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Last updated: 21 November, 2005 - Published 16:49 GMT
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UNP: Ranil stepping down
Wickramasinghe addressing security forces in Jaffna
Wickramasinghe has decided to step down as opposition leader
The main opposition candidate defeated in the Sri Lanka presidential elections has decided to step down from the leadership of the United National Party (UNP).

UNP parliamentarian Rajitha Senarathne said Ranil Wickramasinghe will also step down as the leader of the opposition in the parliament.

He told BBC Sandeshaya ( that the party leaders have suggested deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya to be appointed new leader of the UNP.

Parliamentarian Senarathne, however, added that the UNP will not change its economic policy and the stance taken on Sri Lanka’s national question.

Emerging 'divisions'

"The UNP will continue to consult Mr. Wickramasinghe on policy matters."

Ranil Wickramasinghe lost Thursday’s presidential elections to Mahinda Rajapakse by a narrow margin.

 The UNP will continue to consult Mr. Wickramasinghe on policy matters
Rajitha Senarathne

The UNP leaders have also suggested that the senior positions such as Chairman and General Secretary should be held by active politicians, instead of officials close to the leadership.

Senarathne alleged that divisions are emerging within the partners of the new coalition as the president is selecting his new Cabinet of Ministers.

"The JVP has suggested Mangala Samaraweera to be new Prime Minister, but President Rajapakse has given a clear signal on his authority and his direction by appointing a hawk."

President Rajapakse has appointed former National Security Minister Ratnasiri Wickranayake as new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

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