Sri Lankan President appoints Cabinet after political crisis; keeps police under him

Vastavam Web: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday named a 30-member Cabinet while rejecting some of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s nominees and retained control over the security forces and police, indicating that the power tussle between them is far from over. The new Cabinet was appointed after an unexpected delay of three days since Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister on December 16 following weeks of political crisis that led to government dysfunction. The Cabinet formation delayed as President Sirisena did not agree with some nominees from the list submitted by Prime Minister Wickremsinghe. Sirisena rejected Wickremesinghe’s nominees for Cabinet positions from those who had defected from his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). At least three senior SLFP leaders had defected to Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) during the political crisis.

The President has not appointed a law and order minister, a crucial post for investigating corruption allegations against former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family. Sirisena, who holds the Defence and Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry portfolios, has retained his control over the police, which is investigating an alleged plot to kill him. The plot widened the gulf between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe. On October 26, Sirisena sacked prime minister Wickremesinghe and installed Rajapaksa in his place, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Sirisena also dissolved the 225-member Parliament and called for a snap election on January 5. He publicly vowed not to reinstate Wickremesinghe. However, Wickremesinghe was re-appointed as prime minister by Sirisena following a Supreme Court order, ending the 51-day political standoff in the country.

Wickremesinghe holds portfolios of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement & Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development, Vocational Training & Skills Development & Youth Affairs. Thilak Janaka Marapana was sworn-in as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sirisena’s decision to keep the Law and Order Ministry has been disputed by the UNP, which claimed that the president was only constitutionally allowed to be the defence minister in addition to the subject of environment. Analysts said that Cabinet appointments indicate that Sirisena and Wickremesinghe were still at loggerheads and the country’s worst political crisis is far from over.