Colombo, Sri Lanka. Monday, May 22, 2017.
ECONOMYNEXT – Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Ravi Karunanayake swapped their portfolios in the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle, which also saw Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga lose his position.
"The cabinet re-shuffle was made to go forward as a country with a new hope," President Maithripala Sirisena was quoted as saying after the new appointments. The president had asked the ministers to work for the betterment of the country in friendship and collective responsibility, the statement said.
President Maithripala Sirisena inducted Mangala Samaraweera as the new Minister of Finance and gave him the additional responsibility of the Media portfolio, while Ravi Karunanayake was sworn in the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Ranatunga, who had resisted the government's Public, Private Partnership (PPP) for the Hambantota port, was given Petroleum Resources, while the man who held that position, Chandima Weerakkody was demoted to Minister of Skills Development. Mahinda Samarasinghe becomes the new Ports Minister.
Gayantha Karunatilake was given Lands in addition to Parliamentary Affairs after his Media portfolio was taken away and given to Samaraweera.
The surprise appointment was the induction of Thilak Marapana as Minister of Development Assignments. He was earlier forced to resign after he was accused of colluding with Nissanka Senadhipathy of the Avant Garde Martime service, which was at the centre of several investigations.
The cabinet changes were initially mooted in early March, but coalition politics held up the process (see story: https://goo.gl/tC3LH3 ). The initial proposal was for the Prime Minister to take over the finance portfolio and have two deputies, one from the SLFP and the other from the UNP.
To compensate for a perceived demotion from foreign to finance, Samaraweera was given the additional portfolio of Media, official sources said.
Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella was also tipped to lose the Highways portfolio, but there was no change in that. But, Tourism and Lands Minister John Amaratunga shed his Lands portfolio to Gayantha Karunatilake.
Labour Minister John Seneviratne has asked to be relieved of his position, but he got Trade Union Relations in addition to his Labour portfolio.
Nine Cabinet Ministers and a State Minister took oaths in their new portfolios a short while ago at the Presidential Secretariat, President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted.