- Wajira Abeywardena says UNF likely to form national government
- Says Sarath Fonseka and Range Bandara will be appointed later
- Contends article on what Cabinet portfolios President can hold is up for interpretation
The United National Front-led Government is set to expand its Cabinet once a final decision is reached on the formation of a national government, Internal Affairs and Home Affairs and Provincial Council and Local Government Minister Vajira Abeywardena said yesterday.
“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will make the final decision regarding a national government after speaking with other party leaders who are already with the UNP to form the National United Front. I believe this will be done in the coming weeks,” the newly-appointed minister told the media at a press conference held at Temple Trees.
Stressing the urgency to pass a Vote on Account, Abeywardena said the current Cabinet was rushed in to enable the Government to allocate funds for the next year to avoid a shutdown.
“The President appointed part of the Cabinet to ensure that the Vote on Account could be presented in Parliament to get monetary allocations for next year. That was a priority,” he said, adding that the Government aims to restore the country’s reputation and economy within two months.
More appointments are likely once President Maithripala Sirisena returns from a foreign tour, he confirmed. Among them, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is likely to receive a portfolio along with Range Bandara, Abeywardena said, explaining that a dispute on Fonseka’s appointment will be resolved soon.
Questions have been raised over whether Fonseka can be appointed to Cabinet while holding the position of Field Marshal as he will have to work with President Sirisena, who is also the Commander in Chief of the three forces.
However, Abeywardena said that the Defence Secretary, responding to the same question raised in Parliament earlier, had noted that Field Marshal Fonseka was a retired army officer and could hold any civilian position. The appointment of Bandara too would be given upon the President’s return, he said. It was learnt that both appointments, which had been recommended by the Prime Minister, were shot down by the President.
The ambiguity of the number of members in Cabinet, as the President himself holds two portfolios, also needs to be clarified before the full Cabinet is appointed, the Minister revealed.
On Thursday only 29 Cabinet members were appointed as the President holds onto Cabinet portfolios. However, Abeywardena said that number was likely to change depending on the interpretation of Article 51 of the Constitution.
“The specifications of the portfolios the President can hold is only relevant to this President and we need to seek interpretation on the matter,” he said.