Sri Lanka ‘national government’ heading for still birth

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s attemnpt to form a "national government" with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party appears in serious trouble, political sources said.

Sirisena who is struggling to secure control over the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) offered his MPs the option of joining a national government, but there were fewer takers.

The move also led to intense heartburn within the ranks of the United National Party (UNP) which was unhappy about sharing a pie they were ready to enjoy after remaining in the opposition for two decades.

After talks with the SLFP appeared deadlocked over the sharing of portfolios, the UNP is now expected to form a government on its own with the backing, however, of a few "bought" MPs from the SLFP.

"It is better to buy an MP than rent one," a source close to the UNP said. "It is a clear cut arrangement and we need to buy less than 10. In the longer run, it is cheaper."

The UNP had a sampling of power for a brief two years and four months in a cohabitation arrangement with then president Chandrika Kumaratunga who cracked the whip by taking over three ministries .

The downfall of the then UNP government was mainly due to twio ministers — Tilak Marapana (defence) and John Amaratunga (interior) — and both are elected to parliament and likely to get positions under Wickremesinghe.

The new cabinet which was due to be sworn in on Monday was put off after inductng just three ministers — Mangala Samaraweera (foreign), Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (justice) and D. M. Swaminathan (resettlement).

The three men were hurriedly appointed to clear the way for official level talks with the visiting US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal and US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour Tom Malinowski.

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