In an embarrassing development for the UNP, State Enterprise, Hill Country Heritage and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella has not received a single major state institution as per the Gazette on the allocation of subjects to ministries.
Kiriella has only received four minor institutions – namely Ceylon Ceramic Corporation, KESCO, BCC Company and the State Resources Management Corporation – that are on the verge of bankruptcy.
During the pre-October 26 government, the State Enterprise Development Ministry had several major institutions including all state banks, Sri Lanka Insurance, SriLankan Airlines, Hilton and several other SOEs.
The move is a direct attack on Kiriella who stood up against President Maithripala Sirisena during the meetings held between the President and the UNF party leaders on resolving the political crisis. At the last meeting held between the two parties, Kiriella openly said the President had violated the Constitution and the Judiciary would rule against the President’s actions.
During the meeting between the President and the UNF party leaders on December 03, Kiriella openly told the President that his party would only discuss the re-appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. At this point, Sirisena said he would not appoint Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister even if all 225 MPs in the House supported him. With these comments, the meeting ended abruptly and the UNF members walked out of the meeting room.
Informed political sources said the latest development was an act of seeking revenge from Kiriella who strongly defended Wickremesinghe.
Sources close to the Prime Minister said Wickremesinghe had told Kiriella today that he was unaware of the development and it was the President who had committed the institutions. Kiriella is scheduled to meet Wickremesinghe on Monday to further discuss the situation.
However, Kiriella has informed his friends and family that he would resign from the ministerial post under the current circumstances, as he cannot “face his supporters”.
“The Prime Minister cannot wash his hands off saying it was the President who immitted the institutions. It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to protect the people who stood up for him. All eyes are now on Wickremesinghe to see how he handles the situation,” a top UNP source told Colombo Telegraph.
Kiriella who is the UNP Kandy district leader won the district by 84,000 at Sirisena’s Presidential Election in 2015. Further he received the highest number of votes in the general election in 2015 by getting votes close to 200,000 which is the highest any Mp has received in Kandy.
There is also speculation that Sirisena has done this move to try and weaken and de moralize the UNP in the Kandy district due to the pressure received by SB Dissanayake, Sarath Amunugama, Keheliya Rambukwella and even SLPP’s Lohan Ratwatte.