‘Grama Charika’ project likely to widen UNP split

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Beleaguered UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s latest initiative called ‘Grama Charika’ now scheduled to be launched in the Horana electorate over the coming weekend (Oct 30 and 31) is likely to be boycotted by those demanding immediate reforms, political sources say.

Sources say Hambantota District MP Sajith Premadasa and his supporters are unlikely to join the two-day long campaign, the first of several similar programmes before the forthcoming Annual Convention of the Party in December.

Dismissing the project, MP Premadasa told The Island that genuine effort was needed to revamp the party. He asserted that delaying tactics would be counterproductive, though a section of the party felt comfortable with such nonsense.

Premadasa boycotted a meeting held at Sirikotha recently to decide on "Grama Charika’ campaign. Sources say UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to return today (Oct 27) following a tour of London, Oslo and Brussels, where he met senior officials. Wickremesinghe is expected to brief the party regarding his talks with foreign officials before the launch of ‘Grama Charika’.

A spokesman for the UNP told The Island that Wickremesinghe during his visit to Brussels had discussed the difficulties experienced by Sri Lanka due to the recent loss of GSP plus trade concessions.

UNP sources said that the party would hold a series of activities over the weekend, including a protest at Horana on Oct 31 at 11 am demanding President Mahinda Rajapaksa to release former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to address a gathering at 6 pm.     

Sources said that the project was important to prepare the party for Local Government elections expected to be called in March 2011. Responding to a query by The Island, others alleged that the UNP leadership was making an effort to gauge the ground situation by launching ‘Grama Charika’. They pointed out that this was important in the wake of the recent disruption of a meeting called by defeated Galle District candidate Vajira Abeywardene at his Galle residence chaired by the UNP leader.

Well informed sources said that Wickremesinghe wouldn’t give in to MP Premadasa’s tactics. Sources said that the Wickremesinghe Camp was confident that MP Premadasa’s bid to undermine Wickremesinghe’s leadership was on the verge of collapse with some of his major supporters either joining the UPFA or distancing themselves from him.  

Premadasa is also under heavy fire for supporting the Rajapaksas’s cause during a recent visit to New Delhi.

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