Colombo, May 1 (newin.asia):The cabinet reshuffle which Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena effected on Tuesday, shows a rational distribution of portfolios which was not the case earlier. For example, Mano Ganeshan, who had National Co-existence but not Reconciliation earlier, has got it now.
The other reason for the re-shuffle was the need to fill the vacancies created by the resignation of 15 Ministers who had joined the opposition, disapproving of the continued alliance between the President’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. there were six cabinet ministers among the 15 who left.
The rebels felt that the SLFP’s alliance with the Right Wing and pro-West UNP had spoiled the electoral chances of the Left of Center and nationalistic SLFP, which was apparent in the February 10 Local Bodies elections. The elections were swept by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) , a new populist outfit formed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
There was no major change in the line up as a result of Tuesday’s reshuffle, other than the re-induction of Wijedasa Rajapakshe, the former Justice Minister who had resigned under controversial circumstances.
Earlier, the distribution of portfolios did not form a definite pattern, which confused ministers, officials, the public as well as foreign embassies and investors. Ministers felt helpless with some of their functions being handled by other ministries.
Having promised to make a “scientific” reshuffle, the President gave “Reconciliation” to Mano Ganeshan who earlier had “National Co-Existence, Dialogue and Official Languages” but not “Reconcilation” which is a criticial portfolio in the context of the need to bring the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalse together after a 30 year war.
The war ended in 2009, but ethnic reconciliation is still a far cry.
Previously, the Reconciliation portfolio was held by President Maithripala Sirisna and his second in command was AHM Fowzie, a senior minister but not a Tamil.
Srimilarly, the has rationalized the distribution of other portfolios.
Re-induction of Wijedasa Rajapakse
Additionally, Wijedasa Rajapakshe,former Justice Minister, has been brought back into the cabinet as Minister of Higher Education and Culture. Earlier, he had to resign from the Ministry of Justice because of his controversial remarks which annoyed the international community and a UN Special Rapporteur on torture.
When the Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson told him that “torture in Sri Lanka is on an industrial scale” Rajapakshe pointed out that US forces had perfected torture in their camps.
Rajapakshe was also known for his markedly pro-Sinhalese-Buddhist views which were not helpful to reconciliation with non-Buddhist ethno-religious groups.
However, the coalition partner, United National Party (UNP) to which Rajapakshe belongs, re-inducted him into the cabinet this time as he has clout among the Buddhist clergy which will be helpful in the coming provincial and parliamentary elections between the end of this year and mind 2020.
Eighteen new Cabinet Ministers were sworn in on Tuesday. Following are the Ministers and their portfolios:
1. Lakshman Kiriella – Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy Development
2. Sarath Amunugama- Minister of Science, Technology and Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training, and Hill Country Heritage
3. S. B. Navinna-Minister of Internal Affairs and Wayamba Development
4. Mahinda Amaraweera: Minister of Agriculture
5. Duminda Dissanayake: Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management and Disaster Management
6 Hon. Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa: Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and Rural Economy
7.Hon. P. Harrison: Minister of Social Empowerment
8. Kabir Hashim: Minister of Highways and Road Development
9. Ranjith Maddumabandara: Minister of Public Administration and Management and Law and Order
10. Thalatha Athukorala: Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms.
11. Faiszer Musthapha: Minister of Sports, Provincial Councils and Local Government
12. D.M. Swaminathan: Minister of Rehabilitation, Resettlement, Northern Development and Hindu Religious Affairs
13. Sagala Ratnayake: Minister of Project Management, Youth Affairs and Southern Development
14. Mano Ganesan: Minister of National Co-existence, Reconciliation and Official Languages
15. Daya Gamage: Minister of Social Welfare and Primary Industries
16. Field Marshal Hon. Sarath Fonseka – Minister of Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development
17. Ravindra Samaraweera: Minister of Labor and Trade Union Relations
18. Wijedasa Rajapakshe – Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs
Other ministerial portfolios will remain unchanged and the new State and Deputy Ministers will be sworn on Wednesday.