Dec 23, 2018

UNF negotiates for 32-member Cabinet Featured

The United National Front (UNF) will negotiate to increase the number of ministers to 32, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, said yesterday.

“This is on the basis of our interpretation that there would be thirty ministers beside the President and Prime Minister holding portfolios,” he told the Sunday Times. Since the President had contended that the Cabinet should be 30 including the two leaders, talks were under way, he said.

The development came after President Sirisena rejected a UNF request to revive the “National Unity Government” with the UPFA . The United National Front led by the UNP has to go it alone in Parliament with only 106 MPs supporting them. However, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has offered support to the government with its 14 MPs.

The UNF request was conveyed to President Sirisena, who is also the leader of the UPFA and the SLFP by a four-member delegation led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickrmesinghe during a recent meeting. Others were Malik Samarawickrema, Rajitha Senaratne and Palitha Range Bandara.

Abraham Sumanthiran, the TNA’s architect for extending support for Ranil Wickremesinghe to become Prime Minister, said “we will support the government based on each issue.”

During a meeting with President Sirisena, the UNF delegation called upon the President to revive the earlier “National Government.” The delegates pointed out that Parliamentary approval for such an alliance and thus an enlarged Cabinet of Ministers still remained. However, President Sirisena turned down the request.

Earlier, the UNF leadership had considered an alliance with Ali Zahir Mowlana, the only Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) representative from the Batticaloa district. He is the only MP who won the August 2015 parliamentary elections on the SLMC ticket whilst all other SLMC MPs, including leader Rauff Hakeem, were elected on the UNP ticket. Premier Wickremesinghe turned down the proposal, which was exclusively revealed in the Sunday Times (Political Commentary) last week.