SLMC, UNP to work out new political arrangement

[TamilNet, Thursday, 04 September 2003, 16:46 GMT]
The United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), constituents of the ruling United National Front government of Sri Lanka, at a meeting Wednesday decided to explore the possibilities of contesting provincial and general elections under one banner in the future. The meeting was held at the Temple Trees residence of Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, the Prime Minister and leader of the UNP, to thrash out differences between the two UNF partners, political sources said.

It was further decided at the meeting that the leaders of both parties should meet once every fortnight to discuss and find solutions to internal squabbles. The first such meeting will be held on September 08 at Temple Trees. Speculation in political circles in Colombo is that both parties would sign a new Memorandum of Understanding for the forthcoming provincial council elections to further strengthen their political alignment, sources said.

Interior Minister Mr.John Amaratunge and UNP party chairman Mr.Malik Samarawickrema participated with the Prime Minister at the meeting. The SLMC delegation was led by Mr.Rauff Hakeem, its President and Mr.Hassan Ali, the general secretary, sources said.

The meeting was summoned by Mr. Wickremasinghe following a decision by the politburo of the SLMC that it should contest alone in the forthcoming provincial council without forming an alliance with the UNP or any other parties. The SLMC leaders were of the view that continuing the present alliance with the UNP while some of the UNP parliamentarians adopted a hostile attitude towards SLMC politicians in the east and especially outside the Northeast province would not benefit the SLMC in the long run, political sources said.

The SLMC leaders further said that even if the SLMC wanted to continue the present alliance with the UNP, it would be on a new arrangement between the two parties and not on the present MoU, party sources said.

The SLMC signed a MoU with the UNP before the 2001 December general election after leaving the People Alliance government due to difference of opinion with the President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge. Since then the SLMC played a leading role in bring the UNP led political alliance UNF in December 2001 general election, sources said.

The political relationship between the UNP and SLMC has been strained as a result of party rivalry. In the meantime, the main opposition Peoples Alliance is wooing the SLMC to join it in its attempt to form a new government without dissolving parliament and holding a new general election, political sources said.

Meanwhile, addressing party activists in Puttalam Thursday, Mr. Hakeem said the co-operation of the SLMC is essential to find a permanent political solution to the ethnic conflict. Without the cooperation of the SLMC, no major political party could solve the national crisis, he added.

 

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