PM warns against violating cabinet traditions

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today warned against violating cabinet traditions saying questions regarding any statements made by members of the cabinet should be discussed in the cabinet.

Addressing United National Party activists today at Temple Trees in Colombo the Prime Minister said that a group of civil society representatives met him last week and discussed several issues, including the Executive Presidency.

He said that the civil society representatives had sought a cabinet decision to support the 20th Amendment.

Wickremesinghe said that on the 16th, they handed over a draft Bill which was to be referred to the cabinet.

The Prime Minister said that he had pointed out to the civil society representatives that the 20th Amendment could not be passed in Parliament without the support of other political parties.

“On the 17th, MP Sumanthiran told me that they had held discussions with the JVP on the abolition of the Executive system. He further stated that the President had informed him that he was willing to support the 20th Amendment. I pointed out to Sumanthiran that the support of the United People’s Freedom Alliance would be needed for the resolution to be passed in Parliament. MP Sumanthiran has made a public statement regarding this. No one has rejected that statement,” the Prime Minister’s Office quoted Wickremesinghe as saying.

He said that the President telephoned him on the 19th morning as asked him if he should call a cabinet meeting to discuss the 20th Amendment.

“I informed the President that the civil society had made a request that we do so. Hon. Sumanthiran had also informed me of the President’s stand on the matter. Therefore, I told the President that it is appropriate to call the Cabinet and discuss it. I said that we should call that meeting on Thursday or Friday. At about nine in the morning, the cabinet secretary had informed my secretary that the cabinet meeting would be held at 3 pm. Thereafter, my secretary referred the draft that the civil society had given me to the Cabinet Secretary for use if needed,” he said.

Wickremesinghe said that he called the UNP ministers at 2 pm and informed them of this matter.

“The discussion was very heated. Everyone was open and opinionated. There was no agreement regarding the 20th Amendment. Before I met the cabinet, the President was informed that there was no agreement among the Ministers. At the beginning of the meeting, I informed the Cabinet Secretary in front of the President that there was no agreement among the Ministers, and that submitting the cabinet Bill would be useless. I summed up the views of the ministers at that meeting. The ministers made various comments. We decided that it was appropriate to leave the final decision to each party,” Wickremesinghe said.

He said that if there is a question regarding the statements made by members of the cabinet it should be discussed in the cabinet.

“Failure to do so would violate cabinet tradition. Therefore, I will only show what happened here. I will not insult anyone or make any remarks,” he said.

President Maithripala Sirisena had yesterday made several remarks at a public event on the issue which arose at the cabinet meeting.

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