‘Prez yet to respond positively to ruling party’s request made last July’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is in a dilemma over the inordinate delay in finalising the new appointments to the Cabinet-of-Ministers, party sources say.The SLPP and President Ranil Wickremesinghe haven’t been able to reach a consensus on the list of SLPP nominees for Cabinet portfolios submitted in July last year.

Responding to The Island queries, sources said that of nine or 10 SLPP nominees, so far only Pavitra Wanniarachchi had been accommodated in the Cabinet-of-Ministers. Mrs Wanniarachchi received the Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation portfolio, on January 19, 2023.

Sources said that there had been only one written request in this regard submitted to President Wickremesinghe, within a week after the SLPP elected the UNP leader as the President on July 20, 2022, to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term. On behalf of the SLPP, General Secretary of the Party, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, made the written request, though it was yet to be fulfilled, sources said.

In terms of the Constitution, the Cabinet-of-Ministers should consist of 30 and the non-Cabinet 40.The SLPP expected President Wickremesinghe to finalise the appointments as his repeated attempts to win over a section of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) hadn’t been successful, sources said. If a consensus could be reached on a National Government, constitutional restrictions on the number of ministers and non-cabinet ministers could be ignored, sources said.

The much hyped National Government, propagated by the UNP, hadn’t been successful, they said, pointing out the SLPP’s legitimate request for sufficient representation in the Cabinet-of-Ministers was yet to be met. Sources explained that those who had been nominated, but were yet to receive ministerial portfolios, were humiliated by the excessive delay.

The Presidential Election is scheduled for next year. Top SJB spokesperson Mujibur Rahuman said that President Wickremesinghe was in a bind. Having failed to engineer crossovers in sufficient numbers, the President was under pressure to accommodate SLPP nominees.

Rahuman, who quit his parliamentary seat to contest the now indefinitely postponed Local Government polls, as the SJB’s Colombo mayoral candidate, said that a futile bid was made ahead of the recent vote on the IMF facility to engineer crossovers. The government could secure only 120 votes, 12 less than the number received by Wickremesinghe when he was elected the President, the former lawmaker pointed out.

Sources said that an attempt made by Mano Ganeshan and Rauff Hakeem, elected on the SJB ticket, at the last General Election, to work out an understanding between President Wickremesinghe and SJB, too, failed. The SJB was not interested in a political deal with President Wickremesinghe, under any circumstances, sources said.