Though over 20 SLFP MPs in the Joint Opposition in parliament have had discussions with the top rung in the Maithri-Ranil Government to cross over and support the government, President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe had told them that the numbers in the Cabinet of Ministers would not be expanded at any cost as it violates the 19th amendment, highly placed government sources told Nation.
The two leaders had conveyed to these MPs that a few vacancies exists in the ranks of deputy ministers and state ministers and they could be considered to fill such vacancies in the event they crossed over.
Nations learns that Premier Wickremesinghe had pointed out that more than half of the number of Joint Opposition (SLFP) MPs willing to cross over had voted against the provision to expand the number of cabinet ministers from 30 to 53 under the 19th amendment.
It is further leant that the President who had agreed with the views of the Premier had stated that such MPs cannot vie or aspire for cabinet portfolios having opposed the policy of the government to expand the number to 53 in the Unity Government.
The President had further stated that his government explained the reasons to expand the numbers in the cabinet as he led a Government of Unity comprising both major parties but his own SLFP MPs in the Joint Opposition opposed it.
Latest reports stated that four Joint Opposition SLFP MPs who were cabinet ministers in the Rajapaksa administration have had further talks with senior ministers of the SLFP and UNP and had expressed their willingness to cross over and accept deputy and state ministerial portfolios. ‘However, the President and the Premier have not taken a decision as yet on that development’, sources added.
Meanwhile, Nation learns that a shuffle of subjects under present ministries is on the cards as the President and the Premier have decided to postpone a reshuffle in the Cabinet.
Sources said a special meeting with the cabinet ministers chaired by the President and Premier is to be held before end July to advise ministers to carry out the instructions of the duo as changes to top positions in government departments, corporations and institutions are expected to be effected shortly to meet development goals.
They added that all ministers would be told to uphold collective cabinet responsibility to avoid embarrassment to the government and abide by decisions taken at cabinet level.