Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G.L Peiris yesterday urged President Maithripala Sirisena not to allow a UNP bid to expand the cabinet contrary to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Prof. Peiris alleged that an attempt was being made to increase the number of Cabinet of ministers to 48 and non-Cabinet ranks to 45 on the basis of formation of a national government by swearing in several new ministers.
Prof. Peiris took this matter up at a media briefing held at the Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla SLPP office.He said Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella had listed a resolution in the Order Paper for July 31 (tomorrow).
Prof. Peiris said that the move was meant to strengthen the proposed National Democratic Front (NDF) in the run-up to 2019 presidential election.
The following is the text of the resolution: “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.”
The 19th Amendment enacted in 2015 restricted the size of the cabinet of ministers to 30 unless the party that secured the highest number of seats reached consensus with other political parties represented in parliament on the formation of a national government.
Prof. Peiris said that the UNP was making desperate efforts to strengthen the party fearing a defeat at the forthcoming presidential election. “The UNP is still struggling to cope up with the humiliating defeat it suffered at the Local Government elections in Feb 2018 and the crisis caused by the UPFA quitting the government last October,” Prof. Peiris said.
Prof. Peiris said that the ruling party could reach an agreement with the TNA and the JVP as their project was in the public domain. Prof. Peiris recollected as to how the UNP-JVP-TNA alliance successfully backed Sirisena’s candidature at the last presidential election in January after having failed in its previous attempt in January 2010.
Prof. Peiris alleged that the UNP was in deepening crisis with the current leadership undermining Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa’s bid to secure the UNP candidature. Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris asserted that ministerial portfolios were meant to discourage members from causing problems once Premadasa was deprived of the candidature.
Civil society groups which backed the common candidate at the 2015 presidential poll are believed to be opposed to Premadasa, Prof. Peiris noted.
Commenting on recent reports pertaining to the possibility of President Sirisena consulting the Supreme Court as regards holding of Provincial Council polls ahead of the presidential, Prof. Peiris said that the electorate now expected the scheduled presidential poll to take place. “Of course, we recognize the importance of having PC polls but now it is too late,” Prof. Peiris said, urging those who exercised power not to engage in foolish exercises as they feared the electorate.
The result of the last countrywide Local Government poll indicated the mood of the electorate, Prof. Peiris said adding that the post-LG election development definitely further weakened the support bases for both the UNP and the SLFP. According to him, instability caused by the Easter Sunday attacks further eroded the support bases for the UNP and the SLFP for obvious reasons.
The public never felt so unsafe even during the height of the northern war, he said.
Prof. Peiris said that the UNP bid to clear the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, of involvement with those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks would further erode public confidence in the UNP.