Even as Sri Lanka awaits a formal announcement on the dates for presidential and parliamentary elections, leader of the 18-party United National Front (UNF) Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday advocated switching to a parliamentary model akin to the Indian system.
A booklet outlining the shift with a Prime Minister as the executive head and President as constitutional head was presented by Mr. Wickremesinghe to monks at a temple here.
Earlier, he said the alliance headed by him would consider nominating General (retired) Sarath Fonseka as a consensus presidential candidate only if the former Army chief endorsed a 10-point common minimum programme with the abolition or substantial dilution of powers of the executive presidency as a key component.
The conditions also include important portfolios in the Cabinet for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Janatha Vimukhthi Peramuna (JVP), ensuring speedy resettlement of internally displaced persons in the north, establishing all the independent commissions for good governance and appointment of Mr. Wickremesinghe as caretaker Prime Minister.
Further, in the event of parliamentary polls preceding a presidential election, Mr. Wickremesinghe would be the prime ministerial candidate.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said a decision on the presidential candidate would be taken only after an election was announced and he was confident that General (retired) Fonseka had a clear understanding of the UNF policies.
"There is no reason to assume that General Fonseka is not a democrat," he was quoted as saying.
Confirming the thinking in the new opposition alliance on the presidential candidature of the General, a senior UNF leader and former Foreign Minister in the Rajapaksa government Mangala Samaraweera told the Island newspaper: "The prime objective would be to abolish the executive presidency within a stipulated period of timeAn individual candidate who has no party behind him will be the best placed to carry out this agenda."
Keywords: United National Front, UNF, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Tamil National Alliance, TNA, Janatha Vimukhthi Peramuna, JVP, Sri Lanka, President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Presidential candidate, General Fonseka