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Former Sri Lanka PM Ranil steps down as leader of UNP

The Leader of Sri Lanka’s United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe stepped down from the party leadership on Monday, after he failed to secure a parliamentary seat in the recently concluded Parliamentary Election in which the UNP suffered a humiliating defeat.

UNP General Secretary, Akila Kariyawasam said that the names of Ravi Karunanayake, Daya Gamage, Vajira Abeywardena and Kariyawasam’s name had been nominated for the leadership post.

This decision by Wickremesinghe will bring an end to his over 40 years political career. UNP has a disastrous Parliamentary Elections securing just one seat.

Rise of SJB

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday said the party was ready to fulfil the role of the main Opposition in the 9th Parliament, which will meet on 20 August, and would prioritise protecting democracy.  

SJB National Campaign Organiser and former State Minister for Finance Eran Wickramaratne told reporters that the party was ready to represent the public, and uphold the mandate they have given the party at the polls.

“We are a party that is a few months old, and we have emerged as the main Opposition. We will represent the people and uphold the faith they have placed in us, particularly to ensure that democracy and the 19th Amendment is protected,” Wickramaratne said.

The SJB also alleged that a team of “UNP legal experts” were attempting to illegally influence the counting of ballots in Colombo, in order to secure a seat for UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

Issuing a press release, SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that the party had lodged strong protest regarding the incident with the Election Commission, and is planning to take legal action against the act.

The SJB was formed on a directive by the United National Party (UNP) Working Committee in February 2020, after a prolonged struggle within the UNP to change its leadership. The SJB, headed by Sajith Premadasa, attracted many UNP parliamentarians to their ranks, compounding the long-running battle for leadership between Premadasa and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNP suspended the membership of UNPers who supported the SJB and sought nominations from the new political entity. Both the UNP and the SJB took the membership suspension to courts, where the courts upheld the UNP decision to suspend the membership of 102 members.

Subsequently, the UNP moved to terminate the memberships of those who they had suspended. 

The SJB has said they will appeal the court’s decision, and that they will work to overturn the membership terminations after the General Elections.

Prepared to work with UNP

Meanwhile SJB says it is prepared to work with the United National Party (UNP) at future elections if the UNP accepts the policies of the SJB.

SJB spokesman Harin Fernando said that the SJB will not celebrate over the defeat suffered by the UNP.

He said that the SJB consists of mostly UNP members who still love their old party.

“Now is the best opportunity to unite so we invite the UNP to work with us. But if they want to appoint their own people to certain posts then the people will decide the future of the UNP,” he said.

Fernando said that the SJB is keen to work with the UNP at the next election provided they accept the policies of the SJB.

“We invite the UNP to work with us at the local council elections. This party did not have to split. We had no intention of breaking up the party. But we had no choice,” he said.

Fernando said that the SJB will continue as a new party in future and build a strong opposition.

He said the SJB is happy with the Parliamentary Election results which was achieved after establishing the party only a few months before the election.

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