By Dharisha Bastians
Undeterred by mounting pressure on a bloated Cabinet, criticism over poor governance, rising costs and inefficiencies, President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday figuratively scored a century making it a team of 102 Ministers following a fresh round of appointments.
The much anticipated reshuffle which analysts described largely as an act of rewarding those who played a key role in the impeachment of Shirani Bandarnayake as the Chief Justice, saw change of portfolios for several in addition to the appointment of five new Ministers, two Project Ministers and six Deputies.
The overall tally of 102 includes 67 Cabinet Ministers, 30 Deputies, two project Ministers and three Monitoring MPs. Monitoring MPs are also granted ministerial rank.
The new appointees took oaths before President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees yesterday.
The key Ministries to change hands in the reshuffle were Power and Energy, which was transferred from JHU strongman Champika Ranawaka to former Technology and Research Minister Pavithra Wanniarachichi and Petroleum Resources held by Susil Premajayantha went to former Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa with the former appointed as the new Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy.
Five new ministries were created in the reshuffle bringing the total number of Ministers in the UPFA Government to 67. The Ministries of Sugar Industries, Investment Promotion, Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation, Education Services and Wildlife Conservation are the new portfolios created in yesterday’s rearrangement.
Four of the new Ministries have been divided amongst four former deputy ministers, with Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane appointed Minister for Investment Promotion, Jayaratne Herath appointed Minister of Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation, Duminda Dissanayake as Minister of Educational Services and Gamini Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa as minister of Wildlife Conservation.
The subject of Investment Promotion was previously assigned to the Ministry of Economic Development headed by Basil Rajapaksa.
Former Minister of Productivity Promotion Lakshman Seneviratne claimed the newly created Sugar Industries portfolio.
Former Deputy Minister of Cooperatives and Internal Trade Basir Segu Dawwod was appointed as Minister of Productivity Promotion in the reshuffle.
The main opposition UNP hit out at the numbers as being a further burden on the tax-payer and a body blow to the separation of powers concept. UNP National List MP Eran Wickremaratne said that with 102 UPFA Members now holding ministerial portfolios, the Government was a few Ministers short of a parliamentary majority made up entirely of ministers and deputy ministers. “The separation of powers becomes meaningless, when a majority of the legislature are of ministerial (or executive) rank,” Wickremaratne told Daily FT following the reshuffle.
Analysts said the main thrust of the reshuffle appeared to be the reassignment of the Power and Energy portfolio while at least two Government members who were instrumental in the impeachment were granted obvious promotions. Ravaya Editor and political commentator, Victor Ivan told Daily FT that the target of President Rajapaksa’s reshuffle appeared to have been Minister Ranawaka. “The President badly wanted to make a change in that sector,” Ivan said. He said it also appeared to be a system of rewarding certain UPFA members who had played a role in the impeachment process.
Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa was the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee that probed the impeachment against Bandaranayake while Wanniaarachchi led the team of five UPFA MPs that handed the motion of impeachment over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa on 1 November 2012. Several ministers and deputy ministers who received “promotions” were among the 117 signatories to the impeachment motion against Bandaranayake.
Under the restructure, the Economic Development Ministry will have four deputy ministers, with S.M. Chandrasena, Susantha Punchinilame and M.A.L.M Hisbullah sworn in to the positions yesterday. Muthu Sivalingam is also currently holds the position of Deputy Minister of Economic Development. Chandrasena previously resigned from his ministerial portfolio of Agrarian Services and Wildlife in September last year to pave the way for his brother to be appointed Chief Minister of the North Central Provincial Council.