Sri Lanka opposition intrigue: Patali denies SJB rift; non-committal on continued support

Reports of a rift within Sri Lanka’s main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) are mere speculation, SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka said, declining to confirm his support for a future presidential bid by opposition leader Sajith Premadasa.

Speaking to reporters on June 09, Ranawaka said his goal is to end dynastic politics in Sri Lanka.

Ranawaka has long been speculated to harbour presidential ambitions. Asked by a reporter if he had dreams of his own, the MP said: “Yes, I have a dream. I have a dream to dislodge family-rule from this country’s politics and hand the reins to a new generation with skill and talent.”

“We stand for a social transformation that will dismantle the cronyism and the dynasties that monopolised the country’s politics,” he added.

Ranawaka said his aim is to take the entire population to the topmost position in the country.

“We want to put an end to this system of inheritance that sees power transferred to children and grandchildren,” he said.

Asked if he can achieve his goal with Premadasa, Ranawaka said he and the Jathika Hela Uruumaya (HJU) that he led took the best option available at the time when he decided to back Premadasa’s candidacy at the 2019 presidential polls.

“The SJB and Premadasa’s conduct will decide what happens in the future,” he said, adding that no one can predict what the future holds.

Ranawaka’s comments come in the wake of an allegation by SJB MP Nalin Bandara on June 08 that classists and ‘radalawaadin’ (backers of aristocracy) in different camps have teamed up to prevent Premadasa from becoming president.

Without using the word ‘caste’, Bandara claimed that the opposition faced by Premadasa is nothing more than an issue of social status.

“We know that [former president and the SJB leader’s late father) President R Premadasa faced by many obstacles in his road to the presidency. He came from Kehelwatte; not from Colombo 07; not from an aristocratic family,” he said.

Bandara claimed there was a cabal of classists in Sri Lanka who cannot bear the thought of a Premadasa presidency.

“These people have teamed up, unconditionally, and made deals,” he said.

Ranawaka, however, denied that there is a rift in the SJB.

“There’s no problem at all. It’s all in the media,” he said.

The MP, known for his nationalist views, further said he is not one for hatching plots.

“We left then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government quite openly, after holding a party convention and presenting a set of proposals. We met and talked to him. He rejected our proposals, and then we quit. There was no backstabbing or having coffee together. Even here, we’re acting openly,” he said.

The SJB issued a statement on June 08 that the party’s parliamentary group has unanimously expressed their support for Premadasa’s leadership, amid speculation that all is not well with Sri Lanka’s main opposition party.

Asked if he would wholeheartedly support Premadasa at the next election, Ranawaka said: “There is no election yet. There’s no point talking about that.”