It has now been revealed that opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe knew his General Secretary Tissa Attanayake’s defection since last week and ignored repeated requests to prevent him from joining the government especially at this juncture.
“He is joining the government, anyway. Don’t worry about the matter anymore. Let him go,” the UNP National Leader has told his close associates last week, when they informed him of the UNP General Secretary’s defection.
The first news of Attanayake’s possible defection surfaced three weeks ago, just two days after former SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena announced his candidature at the presidential election as the common candidate of the opposition. Soon after the story broke out, Attanayake admitted himself to a private hospital and ignored telephone calls from party members and his supporters. However, Wickremesinghe visited Attanayake at the private hospital and during the meeting, Attanayake held the opposition leader’s hand and assured that he would not leave the party.
A few days after this meeting, Wickremesinghe again started receiving information that Attanayake was planning to join the government. Meanwhile, a prominent online publication revealed that Attanayake had received a large sum of money from the government for a crossover – an allegation Tissa Attanayake flatly denied. It is widely speculation that the go-between in this crossover drama is DNA Parliamentarian Tiran Alles, who was ably assisted by a UNP Provincial Councilor representing the Western Province who also has a media background. Attanayake was in constant touch with the DNA Parliamentarian and the provincial councilor over the past few days.
All in all, it was crystal clear that the opposition leader was determined to get rid of the General Secretary of the party, who was anyway “flirting” with the government. No serious effort was made by the opposition leader to prevent his crossover or constant dialogues with the go-between.
It was amidst these reports that the UNP General Secretary assured, in a tearful speech, that he would not join the government and his conscience cannot be bought for money.
“The government cannot buy me over. My conscience could not be bought for money. No one in the UNP can be bought for money!” the General Secretary said, wiping tears off his face, addressing a meeting at Sirikotha,referring to media reports claiming the UNP General Secretary was negotiating with the government for a crossover. Even during the UNP convention, which was held on Saturday, Attanayake showed no sign of defection. However, by that time, the top rung leadership of the common opposition was aware of the fact that Attanayake was about to do a somersault. While the speculation was rife, UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa, who is known to be a close ally of Tiran Alles, highly appreciated the General Secretary of the party, in his speech at the convention.
Attanayake was occupying a house belonging to Malik Samarawickrama as his residence in Colombo. Following the crossover, he might have to vacate this house and as a temporarily measure he will be stationed at a five star hotel at the heart of the capital city of Colombo. Attanayake has only resigned from his position as the General Secretary and his party membership still remains intact. However, it is highly possible that the UNP will expel him from the party with immediate effect.