The Sunday Leader

Herculean Task Ahead For Maithri-Ranil Duo

  • Anuradha and Dushmantha purposely avoided swearing in ceremony
  • MR granted status of a Cabinet minister
  • No final consensus yet on UNP-SLFP agreement
  • RW to visit India this week

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Maithripala Sirisena and the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe despite many hiccups have managed to create a new political culture in the country.

The formation of a national government and the granting of the Opposition Leadership to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) amidst the heavy polarisation of the Sri Lankan society by the former Mahinda Rajapaksa regime on religious and ethnic grounds.

Despite forming a new political culture, both the SLFP and the UNP are yet to reach a final consensus on the two year agreement that is to be in effect during the period of the national government.

Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

The Sunday Leader learns that although the initial agreement was signed between the two parties on the day Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister, the SLFP and the UNP are yet to reach a consensus on the additional clauses proposed to the agreement by the SLFP.

In this backdrop, the SLFP and the UNP while working together on national issues, is paying great attention to strengthening their respective party ranks.

A closer look at the appointments made during the past week by Sirisena clearly indicates another new programme undertaken by the President – to build a new team of SLFPers around him.

It was this agenda that was visible in the President’s appointment of the new chief ministers for the Western and North Western Provinces. Amidst an intense battle for the chief ministerial posts, Sirisena opted to appoint Isura Devapriya for the Western Province and Dharmasiri Dassanayake for the North Western Province.

Both Devapriya and Dassanayake were astonished by the President’s move to appoint them as the heads of the two provinces. It is learnt that Devapriya was informed only the night before he was sworn in that he was to be appointed the following day as the chief minister of the Western Province.

It was a similar move that resulted in the President granting deputy ministerial portfolios to several young new entrants to parliament as well. Two such individuals were former Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne’s son, Anuradha Jayaratne and former minister Mithrapala’s son, Dushmantha Mithrapala.

Nevertheless, Sirisena was faced with an unexpected situation last Wednesday when a group of new state ministers and deputy ministers were sworn in.

Both Anuradha and Dushmantha were absent at the event. The President was visibly angry that the two young MPs had ignored his move.

The two new MPs it is learnt had been in double minds over accepting portfolios in a national government, which they felt would result in them having to face unwanted controversies with the party membership in their constituencies. The defeat of a majority of the SLFP members, who accepted ministerial portfolios during the interim government, at the last election had disturbed the two young MPs. They have claimed that they did not want to face such a fate at the next election.

However, SLFP General Secretary, Minister Duminda Dissanayake had intervened and after discussing with both Anuradha and Dushmantha had got them to agree the deputy ministerial portfolios.

The President had by then declared that the two young MPs had rejected his offer since they were not supportive of him. After reasoning everything with the President, he had then agreed to once again offer the deputy ministerial portfolios to Anuradha and Dushmantha.

 

Cabinet swapping

Meanwhile, the country’s cabinet was expanded this past week when President Sirisena swore in several new Ministers and over 40 new Deputy and State Ministers.

However, despite numerous defeated candidates being accommodated on both the National List, and in the new cabinet, there were some Members of Parliament who decided that they would assume a portfolio of their own choosing.

On Wednesday, following the swearing in of the deputy Ministers, UPFA MPs Arundika Fernando and Nimal Lansa decided that they would swap their respective portfolios following what they termed as a mutual agreement. As it now stands Lansa will hold the post of Deputy Minister for Home Affairs while Fernando will hold the post of Deputy Minister of Tourism and Christian Affairs.

Interestingly the President’s office has chosen to remain silent on the issue, drawing concerns that perhaps more Ministers will follow suit in the future if they find their respective portfolios to not be a suitable match.

This will also raise questions over whether or not the 19th Amendment, which gives the Prime Minister the power to advise the President on cabinet portfolios, will be ignored.

Several other UPFA members who assumed duties as Deputy Ministers and State Ministers this past week also drew criticism from them public, due to their defeat at the elections. Sources close to the President has stated that Sirisena was forced to appoint defeated candidates to Parliament via the National List, and in turn offer them portfolios, as he feared the Rajapaksa faction in the Opposition benches would be too strong.

This has left much of the public questioning whether or not Sirisena is more concerned about the preservation of the SLFP ahead of the Parliament.

 

War path

The appointment of cabinet, state and deputy ministers irked the Convener of the National Movement for a Just Society, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero.

The Thero first vented his anger when Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader, Minister Rauf Hakeem paid a visit to him.

As soon as Hakeem commenced a courtesy call on Ven. Sobitha Thero, the angry monk claimed that the government that has assumed office pledging the establishment of good governance principles has kicked in the back the forces that backed good governance during elections.

Ven. Sobitha Thero further noted that apart from appointing defeated individuals to parliament, the government had also appointed them as ministers.

He added that the forces that supported good governance were dismayed at the move and would take all necessary steps to continue its struggle for the establishment of good governance in the country.

Another minister of the government, Arjuna Ranatunga also had his share of explaining to do. Ranatunga last week visited the chief prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiri Chapters in Kandy.

During the visit, Ranatunga assured that the government was committed to ensuring that the kind of corruption and fraud that took place during the former Mahinda Rajapaksa regime will not be allowed under the new government.

He claimed that the new government was not a mere change in the posts held by individuals, but mainly a change in political policies.

A similar sentiment was also expressed last week by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who claimed that regardless of the individuals granted portfolios, the government will not allow any form of corruption or fraud.

