The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle has run into several snags including the resignation of several ministers, the indecision of the UNP‘s main partner in the ‘Unity Government’ (the SLFP) and the limiting clause regarding cabinet size enshrined in the 19th Amendment.
The 19th Amendment allows cabinet to exceed 30 members only in the event there is a national government. Although the amendment does not define what a ‘national government’ is, it has been assumed that such a government would include the entirety of the two parties with the most number of MPs in Parliament, in this instance the UNP and the SLFP.
However, with several SLFP Ministers resigning their posts and the SLFP yet to decide whether or not to remain in the Government, the ‘national government arrangement’ lapses, according to political analysts.
The General Secretary of the SLFP-led United People’s Freedom Alliance, Mahinda Amaraweera has stated that even those SLFP ministers and deputy ministers who supported the vote of no-confidence on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would ‘remain in the Government to strengthen and support party leader and president Maithripala Sirisena’.
The SLFP’s Parliamentary Group earlier decided unanimously to quit the Government but was asked by Sirisena to discuss the matter further. With the President currently in the UK attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the party has not yet officially announced its position.
Furthermore, with 16 SLFP MPs announcing a decision to sit as a separate group in the Opposition, the SLFP is no longer the second largest parliamentary group.
Constitutional experts, when contacted by Colombo Telegraph said that the weak wording with respect to ‘National Government’ in the 19th Amendment could now prompt litigation unless cabinet is kept to 30 or below.