The new Cabinet of the UNP/SLFP-led Yahapalana Government would be sworn in before the Sinhala-Hindu New Year, sans the six SLFP Ministers, who voted in favour of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cabinet Spokesman, Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne said today.
Minister Senaratne added that the SLFP Central Committee was expected to meet last night (11) Chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena to give its sanction to 16 SLFP Ministers, State and Deputy Ministers to resign from their respective portfolios, making way for President Sirisena to swear in a new cabinet.
He said that the Cabinet vacancies created by resigning six SLFP Ministers would be filled with six SLFP members, who did not support the NCM.
“However, the group of 16 will remain in the SLFP as a separate independent group under President Sirisena in and out of Parliament and will not join the SLPP or the Joint Opposition,” he said.
Addressing the weekly Cabinet news briefing yesterday, Minister Senaratne said he hoped that the inter-party and intraparty squabbles in the UNP and the SLFP would come to an end as the Yahapalana Government was determined to launch a new journey with a new Cabinet and a new work plan.
“There will be changes when allocating portfolios to Ministers in the new Cabinet as President Sirisena is to follow a more pragmatic and scientific method when Cabinet portfolios are allocated. For instance, there will be no portfolio of Higher Education and Highways,” he noted.
Secretary to President Austin Fernando and Secretary to Prime Minister Saman Ekanayake are attending to the allocation of portfolios in the new Cabinet on the instructions President Sirisena, Minister Senaratne said.
Responding to a journalist, Minister Senaratne said if a Cabinet Minister who supported the NCM wanted to remain in the Cabinet he or she would have to express regret and make a full confession to the Government to be considered whether to accept it and give a Cabinet post.
“The Yahapalana Government consists of 148 members from the UNP and the SLFP and therefore, it needs only three more members to have a two-thirds majority,” he said.
Minister Senaratne said Ministry Secretaries would submit tender of resignations enabling President Sirisena to appoint Secretaries afresh to Ministries in the new Cabinet.
Answering to another question, Minister Senaratne said it was likely that Parliament would elect a new Deputy Speaker also replacing incumbent Thilanga Sumathipala at the first session of Parliament after the New Year.
“If the Parliament was dissolved soon after the 2015 Presidential Poll, the UNP would have achieved a landslide victory with a two-thirds majority but it was Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who proposed to President Sirisena to form a Unity Government with the SLFP.
“Basil was in the US and Mahinda was in Carlton at Tangalle licking the wounds of defeat,” Dr Senaratne said.
“It was because of the magnanimous gesture and statesmanship of Premier Wickremesinghe that led to the forming the Yahapalana Government with the SLFP as a partner.
“Unfortunately many in the SLFP have forgotten this,” Minister Senaratne lamented.
“If the LG Polls were also announced in the euphoria of election victory, the UNP would have been the absolute winner but Prime Minister Wickremesinghe wanted to form a common front to face the domestic and global issues.
“The foreign debts were escalating to unprecedented heights to trillions of rupees, the allegations of war crimes and human rights violations were gathering momentum in the global community. The UNHRC was in the process of passing resolutions against Sri Lanka.
“The economy was in tatters and prices of essential commodities were unbearable. It was because of these calamities that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe wanted a unity government, Minister Senaratne said.
Ministers Susil Premajayantha, John Seneviratne, S.B. Dissanayake, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Chandima Weerakkody and Dayasiri Jayasekera were among the 16 SLFP Ministers, State and Deputies who voted in favour of the NFM (Sandun A Jayasekera)