Jul 28, 2019

Birth of NDF under UNP leader; 48-member cabinet proposed Featured

With the birth of a National Democratic Front (NDF) on August 5 under the leadership of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, moves are afoot to increase the number of ministries to 48 and deputies to 45.

The new NDF is to be set up with the UNP’s existing parliamentary strength. With its allies, it now stands at 106. A further three or more Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) MPs are expected to join this number. This is without the participation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) or the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) though they are known to back the UNF.

The SLFP MPs, sources familiar with consultations now under way say, want to join as a team fronting the SLFP’s name. However, such a move would lead to their expulsion from the party.

Already, laying the groundwork for this purpose is a resolution to be moved in Parliament by Lakshman Kiriella, House Leader and Minister of Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development. It is listed in the Order Book for July 31.

This is what the resolution says: “Whereas the United National Party which obtained the highest number of seats in Parliament has formed a National Government, Parliament determines in terms of Article 46 (4) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka that the number in the Cabinet of Ministers shall not exceed 48 and the number of Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 45.”

After the political crisis that began in October last year, leading to the withdrawal of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the Cabinet size was brought down to 30. This was in keeping with provisions in the 19th Amendment as there was no longer a national government. In reality, however, there are only 28 functioning ministers with the resignation of Ministers Rishad Bathiuddin and Rauff Hakeem.

There are also six non Cabinet Ministers, 15 State Ministers and six Deputy Ministers, functioning at present.

The resolution if adopted, political observers note, will lead to another tussle between the Executive and the Legislature. Questions are being raised whether President Sirisena would give effect to the contents of the resolution.

Ahead of this year’s presidential election, an enlarged cabinet with more deputies will confer more clout to the proposed National Democratic Front under the leadership of the UNP.