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Prez takes defence



SLPP bags lion’s share of ministries

Ex-president Sirisena an ordinary MP

Newcomer Sabry receives justice portfolio

Four members of Rajapaksa family in Cabinet

Wijeyadasa rejects state ministry

Former TNA MP now a state minister

Several Viyathmaga members made ministers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces yesterday (12) took the defence portfolio although the 19th Amendment to the Constitution bars the President from holding any portfolio.

The 19th Amendment enacted in early 2015 repealed Article 44 (2), which enabled the President to hold any number of portfolios.

 President Rajapaksa refrained from assuming defence portfolio when he appointed a smaller interim Cabinet last November in the run-up to the Aug 5 parliamentary election.

 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was among 25 ministers who took oaths before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Magul Maduwa of Dalada Maligawa. In addition to them, 40 received appointments as State Ministers.

The President’s Office on Monday (10) issued a gazette notification with a list of 28 ministries and 40 state ministries.

 Of those who had received cabinet portfolios, 17 represent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Other ministries were shared by SLFP 2 (Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mahinda Amaraweera), MEP (Dinesh Gunawardena), EPDP (Douglas Devananda), NFF (Wimal Weerawansa), DLF (Vasudeva Nanayakkara) and PHU (Udaya Prabath Gammanpila).

Among the Cabinet of ministers were two members SLPP National List members, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Chairman of the party and Ali Sabry, PC.

 President Gotabaya Rajapaksa accommodated Sabry in his Cabinet as the Justice Minister.

 The Cabinet includes four Rajapaksas, the President (Defence), the Prime Minister (Finance, Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs and Urban Development and Housing), Chamal Rajapaksa (Irrigation) and Namal Rajapaksa (Youth Affairs and Sports). In addition to them, Shasheendra Rajapaksa received appointment as State Minister of Paddy and Cereals, Organic Food, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onions and Potatoes, Seed Production and High Tech Agriculture.

 Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa, PC, declined to accept post of a State Minister as he expected a Cabinet portfolio. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa contested the recently-concluded general election from Colombo on the SLPP ticket after switching his allegiance to President Rajapaksa. He entered Parliament on the UNP ticket at the previous general election.

One-time Justice Minister was not available for comment.

 Chamal Rajapaksa, in addition to being the minister of irrigation, took oaths as State Minister for Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management. The police come under him. One-time Speaker was the only one to hold both State and cabinet portfolios.

 Many an eyebrow was raised when the swearing in ceremony concluded without former President and leader of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena, who had arrived at the swearing-in ceremony a bit late, not receiving a portfolio. Having contested the general election on the SLPP ticket except Jaffna and Kalutara, the SLFP obtained 13 seats. In addition to the elected, the SLFP secured one National List slot (Dr. Suren Raghavan). The SLFP on its own won one seat in the Jaffna electoral district (Angajan Ramanathan).

 In addition to the two Cabinet ministries received by the SLFP, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera and two others, Duminda Dissanayake and Lasantha Alagiyawanna were sworn in as State Ministers.

Deputy Leader of the NFF Jayantha Samaraweera, who contested from Kalutara on the SLPP ticket was among the State Ministers. Sons of former Prime Ministers, the late Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and the late D. M. Jayaratne, Vidura and Anuradha, respectively, too, received appointments as State Ministers.

 President Rajapaksa accommodated several elected Viyathmaga members among the State Ministers and Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees. Eight out of nine candidates fielded by the civil society group Viyathmaga entered Parliament. Of them, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Prof. Channa Jayasumana were named State Ministers. In addition to them, two Viyathmaga National List members, former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Dr. Seetha Arambepola were accommodated among the group of State Ministers.

 Three other Viyathmaga members, Dr. Upul Galappaththi (Hambantota), Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda (Matale) and Gunapala Ratnasekera (Kurunegala) were named Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees.

 Former Tamil National Alliance dissident Sadasivam Viyalendran  (Batticaloa) was sworn in as State Minister for postal services development and mass media.

 Jeewan Thondaman, son of the late Arumugam Thondaman, CWC leader, was named estate housing and community infrastructure facilities state minister.

Nipuna, son of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s sister was among 23 Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees.

 Former ministers and State Ministers, LSSP Chief Prof. Tissa Vitharana, S. B. Dissanayake, Susil Premjayantha, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Jihn Seneviratne, Chandima Weerakkody, Dilan Perera, Rohana Dissanayake, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, K.K. Masthan, Angajan Ramanathan and Dushyantha Mithrapala were among those left out. Communist Party National List  MP, too, wasn’t accommodated in the Cabinet.

 The SLPP won a staggering 145 seats out of 225-member Parliament. The breakaway UNP faction, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya secured 54 seats whereas the UNP, the TNA and the JVP led Jathika Jana Balavegaya won 01, 10 and 03 seats, respectively.



Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving



Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest



By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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