Ranil Wickremesinghe will continue as the leader of the United National Party at least till early January despite his earlier announcement that he is ready to resign and appoint a new leader, senior party sources told Daily Mirror yesterday just after a secret ballot elected former Gampaha District MP Ruwan Wijewardene as the UNP's new Deputy Leader.
Ruwan Wijewardene contested for the post with Ravi Karunanayake, and he won through the secret ballet with 28-10 votes. Sources said the deputy leader will now be prepared by Wickremesinghe and other senior members to eventually take over the party after Wickremesinghe steps down from the post.
"As of now there is no certain date that Ranil will step down but it is expected he will hand over the leadership by early January and Ruwan will eventually take over. The party wanted a young leader and Ruwan was elected by receiving majority votes," a source said. Ruwan was appointed to the post after the UNP claimed that it fell vacant following the suspension of Sajith Premadasa after he was appointed the leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.
Ruwan will continue to maintain the same powers as what Sajith held in the party. Initially the Working Committee of the UNP decided to elect a new leader by Sept.6, when the party celebrated its 74th anniversary, but continuous talks between the seniors and contenders failed. Last week, the party held discussions continuously with a final breakthrough made over the weekend by shortlisting the candidates between Ruwan Wijewardene, Ravi Karunanayake and Arjuna Ranatunga. (JAMILA HUSAIN)