More ministers and more Ministries will cost millions more in public funds, though the Presidential Secretariat has claimed there would be no additional expenditure after last Monday's expansion and sweeping reshuffle of the Cabinet.
The expenditure on the salaries of the eight new ministers and their supporting staff will amount to twenty million rupees a year, with other perks and privileges costing millions more, according to calculations made by The Sunday Times..
In addition to a monthly salary of more than Rs. 20,000 Cabinet Ministers are entitled to official residences, unlimited usage of fuel, and security.
The expansion of the Cabinet from 23 members to 30, besides the colossal cost, is seen as another blatant violation of a pledge given in the People's Alliance election manifesto of 1994. It said: "The PA assures the public categorically that a government led by it will contain no more than 20 ministers. The enormous resources which will be saved by this measure will be applied towards the public welfare."
The Presidential Secretary , K. Balapatabendi addressing Ministry Secretaries soon after the Cabinet reshuffle claimed no extra expenditure would be incurred by new ministries as they would be sharing the existing resources.
However, officials said that it was not practical.
A Ministry Secretary's annual salary will amount to Rs. 249,900 while the Additional Secretary's salary will be Rs. 214,200 a year.
According to Public Administration Ministry circulars issued earlier each Minister is entitled to have a Private Secretary (Rs.79,380), a Public Relations Officer (Rs.64, 440), a Co-ordinating Officer (Rs.79,380), three other Co-ordinating officers - Information, Trade Unions, and Parliament Affairs (Rs. 79,380 X 3).
The ministers also could have one Personal Assistant (Rs.64,440), four stenographers (252,960), four typists (252,960), nine drivers (413,100), six clerks (326,940), and four office assistants (174,000).
PA General Secretary and Agricultural Minister, D.M. Jayaratna, whose wings also were somewhat clipped in the reshuffle, defended the President's move saying more Ministers were needed to speed up the development process and bring about an efficient administration.
The ailing DUNLF parliamentarian P.B.G. Kalugalla will remain as Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs though he did not take oaths at last Monday's swearing in ceremony, an official of the Presidential Secretariat said yesterday.
He said the Secretary General's office in Parliament had sought clarification from the Presidential Secretariat as to whether Mr. Kalugalla's front seat as a Deputy Minister should be retained for him. The Secretariat had replied that it should be retained as Mr. Kalugalla was still a Deputy Minister.
Uncertainty had arisen over the position of Mr. Kalugalla, a veteran politician and minister since the 1970s, due to his poor health and his absence at the swearing in ceremony where the President dropped a bomb-shell by dismissing NDUNLF leader Srimani Athulathmudali from the Cabinet.
Ms. Athulathmudali said in an interview Mr. Kalugalla was no longer a member of the NDUNLF. The original DUNF formed by Lalith Athulathmudali has now split , with Mr. Kalugalla and another Deputy Minister Monty Gopallawa claiming to represent one faction.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will participate at the R. Premadasa commemorative ceremony organised by the Premadasa Centre led by Sirisena Cooray on June 29 following intense discussions during the past few days within the party, The Sunday Times learns.
On Friday, former Constitutional Affairs Minister K. N. Choksy, Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya, the Ven. Elle Gunawansa and former UNP Secretary General Sirisena Cooray ironed out differences that had earlier led to Mr. Wickremesinghe boycotting the ceremony.
The UNP leader who is in Britain on an official visit is reported to have agreed to attend the ceremony at the Sugathadasa Stadium as the chief guest and will make the keynote address.
Mr. Cooray, confidante of the late President R. Premadasa will chair the meeting. The members of the Premadasa family have been invited to the ceremony though they have not been given a role to play.
Some 6000 invitations have been sent out through a newly formed 'Api Premadasa" movement which led to a crisis within the UNP with Mr. Wickremesinghe at first denouncing it as a move to cause a split within the party.
A section of the UNP leadership that resisted moves by Mr. Cooray to re-enter the UNP argued the 'Api Premadasa" movement was a creation by the former UNP General Secretary to force his way back to the party.
Mr. Cooray however denies this saying he has not asked for any position in the UNP and insists that the movement is only to propagate the Premadasa principles.
SLMC leader and Minister M.H.M. Ashraff apparently disturbed over the clipping of his portfolios in the recent Cabinet reshuffle has been pacified by the President's assurance that he will be the Minister of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for the entire country, except the North, a party spokesman said yesterday.
SLMC spokesman Abul Kalam told The Sunday Times the President had said the restriction of Mr. Ashraff's Rehabilitation portfolio to the East was a mistake and it would be corrected.
Minister Ashraff met the President on Tuesday to discuss the issue. She had assured of a change. The President would personally oversee rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North while Mr. Ashraff as the Minister of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction would have authority in all other parts of the country.
SLMC spokesman said that the rehabilitation and reconstruction were previously kept under the purview of Rehabilitation Resettlement Authority for North (RRAN) and it was handled by the former Minister of Housing, Construction and Public Utilities Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva while in the new reshuffle the task was not assigned to the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development Indika Gunawardena.
The nightmare in the air for the SLAF continued when a Sia Machetti aircraft crashed in the Pahala Thalawa area, south of Anuradhapura killing one on board and seriously injuring another, military sources said.
The flight had taken off yesterday morning from the Anuradhapura airport on a training mission.
The aircraft has been badly damaged, according to initial reports.
The crash was the ninth this year and the 17 th since the LTTE resumed its hostilities against the security forces in April 1995.
Recently President Kumaratunga appointed a top level committee including former SLAF and Police Chiefs to probe the mysterious series of mishaps involving SLAF aircraft.
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