18 member Cabinet sworn in yesterday

by Sumadhu Weerawarne

An 18-member Cabinet of Ministers was sworn in yesterday at the President’s House with the remaining member scheduled to be sworn in on Monday once he returns from abroad. There was speculation that the Cabinet had in fact been stretched to 21 one members with the President and Prime Minister both holding ministerial portfolios too among its numbers.

PA sources however contended that there had been just 18 appointments with the Presidency and Prime Ministership being constitutionally guaranteed positions. The JVP too concurred with this position. JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake clarified that in terms of the agreement, the requirement was the appointment of a 20-member Cabinet, and not the formulation of just 20 portfolios. "When reference was made to the previous Cabinet, it was said to be a 44-member Cabinet excluding the President and the Prime Minister from its numbers. Our concern is with cutting-down costs, and this entailed a physically small Cabinet. We wanted fewer people in the Cabinet, but made no stipulation on the number of portfolios. So the appointments are in fulfillment of the conditions set out in the MOU," he said.


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As reported in the The Island earlier this week, Ronnie de Mel (Trade, Industrial Development and Rural Industries), D M Jayaratne (Agriculture, Forestry, Food & Co-operative Development), Mahinda Rajapakse (Ports, Shipping and Fisheries), Richard Pathirana (Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, Local Government & Southern Development), Amarasiri Dodangoda (Human Resources Development, Technical and Vocational Education), Nimal Siripala de Silva (Health, Indegenous Medicine and Social Services), Mangala Samaraweera (Urban Development, Public Utilities, Housing and Sports), Anuruddha Ratwatte (Lands, Irrigation and Power), Indika Gunawardena (Posts and Telecommunication), A H M Fowzie (Highways and Muslim Religious Affairs), Lakshman Kadirgamar (Foreign Affairs), Batty Weerakoon (Justice, Ethnic Affairs and National Integration), Douglas Devananda (Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the North and Tamil Affairs, North and East), Dinesh Gunawardena (Transport and Environment Protection), Mrs. Feriel Ashraff (Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the East, Rural Housing Development and Women’s Affairs) and Arumugam Thondaman are members of the Cabinet. CWC Leader Thondaman (Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure) who was absent yesterday, will be sworn in on Monday once he returns to the country. Dr Sarath Amunugama (Education and Higher Education), Maithripala Sirisena (Mahaweli Development and Parliamentary Affairs) are also in the Cabinet Athauda Seneviratne (Labour, Youth Affairs and Mineral Resources Development). The latter two were inducted to the Cabinet following the rejection by Prof. G L Peiris and S B Dissanayake of the portfolios offered to them. Prime Minster Ratnasiri Wickramanayake retained his previous position and was given Buddha Sasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs and Plantation Industries portfolios.

MPs Sumedha Jayasena who was previously the Minister of Women’s Affairs, H B Semasinghe formerly Minster of Co-operative Development, Leslie Gunawardena formerly Minister of Science and Technology lost their positions altogether, neither being appointed Ministers nor Deputy Ministers.

The President retained the Defence, Finance and Media portfolios, while the Tourism and Aviation and Samurdhi Affairs portfolio, the final slot in the Cabinet remained open. There was speculation that negotiations were underway to offer the position to one of the four dissident MPs in a last minute move. The Science and Technology portfolio previously held by Prof. Gunawardena was not included at all in the formulation of ministerial portfolios.

Ronnie de Mel formerly Minister of Ports Development and Development of the South was given Trade, Industrial Development and Rural Industries; D M Jayaratne formerly Agriculture Minster was also given Food and co-operative Development; Mahinda Rajapakse retained Fisheries and was also given Ports and Shipping; Richard Pathirana retained the Public Administration and Home Affairs slots and was also given Provincial Councils, Local Government and Southern Development; Amarasiri Dodangoda retained Vocational Education and was also given Human Resources Development; Nimal Siripala de Silva swapped the Posts and Telecom portfolio for Health, Indegenous Medicine and Social Services, with Indika Gunawardena being given the Posts and Telecom portfolio; A H M Fowzie retained the Highways portfolio and was given Muslim Religious Affairs in Addition; Maithripala Sirisena retained the Mahaweli Development portfolio and was given Parliamentary Affairs in addition. Batty Weerakoon was given Ethnic Affairs and National Integration on top of the Justice Ministry portfolio, and will also be in charge of constitutional affairs even though there is no such official portfolio, according to sources. Sarath Amunugama was given new portfolio altogether, the Education and Higher education portfolio, while EPDP’s Douglas Devananda retained his previous portfolio. MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena’s portfolio was enhanced to include Environment Protection, while Mrs. Feriel Ashraff’s portfolio was enhanced to include Women’s Affairs. Athauda Seneviratne was given a new portfolio altogether, Labour, Youth Affairs and Mineral Resources Development, while CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman retained his previous portfolio. Mangala Samaraweera received the biggest boost as he was given a Deputy-Ministership under the President on top of an enhanced Ministerial portfolio that now includes Sports. Alavi Moulana was elevated to the position of a virtual Minister in his role as Deputy Minster of Media, as the Media portfolio is being held by the President. Anuruddha Ratwatte’s portfolio also was enhanced to include Lands.

Twenty-one Deputy Ministers too were sworn in yesterday among them Mangala Samaraweera (Finance Planning) and Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte (Defence) also hold ministerial portfolios. The others are Nandimitra Ekanayake (Post and Telecommunication), Alavi Moulana (Media), John Seneviratne (Health and Social Services), Reggie Ranatunga (Ports and Shipping), Monty Gopallawa (Buddha Sasana), Milroy Fernando (Fisheries), Jeevan Kumaratunga (Housing and Sports), Mrs. Pavithra Vanniarachchi (Highways), Lakshman Kiriella (Trade and Industrial Development), Salinda Dissanayake (Samurdhi), Anura Priyadarshana Yapa (Education and Higher Education), Tissa Karaliyadde (Indegenous Medicine), Maheepala Herath (Rural Industries), Susil Premajayantha (Urban Development and Public Utilities), Harendra Corea (Foreign Affairs), Munidasa Premachandra (Agriculture and Forestry, Shantha Premaratne (Tourism and Aviation), Felix Perera (Power) and Janka Bandara Tennekoon (Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure). The appointment of Deputy Minister Tennekoon had entailed some drama with the him being summoned twice and being sworn-in only on the second occasion, according to sources. There was further drama as John Seneviratne formerly the Health Minster was sworn in as the Deputy in that same portfolio. He had voiced his protest but had proceeded to take oaths nevertheless. The appointment of the contentious Maheepala Herath against whom a no-faith motion lies before Parliament, as a Deputy Minister too came as a surprise

The oath-taking was scheduled for 8:24 am but only got underway much later as the President was delayed.