Cabinet reshuffle decision today - Minister

As discussions between the two main parties within the unity government intensify, co-cabinet spokesperson, Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday said that a decision on a cabinet reshuffle would be taken today (16).

Addressing the weekly cabinet media briefing yesterday (15), he said the two main constituents of the government had decided to go ahead with the 2015 mandate of the unity government while agreeing to a cabinet reshuffle.

The current crisis was triggered in the aftermath of last week’s local government elections which saw the UNP only securing 33 percent of the vote and the SLFP together with the UPFA 13 percent of the overall vote.

Questions of whether the Prime Minister would resign were also quelled by Minister Senaratne,

“We have also decided to go ahead with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa had called him and said you should not resign because you were not the one who scored the least”, he said.

"We cannot change the Prime Minister now because that will take another six months and we will lose important time the government can use to develop the country, he said.

This week only the two co-cabinet spokespersons; Minister Senaratne and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake were present and Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera had informed them that he would not be able to make it to the meeting due to prior commitments.

The two UNP ministers observed that the election results had caused the government as well as the UNP to reflect hard on their journey thus far and they assured that quick action would be taken to reform their current practices,

“We take this result with great humility. We admit that there were problems in our government; we were not able to give the Samurdhi in time or distribute fertilizer to those who need it. We have a few more years to go, so we will bring about quick reforms”,Minister Karunathilake said.

He noted that reforms within the UNP as well as the UNF would be taken.

“Our government was weak in prosecuting criminals and taking action against corruption, especially of the previous regime”, added Minister Senaratne and assured that from now on, steps would be taken to rectify issues in law and order. He added that action would also be taken to change the Sri Lankan Airline board and have an independent committee to appoint a new board to run the struggling carrier.

The most significant factor contributing to the two main parties faring poorly in the election, he said was that many within the government had started criticizing it, “The attacks were felt more deeply because it came from inside”, said the minister.

“He stressed that negotiations had been held with both the President and Prime Minister with this regard and they had decided to move ahead with more discipline in future.

Answering questions of whether the SLFP or UNP were still looking at going it alone, Minister Senaratne explained that the UNP had a greater chance of mustering the numbers than the SLFP but they had decided to go ahead with the unity government, “A government can now only be formed if the two come together”, he said.

As Minister Senaratne stressed for unity, he explained that the government at present should focus on the two most important things:

“Firstly we need to properly explain this election defeat to the people as we still have our 2015 mandate, and we can only go forward from here, we cannot reverse that. Secondly we need the UNP and SLFP to come together to claim the majority in the maximum number of local governments, I believe we can do that for at least 185 councils.

If we forget this and squabble over other things, only Mahinda Rajapaksa will benefit”, he said.

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