The need for a national campaign to reduce the size of the Cabinet

Perhaps the most exciting positive political development in the last few months was the Constitutional Amendment proposed by the Hon Vasantha Senanayake MP, to limit the Cabinet to 30 members. This was an important part of the suggestions he made to the Parliamentary Select Committee, after discussion with a group of young people. Given that it is not likely the PSC will come to anything positive soon, he thought he needed to act to promote at least one of the reforms this country so sorely needs.

It is to be hoped that all political interests in the country will rally round this initiative. In the past the minority parties have tended to stick to what they see as their own concerns only. But this neglect of measures that will affect the nation as a whole is counter-productive. In the first place it allows the extremists who will not recognize existing minority concerns to claim that the minorities are not interested in the country as a whole, which means they are still obsessed with the idea of a separate state. This of course is an absurd idea, given how many members of minority groups live in the rest of the country. But sometimes the behavior of in particular the TNA creates the impression that they are simply not interested in reforms that will benefit the country as a whole.

In the case of the Senanayake initiative, they should also realize that a much smaller cabinet would immensely benefit minorities too. As it is, the thinking elements in the Cabinet are dwarfed by those with majoritarian instincts who can shout louder than the rest. But in a Cabinet of at most 30, minorities would constitute at least 20% of the whole. They would also have as colleagues a number of efficient and capable individuals, whereas now Cabinet decisions are made by a massive host, which obviously cannot go into details in discussion.

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Limit the Cabinet to 30 Ministers: A Private Member Bill from a Young Member of Parliament, Vasantha Senanayake

By  Dhanushka Jayakody

There is a new phenomenon of Private Member Bills and Motions in Parliament recently which have highlighted the need for constitutional and structural reforms. The least controversial initiative was by the Liberal Party which had a motion to amend Standing Orders. This was placed on the Order Paper, but has then been swallowed up in the usual Parliamentary lethargy, because, in violation of the existing Standing Orders, it has not been brought before the House.

More controversial was the JHU’s Private Member Bill calling for amendment of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. Following debate in Cabinet however, which revealed the strong negative feelings about the Billl, it too was not brought before the House.

Now a much younger member, the Hon Vasantha Senanayake, who has recently led groups of young parliamentarians on international visits, has brought forward a potentially more popular Bill. Being a member of the main government party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and elected from the Gampaha District where he organizes Mirigama, he recently handed over a private member bill to the Secretary General of Parliament proposing another amendment to the Constitution.

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