As announced by Secretary to the President Austin Fernando, a cabinet reshuffle took place at 10am today at the Presidential Secretariat. A number of Ministers and MPs were requested to arrive at the secretariat by 9.30am.
Among them was former Minister of Justice and Buddhist Affairs Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa who is currently serving as an independent MP. He was sacked in August 2017 by Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena for his criticism of the government, including a decision to sell majority shares of a sea port to China on the request of coalition partner the United National Party.
Mr Wijeydasa and BBS
Mr Wijeyadasa was appointed as Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs. Many pundits were critical of this appointment which raised eye brows.
Media reports in June 2017 had accused him of providing refuge to the controversial Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Galagodatte Gnanasara Thero when the Thero was issiued with an arrest warrant.
The ex Minister, rejected support of the BBS General Secretary, said: “There is no reason for me to give refuge but I have been accused by the media of harboring him. I have been also accused of making use of my powers as Minister of Justice to provide him with safe refuge. This is false.”
In November 2016 Mr Wijeydasa said in Parliament that thirty-two Muslims from ‘elite’ Sri Lankan families had joined ISIS, adding that the government had received such information, and added that the current administration would not allow extremism to spread in the country.
The Ex Minister’s remarks, however, ruffled feathers among Muslim ministers representing the government. They said Rajapakshe’s revelation could lead to tension between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities.
Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne refuted the Justice Minister’s statement, saying the government did not receive any such reports.
“Wijeyadasa’s statement is not the stance of the government. He is making these statements having listened to certain groups of people,” he added.
In the wake of this statement, the Ex Minister, in his capacity as the Minister of Buddha Sasana, held a meeting with some members of the BBS, including its General Secretary Gnanasara Thera, in Parliament, inviting the BBS to attend the meeting with the concerned parties.
Given such a tainted connections with radical parties and given the communal violence which engulfed the island in March 2018, such appointments are sure to question the governments intention and integrity by the public.
Other notable appointees include Field Marshal Hon. Sarath Fonseka appointed as Minister of Sustainable Development , Wildlife and Regional Development and Faiszer Musthapha appointed as Minister of Sports, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government.
18 Cabinet ministers were appointed today and the remaining Cabinet ministers will continue to function in their current portfolios. Minister Ranjith Maddumabandara informed that State and deputy ministers will be sworn in tomorrow.
Here are the full list of today’s appointments:
- Ravindra Samaraweera appointed as Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations
- Wijedasa Rajapakshe appointed Minister of Higher Education and Cultural Affairs
- Field Marshal Hon. Sarath Fonseka appointed as Minister of Sustainable Development , Wildlife and Regional Development
- Daya Gamage appointed as Minister of Social Welfare and Primary Industries
- Sagala Ratnayake appointed as Minister of Project Management, Youth Affairs and Southern Development
- Mano Ganesan appointed as Minister of National Co-existence, Reconciliation and Official Languages
- D.M. Swaminathan appointed as Minister of Rehabilitation, Resettlement, Northern Development and Hindu Religious Affairs
- Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa appointed as Minister of Fisheries, Aquatic Resources Development and Rural Economy
- Thalatha Athukorala appointed as Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms
- Faiszer Musthapha appointed as Minister of Sports, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government
- Ranjith Maddumabandara appointed as Minister of Public Administration and Management, Minister of Law and Order
- Kabir Hashim appointed as Minister of Highways and Road Development
- P. Harrison appointed as Minister of Social Empowerment
- Mahinda Amaraweera appointed as Minister of Agriculture
- Duminda Dissanayake appointed as Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management and Disaster Management
- Sarath Amunugama appointed as Minister of Science, Technology and Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training, and Hill Country Heritage
- S. B Navinna appointed as Minister of Internal Affairs and Wayamba Developmen
- Lakshman Kiriella appointed as Minister of Public Enterprise and Kandy Development