ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's cabinet and state ministers have been asked to attend a meeting at the President's Office in Colombo on Monday, fueling speculation that the long-awaited reshuffle of the government was likely to go ahead.
The centre piece of the change is swapping the finance and foreign portfolios, according to sources close to both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The cabinet changes were initially mooted in early March, but coalition politics held up the process (see story: https://goo.gl/tC3LH3 ). The initial proposal was for the Prime Minister to take over the finance portfolio and have two deputies, one from the SLFP and the other from the UNP.
It is not clear if Wickremesinghe will stick to that plan or grant the finance job to Samaraweera who was seen as Mr. Clean suited for the job given his record as a successful Telecom minister who brought about a communications revolution during the Kumaratunga administration.
There was speculation that Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga could see his portfolio taken away given the resistance he had shown in the Hambantota habour development. Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's cricket world cup-winning skipper, appears to have fallen out of favour with both power centres.
The president is set to make changes to the portfolios held by SLFP ministers as the Prime Minister appeared to have agreed, albeit reluctantly, to the proposed changes to positions held by his party.
For Ravi Karunanayake, going from finance to foreign is seen as a promotion, as in terms of protocol, the ministry of foreign affairs is considered more important than the finance ministry.
To compensate for a perceived demotion from foreign to finance, Samaraweera is to be given an additional portfolio of mass communication, as well as another portfolio.
Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella was tipped to lose the highways portfolio, while tourism and lands minister John Amaratunga was also to shed his lands portfolio.
Labour Minister John Seneviratne has asked to be relieved of his postion.
(COLOMBO, May 21, 2017)