- But further discussion on leadership issue unlikely at meeting
- Talks of Karu Jayasuriya as compromise leader continues
- Premadasa camp may consider agreeing to co-leadership with Karu to end standoff
The United National Party (UNP) parliamentary group will meet today to discuss parliamentary matters, former Government whip Lakshman Kiriella said indicating that the leadership issue will likely drag on.
Kiriella told the Daily FT that the parliamentary group will meet to discuss on parliamentary matters but not touch on the thorny leadership issue that has engulfed the party over the last few months. The parliamentary group meeting that took place earlier this month ended inconclusively after both sides failed to reach a compromise.
A subsequent meeting planned for last Sunday between party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa did not materialise. Both Premadasa and Wickremesinghe had met Jayasuriya individually and held discussions on the future of the party.
A senior UNP official told Daily FT that the UNP is concerned about rallying the votes of the Sinhala Buddhist community and plan to propose Speaker Jayasuriya as a “compromise” leadership option as the party struggles to organise itself ahead of crucial Parliamentary Elections expected later this year.
“Karu Jayasuriya has the support of Buddhist clergy, the minorities and civil society groups which the party needs for the upcoming elections,” the source said pointing out that Premadasa may find it easier to work with Jayasuriya than with Wickremesinghe.
However, it is unclear whether Premadasa will be comfortable with Jayasuriya being a leadership option as he had earlier stated he would not lead the UNP General Election campaign unless he is given the party leadership position. UNP insiders familiar with the talks between the two factions said one option being considered in Premadasa and Jayasuriya becoming co-leaders.
The matter may also need to be rubber stamped by the UNP’s Working Committee.
The UNP’s leadership tussle intensified after the Presidential Elections in November with Premadasa and his supporters scaling up efforts to oust Wickremesinghe. But so far they have only succeeded in naming Premadasa as Opposition Leader and has made little headway in changing the leadership. The standoff has also splintered the party, which analysts say could struggle in the upcoming elections if they do not quickly put their house in order and resume campaigning.