COLOMBO: With the expansion of the Sri Lankan Council of Ministers on Wednesday, the number of Tamils in the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe led “National Government” has gone up to five.
Among the 40 State and Deputy Ministers sworn-in on Wednesday, there were two Tamils, V.Radhakrishnan (State Minister of Education); and Vijayakala Maheswaran (State Minister of Child Affairs). Radhakrishan is an Indian Origin Tamil and Maheswaran is from Jaffna.
Earlier on September 4, when the cabinet was formed, three Tamils had been accommodated, namely; D.M.Swaminathan (Resettlement and Rehabilitation); Mano Ganeshan (National Dialogue on Reconciliation) and P.Digambaram (Minister of Up Country Village and Community Development). Swaminathan is from Jaffna, while Digambaram and Ganeshan are Indian Origin Tamils from the plantation area and Colombo city respectively.
Out of the 47-member cabinetm including President Sirisena, 33 are from the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and 14 are from the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Out of the 19 State Ministers, 11 are from the UNP, and eight are from the UPFA. Out of the 21 Deputy Ministers, 11 are from the UNP and 10 from the UPFA.
Most of the UPFA Ministers had earlier been vociferous supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and against Sirisena. But a good chunk of them crossed over to Sirisena’s side after Rajapaksa failed to lead the UPFA to victory in the August 17 parliamentary elections. However, 57 out of the 95 UPFA MPs recently signed a petition demanding recognition as the official opposition. But when this failed with the Speaker recognizing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as the official opposition, further defections to the Sirisena’s side took place. Seven of the recent defectors were rewarded with berths in the Council of Ministers.