By Shamindra Ferdinando
The UNP has sought to increase the number of ministers to 48 and non-cabinet ministers to 45 on the basis of the formation of a national government in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Parliament enacted the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on 2015 April 28.
Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella, on behalf of the UNP, has handed over a ‘substantive motion’ to Secretary General of Parliament W. B.D. Dasanayake that the parliament decided in terms of 46 (4) of the Constitution the number of Cabinet ministers and non-Cabinet ministers shouldn’t exceed 48 and 45, respectively.
Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff Neil Iddawala yesterday said that once the ‘substantive motion’ was included in the agenda, the party leaders could decide when it could be taken up in keeping with the existing procedures. Iddawela said that it needed only a simple majority vote for ratificationi. Iddawela was responding to a query by The Island.Responding to another query, Iddawela explained that the ‘substantive motion’ needed simple majority of the number of MPs present at the time of the voting.
Parliament meets again on Feb. 05, 2019.
Having handed over the ‘substantive motion’ to the Secretary General of Parliament, Minister Kiriella yesterday afternoon told The Island that they expected to secure parliamentary approval on January 07. “Once we had parliamentary approval, we’ll move ahead with plans to form the national government,” Kiriella said.
In terms of the 19th Amendment, the number of cabinet and non-cabinet ministers cannot exceed 30 and 40, respectively unless there is a national government.
The UNP secured 107 seats, including that of the Speaker at the last parliamentary poll in 2015 Aug 17. The SLFP-led UPFA won 95 seats.
Well informed sources told The Island that the UNP was having talks with a section of the SLFP group loyal to President Maithripala Sirisena to secure the required support.
President Sirisena quit the UNP-led coalition on Oct 26, 2018.
Sources said that in spite severe criticism of President Sirisena’s dismissal of Premier Wickremesinghe and the subsequent dissolution of parliament on Nov 09, 2018 to pave the way for general election on January 05, 2019, the UNP invited the SLFP leader to form a national government.
Ministerial sources said that an influential section within the SLFP was keen to form joint UNP-SLFP administration. Sources said that President Sirisena was under pressure to reach a consensus with those seeking to join the UNP-led government or face the consequences.