Mini battle for Key to Colombo city
by Shamindra Ferdinando

Colombo District UNP heavyweights are promoting former General Secretary B. Sirisena Cooray as their Mayoral candidate. But, they are facing opposition from others promoting National Olympic Committee Chief Hemasiri Fernando, former Ambassador in Teheran Omar Kamil and the incumbent Deputy Mayor Azath Sally.

The Island learns that MPs, Milinda Moragoda, M. H. Mohammed and Mohammed Maharoof recently urged UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to declare Cooray, a former Mayor of Colombo, as their leading candidate. Wickremesinghe promised to consider their request, a well informed source said adding that the UNP leader mentioned Fernando, a former head of the Sri Lanka Telecom, Kamil and Sally as likely candidates.

Moragoda has sought UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya’s consent. "Jayasuriya is agreeable," the source said. According to him Cooray would be able to retain the CMC currently run by the UNP. The former UNP strongman accepted the challenge, he said.

The tussle for Mayoral boots comes in the backdrop of the simmering leadership crisis triggered by the November 17 presidential polls.

Party sources emphasized the need to take a decision on the Mayoral candidate without engaging in another damaging fight.

Cooray was brought in as the chief organiser for north-central province weeks ahead of the last presidential polls.

The Island learns that Cooray was promised the opportunity to lead the party at the elections to the Western Provincial Council.

Hemasiri Fernando said that he was ready to accept the challenge. "Colombo needs a capable administrator," he said while assuring an effective administration if he is given the job.

A party official emphasized the need to avoid a mini-battle over the CMC referring to the leadership crisis.

The UNP is contemplating abolishing the post of party Chairman as part of the blue-print to resolve the leadership crisis. The post is currently held by business magnate Malik Samarawickrema, a Wickremesinghe loyalist.

The party is planning to name Imitiaz Bakeer Markar, a former MP, as the General Secretary of the Party, a post currently held by N. V. K. K. Weragoda, a former Cabinet Secretary. Wickremesinghe who would continue to retain the posts of UNP leader and Opposition Leader would implement the agreed reforms without delay.

Under the proposed reforms, the UNP would expand the Political Affairs Committee to 15 from 12 at present with the leader, deputy leader and General Secretary as ex-officio officer bearers. The remaining 12 appointments would be made jointly by the leader and the deputy.

The Political Affairs Committee would make appointments to the Working Committee. Jayasuriya is to be named the Executive President with the authority to implement the action programme aimed at regaining lost ground.


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