Govt. confident of two thirds
- Cabinet of the new
government initially would be between 35 and 38
- Elections Commissioner has
gazetted the names of 180 MPs
- Rank and file of UNP is
pressing for radical reorganisation of the party
- Ratnasiri Wickremenayake,
D.M. Jayaratne and Maitripala Sirisena prime ministerial
the ruling UPFA scored a resounding victory at the April 8
Parliamentary general election, the release of the final
result is being delayed pending the re-polling at 34 polling
stations in Nawalapitiya electoral division and at one
polling station in Trincomalee. Meanwhile, the Elections
Commissioner has gazetted the names of 180 MPs - elect from
all the districts except those from the Mahanuwara and
The appointment of the new Cabinet and the MPs from the
national lists too is held up pending the re-balloting at
the 35 polling stations scheduled for April 20. However,
according to the gazette notification issued by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa on February 9, the new parliament is
required to meet in its maiden session at 11.30 a.m. on
Parliament to meet
Therefore, the release of the final result of the April 8
election, the appointment of the new cabinet and the
national list MPs will take place on April 21 or thereafter.
Meanwhile, the new cabinet of ministers will be sworn in on
April 23, a government source said. In such circumstances,
parliament will have to meet on April 22 without a prime
Minister and a cabinet of ministers.
According to the gazette notification issued by the
President, parliament has to meet at 11.30 a.m. on April 22.
However, the Parliament Secretariat says that the new
parliament will meet at 8.45 in the morning on April 22.
The first item on the agenda of a new parliament is the
election of a speaker. Thereafter, all the MPs - elect are
collectively sworn in. The election of deputy Speaker and
the deputy chairman of committees would follow. Afterwards,
as a matter of tradition, the speaker would adjourn
parliament for another day.
However, the President is due to inaugurate the new
parliament and present the policy statement of the
government. Therefore, the speaker, once elected, will have
to suspend the sittings without adjourning for another day
to make way for the President to formally inaugurate
parliament and present his policy statement.
According to tradition, the President would arrive for the
inauguration of parliament accompanied by the Serjeant at
Arms, the Speaker, the Secretary to Parliament and Deputy
and Assistant Secretaries. The Serjeant at Arms,who forms
part of the entourage escorting the President to the
chamber, would not carry the Mace as it is, as a matter of
practice deposited inside the House when sittings are
In the event of parliament being adjourned to make way for
the inauguration by the President on another day, the
Serjeant-at-Arms would get the opportunity to walk at the
head of the procession conducting the President to the
House, adding more solemnity to the occasion. It is learnt
that the parliament authorities are looking into the
possibility of suspending the business of the House for at
least one hour to enable the Serjeant-at-Arms to walk at the
head of the procession carrying the Mace which is the symbol
of parliament. However, there is no provision for taking the
Mace outside parliament at a time it is suspended under
standing orders. Therefore, the parliament authorities are
reportedly in consultation with the leaders of political
parties represented in parliament in search of a solution to
Meanwhile, Secretary to Parliament, Dhammika Kitulgoda and
his officials have made arrangements to hold a workshop on
April 23 and 24 for the newly elected MPs to familiarise
themselves with the parliamentary traditions, standing
orders, the functioning of parliament and also how they
should conduct themselves in the House.
Selection of national list MPs has set a poser to all the
main political parties. The Elections Commissioner has
already announced the number of slots each political party
has earned on the basis of votes polled by the respective
parties, according to the results so far announced.
According to his reckoning subject to possible alterations
following the release of the final result, the UPFA has
become entitled to 18 national list seats, the UNP 9, and
the TNA (ITAK) and the DNA one seat each. However, minor
alterations to these seat entitlements cannot be ruled out
following the release of the results of Mahanuwara and
Trincomalee districts after the re-polling on April 20.
UPFA national list
Meanwhile, the Elections Commissioner has gazetted the names
of 180 MPs - However, former speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara,
whose name appears on the UPFA national list, is unlikely to
be appointed an MP. He is due to succeed Janaka Bandara as
the Governor of Sabaragamuwa when the latter returns to
parliament from the UPFA national list.
UNP on tight bind
The three constituent parties of the UNF, SLMC, DPF and the
SLFP (M) have put the UNF on a tight bind by asking three
national list seats each. The UNP entitled to only 9 seats,
would be left with no national list seat for the party if
they were to concede the shares the constituent parties are
demanding. Therefore, Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to
concede two national list seats to SLMC and one each to DPF
and the SLFP (M). Accordingly, Hassan Ali and Nisham
Kariappar, of the SLMC, DPF leader Mano Ganesan and Ruwan
Ferdinandus, a close friend of Mangala Samaraweera are
expected to make it to parliament from the UNF national
list. According to the Mahanuwara district results so far
out, Mano Ganesan will not win a seat from the district.
However, in case he succeeds in getting a seat with possible
additional preference votes from Nawalapitiya at the re-poll
to be held on April 20, the seat allotted for his party
might go to Kumara Gurubaran.
UNF national list
Given this scenario, the UNP National List MPs will be a
former Bank CEO Eran Wickremaratne, Economic Advisor to
Ranil Wickremesinghe Dr.Harsha de Silva, Tissa Attanayake,
Rukman Senanayake, Joseph Michael Perera, Mano Ganesan,
Hassan Al, Nisham Karaippar and Ruwan Ferdinandus.
As we pointed out in our column last week, for the first
time since 1947, no Muslim candidate from the Colombo
Municipal area has succeeded in winning a seat at this
election. The three Muslim candidates, A.J.M. Mussamil,
H.M.Maharoof and Shafik Rajabdeen, who contested on the UNP
ticket, suffered defeat.
Shafik Rajabdeen was an SLMC candidate. Therefore, A.J.M.
Mussamil last week requested Ranil Wickremesinghe that he be
appointed an MP from the UNF national list to watch the
interests of the Colombo Muslims. Meanwhile, the UNP leader
is being inundated with letters, telegrams, and fax messages
from Muslim political organisations, youth leagues, civil
society organisations and boards of trustees of mosques
requesting him to nominate a Muslim for appointment as a UNF
national list MP. The SLMC has requested that Rajabdeen be
appointed an MP to look after the interests of the city
Meanwhile, as a number of UNP Muslim leaders have raised
strong objections to conceding any national list seats to
the SLMC. They have pointed out that the SLMC has already
won 9 seats, thanks to the advantage of contesting on the
UNP district lists. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem has polled a
comfortable number of preference votes by contesting on the
Mahanuwara district list. He contested in the Digamadulla
district at the last election. The UNP Muslim leaders
maintain that Hakeem has won a seat in Mahanuwara at the
expense of the UNP, which means that the UNP is getting one
seat less from this district due to accommodating Hakeem on
the UNP district list. They also point out that the SLMC has
won a seat from Trincomalee with the support of the UNP’s
Muslim and Sinhala voters.
At the 2004 general election the UNF won 11 national list
seats. Of these seats, 4 seats had to be conceded to the
SLMC, 2 seats to the CWC and one seat to the Upcountry
People’s Front. As a result, the UNP was left with only 4
national list seats. These seats were allotted to Prof.
G.L.Peiris, Navin Dissanayake, `Myon’ Mustapha and K.N.
Choksy. Three of them later crossed over to the government.
Daya Gamage, a UNF candidate on the Digamadulla District
list, who unsuccessfully contested this election, was a
leading subscriber to the party’s election fund. He funded
the party leader’s air transport for electioneering. His
wife’s name also appears on the UNF national list. Gamage
has requested that his wife be given a national list seat on
the understanding she would resign later making way for him
to succeed her as an MP. He has cited as a precedent, the
case where Mervyn Silva’s wife Mary Lucilda had been fielded
on the UPFA national list at the 2004 general election with
a view to replacing her with Mervyn later.
DNA and TNA
The DNA has won only one national list seat, which will go
to JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake. In case, the DNA gets
another seat, it will be offered to Tiran Alles.
Attorney-at-law P.Sumanthiran is expected to make it to
parliament from the TNA’s national list. Incidentally, the
TNA has won only one seat from their national list.
Old Left vs. New Left
Samajavadi Janatha Peramuna, a combine of the LSSP, CP,
SLMP, Democratic Left Front and the Deshavimukti Janatha
Pakshaya fielded eight candidates under the UPFA banner, but
only three of them had won. They are Vasudeva Nanayakkara
who contested in Ratnapura, Chandrasiri Gajadheera of the CP
in Matara and Y. G. Padmasiri of the LSSP in Kegalle. If DEW
Gunasekera and Prof. Tissa Vitarana get seats from the UPFA
National List, this Peramuna will have a total of five MPs
The JVP, described as the New Left, succeeded in winning 40
seats at the 2004 general election. But contesting under the
`Trophy’ symbol of the Democratic National Alliance, the JVP
could win only four seats (including the National List seat)
at this election. General Sarath Fonseka and Arjuna
Ranatunga, who have won two of the DNA four seats, are not
JVP members. Time only will tell how far these two will toe
the JVP line in the future.
Cry for reforms
The rank and file of the UNP are pressing for a radical
reorganisation of the party following the party’s
ignominious defeat at the April 8 general election. They are
also calling for a change in the party leadership. The party
stalwarts who too look forward to changes in the party
leadership do not openly agitate for them. Instead, they
emphasize the need to bring about reforms in the party.
Speaking to the media, soon after the election results were
out, Ranil Wickremesinghe said that there was no need for
him to step down from the leadership, given the steep
decline in the voter turnout. The UNP’s prominent youth
leader Sajith Premadasa in a statement to the BBC had said
there is a pressing need for a reorganisation of the party.
Meanwhile, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe too has
reportedly worked out a plan to revamp the party. He has
expressed the view that the party MPs should not hold office
as the party’s General Secretary or as Chairpersons of party
organisations or those affiliated to the party such as youth
leagues, women leagues, student unions and trade unions. It
is learnt that the UNP leader has decided to appoint Sagala
Ratnayake, who suffered defeat in Matara at the April 8
election, as the UNP General Secretary. Wickremesinghe had
earlier decided to appoint Sagala as an MP from the national
list, but had been compelled to abandon the idea when a host
of other defeated candidates too clamoured for a seat in
parliament from the national list. Tissa Attanayake, who is
now holding the key office of General Secretary of the
party, is to be appointed the national organiser of the
party. It was S.B. Dissanayake who held this office before
crossing over to the government and this position was
suppressed following Dissanayake’s defection. S.B.
Dissanayake had earlier publicly declared that his position
as the National Organiser was an `empty’ one which carried
hardly any powers. Meanwhile, Ravi Karunanayake and Sajith
Premadasa are to be appointed deputy leaders of the party.
The proposed changes are to be implemented once ratified by
the UNP Working Committee, Sirikotha sources said.
Many people in the country are eagerly waiting to know their
next prime minister. The names of Ratnasiri Wickremenayake,
D.M. Jayaratne and SLFP General Secretary Maitripala
Sirisena are being mentioned in this connection. Of these
three hopefuls, the one who is most confident of getting
this office is D.M.Jayaratne. Jayaratne, according to a
reliable report, has even inquired from a very senior Police
officer the number of security personnel that the prime
minister is entitled to!
Another government source says that there is a strong
possibility of D.M.Jayaratne being appointed the prime
minister and Ratnasiri Wickremenayake the Speaker.
Maitripala Sirisena, the most likely loser, is expected to
be offered a key ministry in the new cabinet.
Basil Rajapaksa, Wimal Weerawansa and Sudarshani
Fernandopulle, outstanding performers at the general
election are tipped to get three vital ministries. The
present indications are that Basil Rajapaksa will be
assigned the Nation Building and Tourism, Wimal Weerawansa,
the Housing and Construction and Sudarshani Fernandopulle,
the Health Care.
Ports and Aviation will go to Chamal Rajapaksa, Foreign
Affairs to Mahinda Samarasinghe, Power and Energy to
Champika Ranawaka and Industries to Kumara Welgama. Dew
Gunasekera, Athauda Seneviratne, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Tissa
Vitarana, Dinesh Gunawardena, Arumugam Thondaman, Douglas
Devananda, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premajayantha and
Prof. G.L.Peiris too have been identified for important
Although the cabinet of the new government is expected to be
40-strong, the number of ministers to be appointed initially
would be between 35 and 38. The balance portfolios are to be
reserved for those expected to cross over to the government
from the opposition, government sources said.