Friday, 6th August 2021

New SL PM, Cabinet appointment likely to be delayed

Colombo, Nov 19 (IANS): The appointment of a new Sri Lankan Prime Minister and Cabinet was likely to be delayed due to a pending a top level meeting between newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The probable way forward came under discussion at the United National Party’s (UNP) Parliamentary group meeting on Monday amid mixed views on whether to extend support to the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UOFA) for an immediate dissolution of Parliament or remain in Opposition till the end of February 2020, reports the Daily Financial Times.

While Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has said he was willing to step down to allow a successor and a news Cabinet to be appointed, there were divergent views on whether to support a snap General Election or sit in Opposition till end of February by when the President is constitutionally empowered to dissolve Parliament.

Sources have said that it was likely that Parliament will be dissolved in first week of December leading to an appointment of a caretaker Cabinet under Election Laws till the run-up to the Parliamentary Poll. In this case, the caretaker Cabinet will be headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa as interim Prime Minister.

Already nine ministers, loyal to former UNP Deputy Leader and National Democratic Front (NDF) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa, have resigned since his defeat in the November 16 election, but many of Wickremesinghe’s supporters still remain in office.

Wickremesinghe will hold another meeting with the UNF constituent party leaders on Tuesday to make a final decision on this matter, the Daily Financial Times quoted the sources as saying said.

Under the 19th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution, the term of Parliament was reduced from six to five years and the powers given to the President to dissolve Parliament to the end of one year was increased to four-and-a-half years.

The incumbent Parliament first met on September 1, 2015 and hence the President can dissolve it by the end of February when it completes four-and-a-half years of its term.

Early dissolution will require a motion to be passed in Parliament with a two-third majority.

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