By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday sworn in UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickreme as Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa as Minister of Irrigation and Water Resource Management (SLFP) and Faizer Mustapha as Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils (SLFP).
With the new appointments the number of cabinet ministers has gone up to 46.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently obtained parliamentary approval to increase the number of ministers and non-cabinet ministers to 48 and 45, respectively.
Among the 13 SLFPers who have received cabinet portfolios so far are three candidates defeated at the Aug. 17 parliamentary polls.
President Maithripala Sirisena accommodated unsuccessful candidates S.B. Dissanayake (Kandy), Mahinda Samarasinghe (Kalutara) and Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa (Moneragala) via the National List.
Two more vacancies in the Cabinet remain to be filled.
Political sources told The Island that the two remaining slots could go to the EPDP and the CWC. The EPDP contested on its own, while CWC fielded candidates on the UPFA ticket. The EPDP and CWC secured one and two seats, respectively.
The Supreme Court has fixed for support on Sept. 16, 2015, a fundamental rights violation petition filed by Communist Party leader D. E.W. Gunasekera of the UPFA against appointment of defeated candidates via the National List.
The UNP (13), UPFA (12), TNA (2) and JVP (2) shared 29 National List slots.
In addition to the UPFA accommodating seven defeated candidates, the UNP partner ACMC named one defeated candidate through the UNP List. Both TNA and JVP also named defeated candidates through the National List.
Former Minister Gunasekera yesterday told The Island that inclusion of defeated candidates in the cabinet had brought the new government into disrepute. Responding to a question, the political veteran asserted that the Supreme Court would take note of another rejected candidate receiving cabinet portfolio. The CP leader stressed that the appointment of such a large Cabinet was contrary to the 19th Amendment though the UNP and the SLFP had sought to justify the move on the basis of them having a national government. Gunasekera pointed out that what they were having was not a national government but a coalition.
Gunasekera said none of the UPFA’s constituents had been accommodated in the National List with all elected members representing NFF (5), MEP (1), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (1), CP (1) and Democratic Left Party (1) choosing to be in what he called the real Opposition.