President Maithripala Sirisena has stopped members of his disputed cabinet from making key appointments to state-run institutions signalling early cracks in the uneasy coalition.
In a circular to all ministry secretaries, the President’s Secretary Udaya Seneviratne told them that there cannot be any appointment to boards and statutory bodies under them without first clearing with the President.
The move followed highly controversial appointments to Sri Lankan airline and Sri Lanka Insurance.
Former Sri Lankan airlines chief executive officer, Kapila Chandrasena, who is accused of mass-scale fraud at the airline was named its chairman, an appointment President Sirisena overturned.
Another Rajapaksa-loyalist Nalaka Godahewa, who is currently on bail on a charge of misappropriating state funds was reportedly appointed this week to head Sri Lanka Insurance, one of the richest state institutions.
It was not immediately clear if the latest order from the Presidential Secretariat would mean Godahewa would be removed.
However, two legislators from Sirisena’s party – Dayasiri Jayasekara and Mahinda Samarasinghe — said they were unaware of the appointment of Godahewa, but noted that President wanted all appointments to be made by a committee under him.
The secretariat’s order also suggested that Sirisena himself was unsure about the legitimacy of the “government” he had installed.
All appointments to state institutions must be on a temporary basis and the appointee would be either additional secretaries or retired officers. The individuals so named should not be politically exposed individuals, it added clearly ruling out Godahewa who is closely associated with Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabhaya.