Cabinet reshuffle to be further delayed


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Cabinet reshuffle scheduled to take place before Sinhala and Tamil New Year on April 14 is likely to be put on hold until the SLFP decides whether to remain in the government or not.

Political sources told The Island that President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe were not in a position to reshuffle the Cabinet in spite of their promises to do so.

President Sirisena, in consultation with PM Wickremesinghe effected some changes to portfolios held by the UNP on March 8. The promised changes have not materialised in the SLFP camp yet.

Sources said that the UNP had suggested that Cabinet portfolios be shared among the UNP and those SLFPers who abstained when the motion of no confidence against PM Wickremesinghe was put to the vote.

Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Chandima Weerakkody yesterday said that pending a final decision the decision making Central Committee on Monday night (April 9) decided SLFP Ministers should boycott Cabinet meeting today. However, President Sirisena, who is also Chairman of the SLFP and the Defence Minister would chair the meeting to enable the UNP to go ahead with it, Weerakkody said. The SLFPer said so in response to a query from Faraz Shauketally on live News Line on TV 1.

Weerakkody pointed out that the Cabinet of ministers couldn’t meet unless it was chaired by the President.

The minister assured that the SLFP wouldn’t want to cause disruption though it realized the political significance of their decision. There hadn’t been Cabinet boycott since the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s time, Weerakkody said.

Responding to UNP’s demand that those 16 SLFPers who had voted for the NCM against the Wickremesinghe be made to resign, Weerakkody revealed their letters of resignation had been submitted the day they voted for the NCM.

Explaining how their group, after having voted for the NCM proposed that the SLFP quit the government without further delay, Weerakkody reiterated their determination to take a unanimous decision.

Weerakkody said that President Sirisena was agreeable to follow a unanimous decision taken by them

Declaring that there was a likelihood of the SLFP quitting the government, Weerakkody said that, as elected members, they had to be mindful of public opinion.

President Sirisena’s parliamentary group comprises 41 members.

Asked to explain how they continued to hold ministerial portfolios after voting against the PM, Weerakkody said that President Sirisena had appointed Presidential Commission of Inquiry in late January 2017 on the recommendation by an SLFP Sub Committee that inquired into treasury bond scams of 2015 and 2016. The UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera had lodged the first complaint with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) in early 2015, Weerakkody said. Having strongly pushed for punitive action against those who had perpetrated treasury bond scams, the SLFP couldn’t back down now, Weerakkody added.

The SLFP couldn’t backpedal on the issue after having vigorously campaigned against bond thieves, Weerakkody, noting that they had to go for a coalition.

Weerakkody said the UNP had undermined his efforts to revive the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

Asked whether he was still pushing for the removal of UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera and SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake for not backing the no-faith motion, Weerakkody declined to comment on the deliberations now taking place. Acknowledging that a section of the SLFP group had wanted Amaraweera and Dissanayake replaced, he said a public discussion wouldn’t help settle the issue.

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