Five Cabinet slots yet to be filled

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) offered to join the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, but their leaders haven’t been accommodated in the Cabinet. They are likely to be appointed ministers, sources said.

The EPDP contested on its own whereas the CWC fielded candidates on the UPFA ticket. EPDP leader Douglas Devananda was returned to parliament from Jaffna. CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman and party heavyweight Muththu Sivalingham were re-elected from the Nuwara Eliya district.

Sources pointed out that as the parliament had authorised the new administration to appoint up to 48 ministers and 45non-cabinet ministers (State Ministers and Deputy Ministers); the two minority parties could still join the government as there were five vacancies.

The President has so far appointed 43 cabinet ministers, 32 who contested on the UNP ticket and 11 under the UPFA banner. However, none of those UPFA constituents, namely the National Freedom Front (NFF-five seats) and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Democratic Left Front (DLF) and Communist Party (CP) which secured one seat each had been accommodated.

The cabinet included two women namely Thalatha Atukorale and Chandrani Bandara.

All eleven slots offered to the UPFA were taken by the SLFP. The lucky recipients included two defeated candidates S.B. Dissanayake (Kandy District) and Mahinda Samarasinghe (Kalutara District) who had been brought to parliament at the expense of those originally named in the UPFA National List. The President altogether appointed seven defeated SLFP candidates via the UPFA National List.

President Maithripala Sirisena also accommodated former UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjayantha, SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa as well as former Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody in the cabinet. Weerakkody hadn’t been previously received a cabinet portfolio.

The UNP shared the ministries allocated to the party with its partners. The SLMC (Rauff Hakeem), ACMC (Rishad Bathiudeen), National Workers Union (Palani Digambaram), Jathika Hela Urumaya (Patali Champika Ranawaka) and Mano Ganesan received a ministry each. Ganesan hadn’t been a member of parliament since 2010 after being defeated in that parliamentary election from the Kandy District.

In addition to them, President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe accommodated rebel SLFPers in the cabinet. Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Arjuna Ranatunga and M.K.D.S. Gunawardena, who contested on the UNP ticket to protest the party giving nominations to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, received cabinet portfolios.

Longstanding SLFPer S.B. Navinna, who switched allegiance to Wickremesinghe in the run-up to nominations last August to join the fray in the Kurunegala District from the UNP, was among those who received cabinet portfolio.

SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake received agriculture portfolio. Interestingly, the UPFA General Secretary Wishwa Warnapala is not a member of the new parliament.

Sources pointed out that one of the most significant moves made by Premier Wickremesinghe was to place Law and Order & Prison Reforms portfolio under one-time Defence Minister Tilak Marapone. A former Attorney General, Marapone held the Defence portfolio during the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and earned the praise of the military for being forthright in his stand on truce violations at that time. Senior UNPer John Amaratunga lost the law and order portfolio.

Forty five non-cabinet ministers are expected to be appointed soon.

Political sources said that non-cabinet portfolios, too, would be shared among the UNP and its partners as well as the SLFP. UNP’s partners secured about one fifth of the total number of seats obtained by the party at the parliamentary polls. Of them, the SLMC performed best with seven seats including one National List slot.

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