ECONOMYNEXT -Sri Lanka’s parliament voted to expand the cabinet to 48 members from the 30 limited by constitution paving the way for a ‘national government’ of the country’s main two parties.
The resolution was approved by 143 votes in favour and 16 against in the 225 member assembly, speaker Karu Jayasuriya said. 63 were absent.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, is set to appoint a cabinet on Friday with members of President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party joining the administration.
Anura Dissanayake, leader of Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a key party that pushes politicians to give more state jobs and subsidies, leading to massive burdens on the people, money printing and currency depreciation said the bill was not about a ‘national government’.
He said the bill was to expand the cabinet from 30 to 48 and the number of deputy ministers to 45 from 40 above the constitutional limit.
A constitutional change earlier this year proposed a limit on cabinet ministers of a ‘national government to 45, but Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader Dinesh Gunewardene scuttled the move allowing a so-called ‘national government’ to have any number of ministers.
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution a cabinet is limited to 30 ministers, but it can be expanded in the case of a ‘national government’ made up of the largest party in parliament and others.
Opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna said a coalition between the UNP and SLFP did not constitute a national government within the meaning of the constitution as multiple parties or independent groups.
Opposition leader R Sampanthan said the constitution mentioned multiple parties other than the largest party of group, indicating ‘one or more’ but it did not say ‘all’ parties.
The speaker ruled that in his view the alliance between the two largest parties amounted to a national government, giving the go ahead to debate the bill to increase the cabinet.