Colombo, August 18: The talks between allies of the United National Party, main party in Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition, to form a broader alliance which will contest the presidential election later this year have ended without an agreement, a party member said on Sunday.
Sri Lanka has been wracked by political divisions since an unprecedented constitutional crisis last year, when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked United National Party (UNP) leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe was reinstated in December after the intervention of the Supreme Court, but the government remains deeply divided.
The allies of the UNP met Saturday to finalise the proposed Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
The allies agreed on certain aspects of the DNA’s constitution such as which party should hold the key position of its general secretary, the party member said.
The UNP led by premier Wickremesinghe stands divided on the issue of the party’s candidate for the next presidential elections which must be held before December 8.
UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa has launched his campaign to become the party’s candidate with a well attended public rally with many more planned in the coming days.
This was the second time the alliance formation had run into trouble. The original meeting schedule for August 5 had not happened.
Party general secretary Kabir Hashim said the decision was postponed until August 19.
The party rank and file says they want Premadasa to be the party’s candidate.
Wickremesinghe, who was the losing party candidate at two previous presidential elections in 1999 and 2005, however is in no mood to give up.
He appears to be the most favoured candidate among the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the UNP.
However, among the majority Sinhala Buddhist community, Wickremesinghe is being seen as pro West.
The majority Buddhists claim that Wickremesinghe’s less focus on national security issues in his bid to appease minorities was the reason that the government could not prevent the Easter Sunday suicide bombings carried out by a local jihadi group linked to the ISIS.
Nearly 260 people died in the blasts which happened despite prior intelligence warnings. In the aftermath, there have been arrests of Muslims for their links to the jihadi groups.
Wickremesinghe faced criticism from Buddhists, Muslims and the Christian communities who suffered mostly from the suicide bombings at three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21. (PTI)