Colombo, Jan.24 – Sri Lanka’s former ruling United National Front (UNF) is on the verge of splitting up for the upcoming parliamentary elections which will be held in the country in April, with minority alliance members likely to contest under their own symbols due to the ongoing leadership battle between UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.
Already, alliance partners such as the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) has said that it will hold a meeting next Monday to discuss contesting under its own symbol, outside the UNF, in all 22 electoral districts in coalition with ‘like minded progressive and patriotic parties’ at the upcoming general elections, the Daily Mirror reported.
The TPA consists of the Democratic People’s Front, National Union of Workers and the Upcountry People’s Front.
The Daily Mirror said that other alliance partners such as the All Ceylon Muslim Congress (ACMC) led by Rishard Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by Rauff Hakeem and Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) led by Champika Ranawaka have already expressed their dissatisfaction at the UNP’s internal battle and informed Sajith Premadasa that in the event Ranil Wickremesinghe refuses to step down from the leadership, they would contest as a separate alliance under Premadasa.
A senior UNP MP said that Wickremesinghe was unlikely to step down from the leadership post ‘anytime soon’ and talks are currently underway by the Sajith faction to contest the general election under a separate alliance.
SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem said that his party had informed Sajith Premadasa that it would contest under one banner only if Sajith Premadasa leads a separate alliance in the event Wickremesinghe does not step down.
It is also learnt that the ACMC is looking at ‘several options’ before making its final decision.
Democratic People’s Front (DPF) Leader Mano Ganesan said the TPA was discussing going all alone in the upcoming elections while there were suggestions that the party should align with the TNA as well.
“The main reason for us to consider these alternatives is the infighting within the UNP, the main coalition partner in UNF. We want a strong UNP, hence a strong UNF, but it looks as if some sections of the UNP are working in the interest of the government in a deal,” Ganesan said.
“We do not interfere in the UNP leadership crisis, but we being a partner in the UNF, we cannot ignore it. There needs to be a reform in the UNP. There is a strong need for that. Sajith Premadasa and Karu Jayasuriya shall play lead roles to put the house in order along with Mr. Wickremesinghe. Let them decide who their leader is. But when such things are not happening we cannot just waste time but to look for alternate strategies,” Ganesan added.
Earlier this week, UNP MP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said that a final decision over the leadership crisis was likely to be taken by Friday but several UNP MPs are of the view that it was unlikely a decision would be taken.