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Enlarging cabinet, an outrageous attempt by ruling party - EDITORIAL

31 July 2019 02:36 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It is said that the government is planning to enlarge the Cabinet again from the current 30 to 48 and increase the number of non-Cabinet ministers to 45, on the basis of the ruling United National Party (UNP) having formed a National Government. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof. G.L Peiris said on Monday that Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella had listed a resolution in the Order Paper of the Parliament for July 31 (today).  

One would recall that this is not the first time the government has been attempting to increase the number of ministers manipulating the Articles of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on the National Government. A similar attempt was made by the government soon after the Constitutional crisis that brought in the 52 day government ended.   

Minister Kiriella handed over a motion to the Secretary General of Parliament on February 1 this year as well to form a National Government with 48 Cabinet ministers. The motion was required under the 19th Amendment an Article of which prevents the government under normal circumstances from appointing more than 30 ministers. However, the 19th Amendment also says that the Parliament will decide the number of ministers under a National Government. Then the leaders of the government argued that they had formed a national government with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which had only one member in Parliament.   

One might argue that the SLPP which was almost the same group that functioned as the UPFA under Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure as President has no moral right to criticize the increase of ministers as the number of ministers had exceeded 100 during the same tenure. Yet, two wrongs do not make a right, they say. And the UNP too has no moral right to increase the number of ministers as it came to power in 2015 on several important promises one of which was to limit the number of ministers to 30.  

The current government is not a single party entity. It consists of two parties, the UNF/UNP and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which has only one member, Ali Zahir Mawlana. The National Government has been defined by the 19th Amendment as a government formed by the political party that has obtained the highest number of seats in Parliament with other parties Therefore it is difficult to say that a government formed by the UNP in coalition with the SLMC would be illegal.   

However, owing to the composition of the members of Parliament returned under the UNP symbol it is not clear whether forming a National Government by the UNF with Batticaloa District MP Mawlana, the only SLMC MP is legally valid. There are another five SLMC members including the party leader Rauff Hakeem who had been returned to the Parliament as members of the UNP/UNF and not been considered in the House as those of the SLMC. However, Mr. Hakeem can decide the fate of the Parliament membership of Mawlana any time. Then, can Mawlana be considered as a member of a separate party?  

There is another issue in term of ethics. Government plans to form the National Government coalescing with a single member party with the intention of increasing the number of ministers by 18. (From 30 to 48). Isn’t it outrageous?   

It is an obvious fact that one or the other party would obtain the highest number of seats in Parliament after any general election. And that party can get the support of smaller parties to form a so-called National Government and increase the number of ministers, negating the very purpose of the Article of the Constitution that limits number of ministers to 30. And it is also an obvious fact that any future government would be a National Government which would always have more than 30 ministers.  

The whole world knows that there is no need for a large Cabinet and the government is hell bent in increasing the portfolios just to satisfy its MPs by providing them an opportunity to plunder the public coffers by way of perks and privileges. This is outrageous.  

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