For the grad old party started by D.S Senanayake the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the First Executive President JRJ now led by their relative PM Ranil Wickramasinghe, selecting the presidential candidate for the upcoming presidential election has become a big nightmare.
PM Ranil Wickremesinghe according party sources wants to give it a shot before he retires despite his failure to meet the expectations of the public . His Deputy, Minister Sajith Premadasa wants PM Ranil to take a back seat and make him the candidate. A few want Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to be a compromise candidate. People in general have had enough of PM Ranil Wickramasinghe, not because of his actions alone , but because of his cronies like Malik Samarawickrama, his Chief of Staff, Charith Ratwatte and R Paskaralingem.
Sajith Premadasa on the other hand is young and has the blessings of the President and also most of the party backbenchers, but lacks serious experience when it comes to governing.
Sajith Premadasa contrary to the UNP traditions has unfortunately taken his fight to the streets. Sajith Premadasa who is popular at the rural areas needs to tests his popularity in the cities before he take a dive, because unlike in a general election the Presidential election is won in the 6 big districts of Sri Lanka. Also the R Premadasa legacy will certainly hound the young Premadasa in his bid for the top job. R Premadasa who had done so much for the poor, unfortunately did not get the respect in the city when he died because of his poor governance record and because of the mob that surrounded him. Moreover without the active participation of the UNP Leader in his campaigns, Sajith Premadasa will find it hard to collect the six million + votes he needs to cross the finishing line.
Therefore a possible candidate, who is still hardly spoken of is Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Some months back he expressed his views on the matter in an interview with the BBC Sinhala Service and noted that if he is recommended by his party, he would consider campaigning for the presidential election. Karu Jayasuriya a one time second lieutenant in the Army who was in active duty during the first JVP insurrection showed his true mettle when the no-confidence motion against the government was presented before the parliament, he courageously acted as a protector of democracy. However something that will haunt Jayasuriya would be that in early 2007 Karu Jayasuriya resigned from the UNP and joined the Mahinda Rajapaksa government with 18 other senior members of the party and was sworn in as the Minister of Public Administration and Internal Affairs and he rejoined the UNP in 2008 and was appointed himself as the deputy leader.
But Jayasuriya will be contesting against someone who gave up his citizenship only to come back when his brother was appointed as the Presidential candidate. Karu Jayasuriya has huge a following among the Buddhist clergy far more than any other candidate in the fray. He was recently give the title of “Sasana Keerthi Shri Deshabhimani” award — the highest honour awarded to a layperson for services to the Buddha Sasana and, more broadly, to the nation as a patriot. Mr. Jayasuriya, who is the lay president of the Ramanna Nikaaya, belongs to a tiny minority of political leaders even their political rivals have never accused of bribery and corruption or encouraging petty ethnic or other tribal divisions. In addition, he was a very successful Colombo Mayor who ran a corrupt free administration.Speaker Karu Jayasuriya some months back was also awarded the honorary title of Jana Prasadini Lanka Puthra of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha.
Accepting the award he said the country needs to be rebuilt again. He added that he always requested the president, the prime minister and the opposition leader to work together for the well being of the country. He went to note that 72 years have passed and still Sri Lanka is not up to its true potential. He added that the country has dropped to a state where youth are inclined to migrate. He added that it was necessary to create unity among everyone in order to track development. He is the best man to do that given his conciliatory approach. Therefore if the 78 year old Karu Jayasuriya can come forward as a national candidate to abolish the Presidency, he will have a very good chance of uniting the anti UNP political forces and stand firm when it comes to abolishing the Presidency.