|Friday, 1 March 2002|
by Ravi Ladduwahetty
The much awaited swearing-in ceremony of eight new Cabinet Ministers took place at the President's House yesterday afternoon at 12.30 pm. The total number of Cabinet Ministers now stands at 33.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Secretary to the President K. Balapatabendi were also present.
The following non-Cabinet Ministers were elevated to Cabinet rank. They were: Minister of Employment and Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Education, Human Resources and Cultural Affairs Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku, Minister of Lands Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Mass Communications Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, Minister of Public Administration, Management and Reforms Vajira Abeywardena, Minister of Estate Infrastructure P. Chandrasekeran, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Ravi Karunanayake and Minister of Economic Reforms, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda.
In addition, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock S. B. Dissanayake was given the additional portfolio of Samurdhi. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe nominated him for this portfolio at the December 13 Cabinet swearing in ceremony but President Kumaratunga refused to swear him in due to allegations of corruption which were pending investigation.
The President later agreed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's proposal to give him that portfolio, since he was exonerated of all allegations by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
Three Cabinet Ministers Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Ravi Karunanayake and Mahinda Samarasinghe, who were vociferous critics of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga while in Opposition, yesterday agreed to work in harmony with her in the best interests of the nation.
At individual interviews with the Daily News immediately following the swearing-in-ceremony where eight Ministers were elevated to Cabinet rank, all three echoed in unison that they will go into the Cabinet meeting only to address national issues and the grievances of the masses and not in the pursuit of political agendas.
Commenting on his appointments Minister Dr. Senaratne said that he will be going in for the Cabinet meeting with the objective of solving the national issues with the President.
Responding to a question as to whether he would be pursuing his confrontational attitude towards the President given the hostile attitude he had with her as an Opposition Member of Parliament, he said: "I cannot mix up politics with the development work of the Government.
However, whenever there are political issues those need to be addressed, we will take that up with the President separate and individually. We have not changed our stand on the President politically, he said.
He said that the fact that he has no other portfolios and that he has no Deputy Minister will also help him to devote more time for his official duties as Cabinet Minister. He said that he will also assist the Government in redressing other national issues.
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Ravi Karunanayake told the Daily News that he would not adopt a confrontational attitude with the President and would work unitedly for the common interests of the nation.
He said that the Cabinet was selected by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, through President Kumaratunga being the appointing authority was a mere formality. The Ministers will work with the Prime Minister in the pursuance of the development issues and it is up to the President to cohabit and cooperate as the Head of the Cabinet.
Minister of Employment and Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe told the Daily News that he has no problems in working with the President Kumaratunga as the Head of the Cabinet and that he would pursue the Government Policy in terms of safeguarding the interests of all expatriate Sri Lankans in the Middle East.
Produced by Lake House