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UNP UC Chairman calls for Ranil to step down


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  • Says UNP Leader’s “time has passed” 
  • Slams Sagala as “more harm than good” 
  • Calls for a leader “in touch” with the common citizen

 

Weligama Urban Council Chairman Rehan Wijeratne has pledged his support to UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, demanding that the Hambantota District MP be allowed to take over as party leader and become the

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

UNP’s candidate at the 2020 election.  Wijeratne is the first head of a UNP Council to openly challenge the UNP leadership and pledge support to Premadasa, even as the UNP grapples with a fresh internal crisis over leadership and a presidential nomination. 

“I hope you have the courage to hand over the reins to your deputy. The time is now, Prime Minister,” the Weligama UC Chairman’s letter stated. 

In his letter to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the Leader of the UNP, Wijeratne insists that pledging support to Premadasa is not a betrayal of the leadership. 

“I write this not because I am against you but because I now think your time has passed,” the letter dated 14 May and seen by Daily FT said. 

“Our country has come under attack, its people are suffering, divided and afraid. Our party will soon face an election in which the future of our very democracy is at stake. Every responsible member of our party knows that we must face this election with a candidate and party leader who understands the plight of the common citizen and is in touch with their fears, needs and aspirations.”

Wijeratne also criticised his party leader’s proximity to his Chief of Staff and Matara District MP Minister Sagala Ratnayake, saying the association does Wickremesinghe “more harm than good”. The letter added that the people of Matara were waiting for the next election to give Ratnayake his dues. 

He suggested that the UNP had suffered from a leadership vacuum caused by LTTE assassinations of several high-level leaders. “For too long we have suffered as a party. Most of the politicians who have been killed by terrorists, from General Wijeratne, to President Premadasa, to Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, were leaders in the UNP. In the last 25 years we have suffered setback after setback, and the UNP has not won the presidency or Parliament since 1989.”

The Weligama UC Chairman’s letter also foretold disciplinary inquiries against him for rebuking the Party Leader. “If I am asked to resign, I will do so with pride and dignity,” Wijeratne’s letter asserted. “I am prepared to face any consequences for telling the truth, especially in such a time of national crisis.”

Wijeratne insisted that his stand was not a personal one but one representative of his electorate in Weligama. “The people of Weligama and of this party want a new leader. I will give voice to their cries no matter the cost,” the young UC Chairman said. “I am their servant, not the other way around.” 

Wijeratne heads the most UNP-dominated municipal body in the Southern Province, comprising 11 UNP Members, three SLFP members and three JVP members.

The following is the full letter. 

A Letter to the Honorable Prime Minister  

Dear Sir,  

I am writing to you as a third generation United National Party Politician. My grand uncles Major Monty Jayawickreme and General Ranjan Wijeratne are among the most respected leaders in the UNP’s history, who lived and breathed duty to their country. General Ranjan Wijeratne was not only the party’s General Secretary but also one of the most effective Defence Ministers to serve Sri Lanka, and our only defence minister to have been killed in the line of duty. Out of respect for their legacy, I must speak up before it is too late.  

Since I was a young boy attending St. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, my ambition was to enter the political field and serve Weligama and my country, like my ancestors before me. As my primary school peers were reading comic books, I would study the “Standing Orders” of Parliament, a book that I would borrow from my late step-father Minister Mano Wijeratne.  

Come 2018, 20 years on, I contested the Local Government Elections representing Weligama, subsequently obtaining 81% of the vote, the highest island wide percentage obtained by any candidate at the election and was appointed Chairman of the Weligama UC. This victory was made possible due to the support of my district leader, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera.  

I have sworn an oath to defend the constitution and serve my constituency. It is in service to that constituency that I must tell you that the people of Weligama, like people around the country, believe that the time has come for the leadership of the UNP to be handed over to Hon. Sajith Premadasa, to begin the next chapter of our party. I have been warned by party seniors not to say this publicly, that I would be axed from the party and stripped of my position if I openly opposed the leadership. I have been warned that others have been expelled from the party for doing this in the past. As a Wijeratne and a Jayawickreme, I am prepared to face any consequences for telling the truth, especially in such a time of national crisis. 

Hon. Prime Minister, our country has come under attack, its people are suffering, divided and afraid. Our party will soon face an election in which the future of our very democracy is at stake. Every responsible member of our party knows that we must face this election with a candidate and party leader who understands the plight of the common citizen and is in touch with their fears, needs and aspirations.  

Dear sir, for too long we have suffered as a party. Most of the politicians who have been killed by terrorists, from General Wijeratne, to President Premadasa, to Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, were leaders in the UNP. In the last twenty-five years we have suffered set back after set back, and the UNP has not won the presidency or Parliament since 1989. When you were at your peak, the 2000 and 2005 presidential elections were lost due to factors beyond your control. Ever since then our party has not even had the strength to field its own presidential candidate. I write this not because I am against you but because I now think your time has passed. I hope you have the courage to hand over the reins to your deputy. The time is now Prime Minister.  

The fact that you have entrusted the direction of our party to personalities like Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka has put the party on a slippery slope. UNP politicians are at a loss for words to explain to our people why he roams around the southern province with as many bodyguards as the president, and acts as a cold and uncaring buffer between younger politicians and the party leadership. Take my humble word that Mr. Ratanayake’s political career will not outlive your patronage. The people of Matara are waiting for the next election to give him his dues with their ballot papers.  

No matter who supports me and who doesn’t, I will stand my ground. If asked to resign, I will do so with pride and dignity. I will not back down. The people of Weligama and of this party want a new leader. I will give voice to their cries no matter the cost. I am their servant, not the other way around.  

Rehaan D. Wijeratne Jayawickreme  

Chairman  

Weligama Urban Council  

Unofficial Magistrate  

All Island Justice of Peace


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