior members of the UNP but you have not expressed desire to take over the party?

A. After Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe I am the most senior person in the party. I was invited and appointed to Parliament by J.R.Jayewardene in 1978. But I don’t want to be the leader of the party, besides Sri Lanka being predominantly a Buddhist country, the people expect a Sinhala Buddhist to become the leader of the UNP, a party which has the potential to create Presidents and Prime Ministers.

All the past leaders of the party have been Sinhala Buddhists. Seniority is one of the factors to consider for leadership but the former carries a lot of weight when it comes to an election.

Q: Other than the re-organisation of the UNP, what is happening within the party these days ?

A. Everyone is waiting for the reorganisation. The next thing will be the appointment of new electoral organisers for each electorate.

Q: These UNP organiser posts have fallen vacant since the former organisers defected to the SJB ?

A. That is one reason and the other is the suitability of the existing organisers. In the last election, we picked electoral organisers in a mighty hurry since we had an election at hand. In that hurry, we may not have selected the proper people, so the need has been felt to appoint new organisers for the electorates on the recommendation of the present Deputy Leader and the new leadership that is to come.

Q: The grand old party, the UNP, saw a major erosion of its vote base during the last two elections. What in your opinion is the reason for this downfall ?

A. The erosion took place due to the former members and the former Ministers of the UNP crossing over to the SJB. We have to have new faces in whom the people will have faith, in the UNP now.

Q: Do you think the party can recover and win over the lost voters before the next election ?

A. In this country, people are very conscious of the Government they elect. Every five years they don’t hesitate to change their mind if the Government in power does not deliver their promises, you can never say, they keep their options open. The people are very shrewd nowadays, they will vote for the party that will give them the best deal.

Q: The new UNP Deputy Leader has said he was ready for talks with the SJB for a future together. What is your personal view on this ?

A. There can always be an alliance, not a merger. The UNP as a separate party might align with a separate party for any future election. But we must retain our identity.

Q: Is that the aspiration of the SJB also ?

A. We have not reached that stage yet. We have not discussed a future alliance so far. Once the party reorganising is done then we can discuss the nitty gritties of a future alliance whether to support the SJB, be a part of the SJB or form a separate alliance.

Q: The SJB is the UNP. This new party/ alliance was given birth as a result of a leadership battle. Yet no one in the UNP promotes the idea of merging with the SJB?

A. No, that idea has not been discussed so far within the party. The UNP Leader is not involved in that. He is only keen on a proper reorganisation of the party and later he will be ready to discuss this prospect of joining forces before the next election.

Q: The new leader of the UNP is not expected to assume office before January 2021.

A. It might happen even before, depending on the recommendations of the reorganising committee. The current leader had said at most he will wait till the end of the year to step down. He can continue beyond that according to the existing party Constitution but I don’t think he wants to wait till then to step down. He has had enough and he wants to build up a new leadership, hand over and go.

Q: Has he said anything about his life after retirement as UNP Leader ?

A. His knowledge and experience is unbeatable. He is going to write books and he will have many things to keep him occupied.