Colombo: Sri Lanka's first ever national unity government's Cabinet led by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in on Friday with the induction of ministers from two main rival political parties, days after the country's President pledged a new culture of "consensual politics."
President Maithripala Sirisena presided over the swearing in ceremony of 43 ministers, who were included in the Cabinet for now with the provision to appoint a total of 48 members.
Parliament yesterday approved the enhancing of Cabinet members from the constitutionally-mandated 30 members to 48.
Sirisena's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) have struck a deal to forge the country's first national unity government.
Sirisena, during the inauguration of the new 225-member assembly on Tuesday, had pledged to introduce a new culture of "consensual politics" with the formation of the national unity government.
Sirisena, who retained the key defence portfolio in the Cabinet as required by Sri Lanka's Constitution, gave most portfolios in the 43-minister Cabinet to UNP and its allies. The UNP won the August 17 general elections but fell short of an absolute majority.
Wickremesinghe, apart from being the Prime Minister, will also hold the portfolio of National Policy and Economic Affairs.
Among the 43 Cabinet members sworn in, 11 members were from Sirisena's UPFA.
"We have agreed to work as one group for a period of two years," Sirisena said in his address to the newly-appointed ministers here.
Prominent leaders among the Cabinet were Mangala Samaraweera, Wijedasa Rajapaksa and D M Swaminathan.
Out of the UPFA's 11 ministers, there were only a few loyalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
"This is a historic day. The two main parties have resolved to work together for two years. We have to find solutions to many burning issues," Wickremesinghe said.
The Rajapaksa loyalists have publicly vowed to sit in the opposition in defiance of the national unity government arrangement.
The Cabinet formation comes as the country grapples with problems at the domestic and international level.
The country is faced with issues arising from a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report on alleged war crimes committed while crushing the LTTE. Nearly three decades-long conflict ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers after claiming more than 100,000 lives.
Pressing issues of ethnic reconciliation also continue to hamper development of the island nation.
Sirisena defeated Rajapaksa in the presidential election held in January and succeeded him as the party leader.