UNF and President on collision course

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The United National Front (UNF) and President Maithripala Sirisena are set to confront each other on the allocation of departments and institutions to some ministries by President Sirisena and his decision to limit the powers of cabinet ministers when making top level appointments to state institutions.

UNF member and Minister Lakshman Kiriella told The Sunday Morning the the UNF had some concerns over the departments and institutions allocated to some ministries.

He said that some state departments were not functioning as they were not sure under which ministry they operated.

Meanwhile, United National Party (UNP) Chairman Kabir Hashim said that UNF cabinet ministers are expected to meet the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to discuss the inconveniences caused by the circular issued by the President limiting the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers when making top level appointments for state institutions.

He told The Sunday Morning that the normal protocol and authority to make such appointments was with the subject minister and therefore the ministers were entitled to appoint members to the respective boards.

However, he said that since the President had already made a request to comply with the circular issued by him and send the nominations to him, the ministers were compelled to send the lists to him for approval.

“If a minister is capable of being a minister, he must be capable of appointing his board. If you look at the legal aspect, the powers lie with the minister,” Minister Hashim said.

There was a bureaucratic delay caused by the circular as the ministers needed to send the names to the review committee before making appointments, Hashim said.

“Ministers need to keep their boards functioning without any further delay,” he added.

Questioning the appointments made to several state institutions which were under the purview of the President, the Minister said: “The President has made those appointments without referring it to the committee and that is a bit confusing.”

“We feel that maybe, as a result of the wrong information being given to the President, there have been directives that are hampering the running of the Government.

This is the problem. We will probably meet the Prime Minister soon and also the President, and get this sorted out, as it will affect the country as a whole,” he said.

When contacted, Presidential Secretary Udaya Seneviratne said the question of the appointments made to the institutions that were under the purview of the President should be asked from the President.

“But when considering the persons who were appointed to those institutions, we can see some of them held government posts earlier and one person is a former ambassador. It means that those appointments have been approved by the High Post Committee and they are suitable to hold such positions,” he added.