 

Perks for MR

In another development, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP, former President Rajapaksa was last week granted the status of a Cabinet minister by the government.

The status was granted to Rajapaksa in the form of a new appointment. Rajapaksa was appointed as the Chairman of the Kurunegala District Coordinating Committee.

Accordingly, Rajapaksa will now be granted the privileges of a Cabinet minister.

While Rajapaksa was being granted privileges of a Cabinet minister, several Rajapaksa loyalists were busy lobbying for ministerial portfolios in the new government.

 

Making history

Amidst many indications of a new era in the country was the UNP’s 69th Anniversary celebrations that were held last Sunday at the party headquarters in Sirikotha.

In a move that surprised many, the chief guest at the event was none other than President Maithripala Sirisena, who is incidentally the chairperson of the SLFP. Sirisena’s attendance at the event made it the first time in history that a leader of the SLFP has attended a UNP anniversary celebration.

With the continuous back-and-forth over ownership of the President, between the UNP and SLFP, Sirisena’s arrival at Sirikotha last Sunday morning was heralded by many UNP higher ups as a victory for the party.

However, close associates of the President have moved to quell such rumours suggesting that the President no longer stands aligned with a single party but stands besides all members of his national government.

Despite these claims, Sirisena made it clear that his position as the leader of the country, and his and his family’s safety, was due to the UNP. Speaking at the event Sirisena stated that he would forever be grateful to the UNP for giving him the opportunity to take up the challenge at the Presidential election.

 

MR-CBK clash

While Sirisena and Wickremesinghe were busy making history, two former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga took to the media this past week to trade blows over each other’s style of governance.

Speaking to Indian media, CBK explained that she was forced to defeat the SLFP at the past two elections as Sri Lanka had descended in to a police state under Rajapaksa’s presidency. She further attacked the SLFP, accusing its members of being either corrupt or murderers.

Rajapaksa, not taking lightly to the comments, responding in a full statement accused CBK of working against her own party. He further added that he had inherited the party from her in 2005, and as such it was shewho accommodated any members of disrepute.

Both Rajapaksa and Kumaratunga are patrons of the party, however, Kumaratunga plays an added role of being a Central Committee member of the SLFP.

 

RW to visit India

Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe is scheduled to visit India this week, between the 14th and 16th.

It will be Wickremesinghe first official visit abroad since his appointment as Prime Minister in January by President Sirisena.

Wickremesinghe choice – like Sirisena in February – of visiting New Delhi as the destination of his first state visit according to the Indian media should reassure India of the priority it enjoys in the Sri Lankan government’s foreign policy agenda.

The Indian media has reported that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe team is “more trustworthy” than the Rajapaksa regime, an official in India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, drawing attention to their attempt over the past eight months to “restore balance” in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, which had assumed a “pronounced pro-China tilt” during the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency.

Relations between India and Sri Lanka deteriorated during the former regime over Rajapaksa government’s reluctance to initiate a meaningful reconciliation with the Tamils and the Sri Lankan navy’s detention of hundreds of Tamil Nadu fishermen straying into Sri Lankan waters.

According to the Indian media, India was also concerned over China’s growing role in the Sri Lankan economy; Delhi feared that Sri Lanka’s mounting indebtedness to China would result in the latter securing for itself a military presence in the island. Such anxieties became real in September-October 2014 when Chinese submarines docked twice in Sri Lanka’s harbours despite India’s objections.

 

5 Comments for “Herculean Task Ahead For Maithri-Ranil Duo”

  1. ranjit demel

    only fools would believe in yahapalan and a new political culture.the president has already proved he is not for y.and a new p.c..one could believe hon. p.m. and the unp was for y.and a new p.c.,but allowing the president to bring in all the former rouges ,murderers corrupted politicians of the slfp to be in the government,the hon.r.w.has also proved he is no more for y.and a new p.c.rev sohobitha is barking non stop,without taking legal action against this government.rev sohobitha will never take legal a,,because the the jhu, the Buddhist sinhale nationalistic party is with the government.rev sohobitha you may bark,but have you not realized still that you are not important for the president nor for the hon p.m..even the majority of the, sinhale Buddhist voters did not listen to you.they voted for mahinda.no change ,the same procedure as before.the next move of the president would be to cut hon.r.w. neck.i predict r.w.wont last even for 2 years.

  2. garawi

    With regards to minister posts and other perks distribution I do not see much of a change in this government compared to the former !
    Political and police influence in the judiciary too seem still intact looking at the way the two innocent bus drivers found fault and not the PSD vehicle that broke all the traffic rules! I do not regret removing MR but I am disappointed with MS!

  3. C Pinto

    Why not increase the number of ministers to 116 to have a clear majority for a government of ministers to form a stable government . Ban all political parties make it one party state Who needs a dummy opposition.

  4. KARTHIGESU M NIRMALAN-NATHAN

    When you undertake anything in life the adage to fo follow is “Start as you mean to carry on.” Well. it seems to me as if we are taking the rute of slippery slope by looking at the appointments thus far. The hopes of a reformed and tolerant society and a lasting and equitable peace has got to wait another election, or a revolution of some kind. and am pretty sure we will not be seeing any of it in the near future. Kay sara sara.
    .

  5. Sangaralingham

    It is the responsibility of elected politician to keep themselves simple humble socially and morally dignified and participates in activities to promote the country economically morally with justice and FairPlay to one and all..

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