President sacks Wijeyadasa

Rajapakshe leaving the Buddhasasana Ministry premises after bidding farewell to the staff yesterday.

President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe from his Justice and Buddhasasana portfolios.

This was done in agreement to a letter sent to him by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday, asking that Rajapakshe be relieved of his position, the Presidential Media Unit stated.

Wijeyadasa over the past few months has been surrounded by many a controversy created through his own personal remarks over various decisions of the government.

The Minister has not only criticised the government over the seeking of technical assistance from foreign judges in relation to war crime probes but also criticized the recent Hambantota Port agreement signed by the government. The Justice Minister also embarrassed the government by his outburst towards the UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson.

Co-Cabinet spokesperson, Minister Gayantha Karunathilake announcing that the President had acceded to the UNP’s request at the weekly Cabinet media briefing said the party resorted to such action because the Minister did not keep his end of the bargain and resign as asked to do so by the UNP Working Committee.

“His statements were widely criticised at the UNP Working Committee meeting and it was pointed out that he broke the collective responsibility of Cabinet. At the time, the Minister agreed to take corrective action but he did not do so”, Minister Karunathilake said .

Co-cabinet spokesperson and Sports Minister, Dayasiri Jayasekara too commenting on the removal said there was a serious problem when ministers criticised collective cabinet decisions outside of Cabinet.

“Criticism must be made inside of cabinet”, he stressed.

Wijeyadasa of the UNP however is not the only Minister to openly criticised government action and SLFP’s Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha was reported to have said that the government was inefficient and he did not agree with the Hambantota Agreement. The SLFP cabinet co-spokesperson, Jayasekara responding to the reports said, “He is not the first or last person to act thus.If need be, we will discuss the issue with the President and see what needs to be done”.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding Wijeyadasa however was the lack of progress made in several high profile corruption cases. In one such case, the Chairman of the Maritime Security company Avant Garde though accused of possessing weapons illegally was only charged for money laundering. It was later reported that Wijeyadasa shared a close relationship with the Avant Garde Chairman. Co-cabinet spokesperson Minister Rajitha Senaratne thus observed that a new Justice Minister would revisit the case and take necessary action. Minister Dayasiri however noted that that the SLFP had early on decided not to meddle in the case of Rajapakshe as he was a member of the UNP.

Rajapakshe is the second minister to leave cabinet, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ravi Karunanayake resigned over allegations of corruption. Despite the changes in Cabinet, the both Ministers Jayasekara and Senaratne assured that the government would complete its full term.

“No party has majority to form a government and the President and Prime Minister are of the understanding that they would go it together”, said Jayasekara.

Senaratne in the meantime pointed out that it was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who had at the start insisted that a unity government be formed to resolve the common issues in the country,

“He said that the priority should not be a strong government but to build a nation and solve the national question. Finally we all agreed and we brought the 100 day program. But in six months, Mahinda and his group became came back as fights begin to erupt within the coalition.

This is a hard task but a necessary one. This is the first such case in South Asia. Only Denmark and Germany in the world have such governments at the moment”, he explained.

The Minister stressed that as politicians they needed to be ashamed of the fact that for 60 years they have not been able to find a solution to the ethnic problem.

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