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UPDATED: 14:40, January 28, 2007
Sri Lankan ruling party boosts parliamentary strength
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Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), will receive a huge boost in parliamentary strength with 18 members from the main opposition the United National Party (UNP) joining the government in Colombo on Sunday.

"Eighteen UNP members will formally join the government today with some of them being appointed cabinet ministers," Chandrapala Liyanage, director general of President Mahinda Rajapakse's office said.

This is to be the first cabinet reshuffle of the Rajapakse administration since the president took office in November 2005.

Six members from the main Muslim party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) are also due to join the government shortly, according to party sources.

Analysts say Rajapakse wants opposition legislators to join him in view of the decision by the main left party the JVP or the People's Liberation Front to stay out of the government.

The JVP has 38 legislators in the UPFA's current strength of 126 members in the 225-legislator parliament.

With the crossovers of UNP and SLMC legislators into the government, the Rajapakse administration will be just one short of the 113 seats required for a working majority, presidential aides said.

The JVP is unhappy with Rajapakse government's policy of trying to negotiate with the Tamil Tigers in the separatist armed conflict.

Rajapakse's recent military successes against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are hailed by the main left party and they want the military campaign against the rebels continued.

The president has enticed the UNP members to join him despite his Memorandum of Understanding with the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe signed in October last year.

The MoU bound the two parties over a period of two years for co- operation, foremost among them is the Norwegian backed peace process with the LTTE rebels.

Wickremesinghe pleaded with Rajapakse not to accommodate his party members in the government in the spirit of the MoU but Rajapakse citing the legislators' freedom to act independently refused to oblige Wickremesinghe.

Source: Xinhua

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