Cabinet in crisis – JVP keeps out
By Harinda Vidanage
President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday swore-in a 31-member Cabinet of Ministers from the People's Alliance whilst her major ally, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, boycotted the ceremonies.

In what appears to be a growing acrimonious relationship between the two major partners of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), just eight days after the April 2 parliamentary elections, the two sides were locked in controversy over portfolios and subjects assigned to them.

President Kumaratunga, however, decided to ignore the JVP's boycott and went ahead with her plans the same way she ignored the JVP in choosing her new Prime Minister (Please see separate story).

State-run television made out that the JVP representatives were not present at the swearing-in because they were taking part in commemoration ceremonies to mark the 33rd anniversary of the April 1971 abortive insurrection.

However, at that rally, JVP leaders Somawansa Amarasinghe and Tilvin Silva berated President Kumaratunga and warned her that all the promises given to the people would have to be fully implemented by the new government. (Please see separate story.)

The four portfolios reserved for the JVP -- National Heritage and Culture; Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; Rural Economy and Agriculture, Lands and Irrigation remained vacant.

Yesterday's swearing-in ceremony came three days after it was scheduled to take place. Unlike on previous occasions, there was no live television coverage of the ceremony and the time was postponed thrice yesterday from 10 am to 2.30 pm and eventually to shortly after 4 pm.

SLFP stalwarts who were angered by what they called were the JVP's "pressure tactics" said they would not yield to "all the unreasonable demands by the JVP".

President Kumaratunga retained the Ministries of Defence, Constitutional Affairs and Education while Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse is Minister of Highways.

President Kumaratunga sent the detailed list of ministerial subjects and functions to the JVP hierarchy prior to the swearing in of Ministers of the new UPFA government, but the JVP strongly opposed certain subjects that were allocated to PA Ministers.

The bone of contention was over the subject of Mahaveli Development that had been taken away from the Agriculture, Lands and Irrigation Ministry and given to SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, who was sworn-in as Minister of River Basin Development.

The subject of Livestock Development had also been axed from this Ministry reserved for the JVP. The JVP also complained that certain functions of the new Ministry of National Heritage and Cultural Affairs assigned to it had been stripped with particular reference to the National Film Corporation that had not been assigned to this new Ministry.

The JVP also complained that there was 'no logic' in some of the Ministries created by the President. The first meeting to resolve the crisis was held on Friday night at the President's House and ended inconclusively while the second was held last morning at the Rosmead Place residence of Anura Bandaranaike between the SLFP's Mangala Samaraweera, Susil Premajayantha and Maithripala Sirisena and the JVP's Wimal Weerawansa, Nandana Gunatilleka and K. Lal Kantha.

The Sunday Times learns that the JVP leaders had questioned the SLFP leaders on the appointment of almost all their elected MPs as either ministers or deputies, while of the 41 JVP members elected, only eight will hold ministerial posts or deputyships.

The JVP was also unhappy over the sudden appointments made by President Kumaratunga for the posts of chairmen to key state institutions – the Ceylon Electricity Board, Board of Investment and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. The JVP had wanted that they be consulted before officials were appointed to top positions.

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