Sri Lanka president reshuffles cabinet

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s president reshuffled his cabinet on Tuesday after the defection of several ministers from his party, but the changes did not impress some market watchers looking for an end to the country’s political uncertainty.

President Maithripala Sirisena shifted 18 cabinet members, including reassigning posts once held by defectors from his ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

The reshuffle came after 16 SLFP members of parliament, most of them ministers, joined the opposition last month after a failed move to oust Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe through a no-confidence motion.[nL4N1RH51S]

The motion was sponsored by opponents who blame the prime minister for failing to prevent an alleged scam in the bond market and anti-Muslim riots in March.

After the motion failed, the 16 MPs decided to sit with the opposition, weakening the SLFP’s coalition with Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP).

Investors had been waiting for a cabinet reshuffle since April 12 when Sirisena, in the wake of the failed no-confidence motion, suspended parliament until May 8.

“The changes are very cosmetic. There is nothing to boost the market,” said a stockbroker in Colombo where the stock index ended flat on Tuesday.

The coalition government and its reform agenda has been under pressure since a political party backed by Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa won a landslide victory in local polls on Feb. 10.[nL4N1Q10EG]

The government has struggled to deliver on its 2015 campaign promises to impose fiscal discipline as recommended by multi-lateral lenders, reform the constitution to give more power to the provinces, and begin an international probe in alleged war crimes during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war which ended in 2009.

“The country does not need a cabinet reshuffle at this point, but reforms to restructure the country,” said Victor Ivan, an independent political columnist.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Darren Schuettler