A total of 143 lawmakers vote in favour, 16 opposed while 63 members absent
Appointment of 48 Cabinet ministers, 45 non-Cabinet ministers including State ministers within days
Opposition slams move, insists expense unjustified
Move essential for development: PM
By Ashwin Hemmathagama, Our Lobby Correspondent
After a heated debate, the Government yesterday received Parliament approval to appoint 48 Cabinet ministers and a total of 45 non-Cabinet ministers including State ministers.
A total of 143 lawmakers voted in favour and 16 opposed the decision while 63 members were absent and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya remained independent.
UNP member-elect Palitha Thewarapperuma is yet to take oaths and was not available in Parliament. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Mahajan Eksath Peramuna, Janatha Nidahas Peramuna, and MP Udaya Gammanpila were among the 16 who voted against the combined Cabinet.
Following Article 46 (4) of the Constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe moved the motion. According to Article 46 (1) of the 19th Amendment, the total number of Ministers of the Cabinet should not exceed 30 and the non-Cabinet should be kept at less than 40.
Opposition lawmaker Anura Kumara Dissanayake held the determination as unconstitutional and insisted: “A Supreme Court determination is required for this. Why do you want to increase the number of ministers? You were given a mandate on 8 January to do differently from Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka couldn’t afford a big Cabinet. Some of the members in that Cabinet were highly corrupt. Now you are trying to bring them back and provide ministerial posts. The workload of a National Government is nothing more than the workload of a government,” charged MP Dissanayake.
In response Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe insisted it was not unconstitutional and Supreme Court approval was unnecessary.
“Currently we are the smallest Government in the world. We have less than five members in this Government and this approval is required to increase the numbers. We have seen by precedence what a National Government from UK is. They had one during World War I and the other during World War II. I like to tell you that all the parties in the House of Commons in 1940 did not enter the National Government. Independent Labour Party with two members along with two or three small other groups did not enter the Government but the three main parties came in the National Government,” said PM Wickremesinghe.
Joining the debate Opposition lawmaker Dinesh Gunawardene challenged the Government to prove the composition of a National Government.
“It is true that the UNP has the majority in the Parliament. But it is required to get support from accepted political parties in this Parliament. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party is not a political party accepted in this Parliament but a part of the UPFA. The JVP and ITAK are not supporting the UNP to form a National Government. In the absence of such support a National Government does not exist,” said MP Gunawardene.
Joining the debate UNP MP Sajith Premadasa insisted Parliament has the responsibility to develop the country. Therefore the Government needs support from Parliament, he noted, adding that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was attempting to get all members involved in the development process.
During the last Government, which was dissolved on 24 July, the Cabinet had 39 members including the portfolios held by the President and the Prime Minister, 14 State ministers, and 22 deputy ministers. However, during President Rajapaksa’s tenure, Sri Lanka had 52 Cabinet ministers.
Following the vote, Parliament was adjourned till 1 p.m. on Tuesday 22 September.