United National Party (UNP) Co-Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya yesterday officially announced his candidacy for the leadership of the main opposition in a statement.
In the media release, Jayasuriya recounted the significant deterioration of the UNP, noting that 61 Members of Parliament (MP) had crossed over and party popularity had hit an all-time low. He insisted that his love for the party and the desire to reunite and spearhead a regeneration of it were the main reasons for contesting.
The full text of the statement is given below:
“In the past several weeks, Most Venerable Maha Nayake Theras, members of the Maha Sangha, other religious clerics, my fellow colleagues in the United National Party, branch organisations, supporters, and civil society organisations, among others, have made representations to me.
“They have all voiced one serious concern – the United National Party, a venerated national institution since our independence, has deteriorated to a lowly position where it can no longer function as an effective, credible, independent, democratic opposition.
Every day we are losing the support of our grass roots level membership and have become a laughing stock in the eyes of the public.
“It is a tragic irony that a handful, a small minority in the party is holding to ransom the vast majority of our supporters and our nation. I need hardly say that their love for the party is overshadowed by their lust for personal benefits. This is why the tireless campaign by me and colleagues in the party to seek reforms to ensure democracy, transparency and the creation of a vibrant opposition has failed.
“We have many a time taken up these issues with our Leader, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe. I say with great sadness and pain of mind that all our sincere efforts have failed. The only thing we have won is isolation. We are neither consulted nor informed of any matters that concern the party.
“We preach on the need for free expression. It is not allowed within our party. We preach for democracy. There is no democracy in our party. We preach on the need for transparency. There is no transparency in the party. We preach for unity in the party. Instead there is devious manipulation to cause disharmony and seek revenge. We complain of authoritarianism in the government but forget it is there in greater measure in our party.
“As Co-Deputy Leader, Sajith Premadasa, said in a letter to me, this is why 61 MPs have crossed over to the UPFA Government in the recent years. Some of them hold influential cabinet positions. This is why, as he points out, in 16 years, commencing from 1994, our Party voting bloc has gone down from 45% to a dismal 29%.
“Can the actions of one person or a small coterie be allowed to continue this systematic destroying of our party? I asked myself whether the United National Party can continue to betray the public confidence imposed on them. I am convinced overwhelmingly that we cannot. We owe a duty to all our party followers, the public and the country.
“I must reiterate that I have, during many statements issued before, made it unequivocally clear that I would give up positions, if it became necessary in the interests of the party. This was to demonstrate that I never yearned for positions but always had the interest of my party at heart.
“My long association with the UNP, as many are aware, was interrupted for a shorter period when I served in the Government. I was motivated by my resolve to support them in the fight against terrorism. The war is now over but peace has not arrived. Violence and corruption is on the rise. By hindsight I have often wondered whether I had made an error of judgement. However, I must emphasise that in doing what I did, I went through the front door and came back also through the same door.
“I can say, say very emphatically that I have not during my association with the UNP ever used the backdoor for any dialogue. I have therefore had no reason to change positions every now and then or to compromise the UNP in any way.
“I am most humbled by the many requests made to me to contest the post of leader of the United National Party. I declare that I have heeded this request and would be a candidate. I and my colleagues are fully conscious of the many pitfalls. We are also conscious that all forms of devious attempts will be made, as is already evident, to place obstacles in our way.
“Yet, I want to reassure all those who have appealed to me that I will fulfil their request no matter what the consequences are. More than official positions, I love the United National Party most. I am contesting to both save it and unite it – a pledge I made to all those who have asked me.”