By the “Sunday Times ” Political Editor
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe decided on Friday night that the much-talked-of Cabinet reshuffle will take place upon the latter’s return from China.
The meeting came just ahead of the Premier travelling to the airport to board a Singapore-bound flight en route to Beijing.
President Sirisena also directed him not to deal with any matters relating to the Hambantota Port project with a Chinese firm until a number of outstanding issues are resolved.
The Premier had proposed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding incorporating the different agreements with Chinese authorities. A Framework Agreement is also on the cards.
The Cabinet reshuffle turned out to be a sore point in the United National Party-Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) relations. SLFP ministers who met Mr. Sirisena on Monday night were to say they would sit as an ‘independent group’ in Parliament from August if the current disturbing political situation is not addressed.
The MoU between the SLFP and the UNP comes up for review in August. President Sirisena strongly rejected their move and said he would take drastic action. He made clear that he had pledged a Cabinet re-shuffle to the nation after consulting Premier Wickremesinghe. However, there had been no forward movement.
He said he would not hold weekly Cabinet meetings until he fulfilled the pledge he had made to the nation over the re-shuffle.
On the Concession Agreement over the Hambantota Port, a legal document, it transpired that President Sirisena had not been given a copy in advance.
When it was presented to the Cabinet, ministers agreed that it be approved provisionally authorising the President to make a full study. After a study, President Sirisena had halted the process until all issues, including those raised by the Attorney General over the Concession Agreement, were resolved.