Ranil hints at hanging on to UNP leadership till 2030

The United National Party, Sri Lanka’s largest single party celebrated it’s 72nd anniversary at the party headquarters Sirikotha today.

Just 6 months after being defeated around the country by a new political party which faced their first election, there were many who hoped that there would be drastic changes made in the party to return it to winning ways, given the fact that the provincial council and presidential elections are just around the corner.

The usual hits played at each party convention were played this year as well, words like reform, rebuilding, future and new leaders and phrases like returning to the villages took centre stage once again at Sirikotha today. Leading the charge was the Prime Minister himself, who had earlier said that he is preparing to contest for the upcoming presidential election.

In his address to the convention, the leader of the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that he is currently in the process of building the next tier of UNP leaders and that they will have to worry about 2030 because he “will think about 2025.”

At first glance, this could be perceived as a harmless statement, however to those who have been following the political career of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe this ambiguous statement could ring a few alarm bells.

While the next presidential election is expected to be held in either 2019 or 2020, the 5-year term of the President could lead up to 2025. This could reinforce his stance on running for President. However, the second part of the statement, that the next tier of leadership should think about 2030 is where the ambiguity comes into play. Does this statement mean that the Prime Minister also hopes to run for the Presidency in 2025 at the age of 76?

This might not be too hard to imagine because of the previous track record of Wickremesinghe. Since becoming the UNP leader in 1994, in the backdrop of Gamini Dissanayake’s assassination, Ranil Wickremesinghe has had an iron grip on the party, weeding out anyone who could become a challenge to his leadership in the future.

Despite countless election defeats the leader of the UNP has managed to cling to power by dodging behind presidential candidates from other politicial parties. This has led to plenty of young leaders of the party abandoning ship, so when the Prime Minister says that he is now building the next tier of leadership, after over 25 years in power, the public knows that they should consider this statement with a pinch of salt.