Reconciliatory Cabinet meeting with SLFP participation

By Skandha Gunasekara

Striking a conciliatory tone, the weekly Cabinet meeting was held with the participation of all Cabinet Ministers, including the SLFPers who boycotted the previous meeting, with the President presiding over a “tea party” following the completion of discussions.

Highways and Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella, speaking to the Daily FT, was upbeat about the cordial atmosphere after weeks of speculation about crossovers and open dissent within the SLFP.

“It was a very cordial occasion and the meeting finished within an hour. One good thing was that the President hosted us to a tea party soon after the meeting,” he revealed.

Discussions on major political issues, including a Cabinet reshuffle which is likely to be carried out next week, were notably absent, according to the minister. President Maithripala Sirisena during an interview given in London did not rule out the possibility of previous Cabinet ministers being recycled into the new Cabinet. The President will be making a policy statement on 8 May when Parliament next meets.

The Minister also said that Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa had questioned as to why fertiliser was unavailable to farmers. The Government had earlier announced that it would also distribute fertiliser at a concessionary price to paddy farmers as well as plantation cultivators.

“However, Minister Duminda Dissnayake responded that it was in fact freely available for farmers to procure,” Minister Kiriella said, noting that the Government had reverted to the previous system of giving fertiliser directly as a subsidy instead of giving coupons or cash to purchase fertiliser.

Minister Kiriella went on to note that the matter of the fuel pricing formula was not taken up at the Cabinet meeting despite various media reports claiming that a final decision on the formula would be reached.