Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 8 November 2009





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Government Gazette

Week in Parliament

Vote on Account takes centre stage

It was another eventful week in Parliament with the highlight being the much-talked-about Vote on Account. The Government on Thursday passed its vote-on-account in Parliament with an overwhelming majority of 47 votes despite the attempts made by the UNP led Opposition to prevent the Government from presenting the Vote on Account on Tuesday.

During the three days debate on the vote-on-account, Government Members explained the reasons for bringing the vote-on-account while the Opposition members criticised the moves taken by the Government to present a vote-on-account instead of a Budget.

Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama on Tuesday presented the Government's Vote-On-Account for the first four months of the year 2010 despite interruptions by the Opposition in Parliament.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Government had not followed the correct procedure in introducing a vote-on-account to the House. He said that before presenting the vote-on-account, it has to be presented to the House in the form of a motion.

Minister Amunugama responding the Opposition Leader said the vote-on-account had been presented to the House with the agreement of all Party Leaders. This had been presented to the Party Leaders' meeting. If there were any problem, the UNP could have challenged this in courts.

Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara overruled the point raised by the Opposition Leader and said that in presenting the vote-on-account, the Government had fulfilled the constitutional requirements. Therefore, the Government could proceed.

Minister Amunugama said earlier, 10 vote-on-accounts have been presented in this House. This is the 11th vote-on-account to be presented. A vote-on-account had been presented when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister of a former UNP Government.

"When we are doing politics in Parliament, the Opposition Leader attempts to do his "Podi tricks" in Parliament. However, Parliament cannot be functioned according to the "Podi tricks" of the Opposition Leader," Dr. Amunugama said in lighter vein.

Minister Amunugama said the Government decided to introduce this vote-on account as the tenure of Parliament ends by April 2010. "Today the Opposition Leader sang his swan song in Parliament. It will be clear at the next election. We should allow the next Parliament to present a fresh budget. The new UPFA Government will obtain a two thirds majority at the forthcoming election and present a fresh budget in Parliament."

In another development, the TNA commended the moves taken by the Government to bring development to the north under " Uthuru Wasanthaya". TNA Parliamentarian S. Kishore extended his sincere thanks to Minister Dinesh Gunawardena towards the steps taken by him to formulate plans to develop the Vavuniya town.

Finance and State Revenue Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya in response to a statement made by the UNP MP Kabir Hashim said, "the Opposition has given a significant assurance on the Government which has not been given by any Opposition in this world. They have said that the next Government is also going to be formed by the UPFA. The UNP has shattered all its dreams today. I regret to note that many of our friends in the Opposition would not come to the next Parliament."

UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake said when there is talk of an election, a budget should be presented without moving a vote-on-account. JVP MP Namal Karunaratne said if a budget is presented, there is no way to show the income avenues gained by the Government. The Government can only show its expenditure.

Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa joining the debate said the country's foreign policy has reached to a significant milestone. Under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka has able to strengthen bilateral relations with a large number of countries including China, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Disaster Relief Services Minister Ameer Ali refuting the claims made by the Opposition said they attempted to topple the Government. "The opposition has forgotten that the Government has put an end to three decades old terrorism. Whoever contests, he can't defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa."

Construction and Engineering Services Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the UNP makes various false statements when the present Government has successfully fulfilled the work which they failed to do. When Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister, he also invited the Opposition MPs to join the Government.

Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva noted that the Government was not afraid of any elections. This time those who back the UNP will be completely ousted. Mahinda Chinthana cannot be destroyed by the useless attempts of the Opposition. Ports Minister Dilan Perera said the JVP was in death throes.

Attempts made by the US Homeland Security Department to question Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka also turned out to be a key issue in Parliament. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in response to a question raised by the JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the Government through diplomatic level intervention with the United States Government prevented any attempt made to question General Fonseka.

"There is an attempt by a group called "Tamils Against Genocide" to target key personnel from Sri Lanka and General Fonseka is one of them. General Fonseka is one of the highest ranking officials of this country. No third party has a right to question him on matters that deal with the country's security, the Foreign Minister said."

NFF Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa said the Government took the best decision by making all the diplomatic arrangements required for General Fonseka to return to the country. As the Sri Lankan Parliament, we all should protest against this move of the US authorities which attempted to question from General Fonseka.

The GSP Plus issue also became an important topic in Parliament. Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof.G.L. Peiris in response to a query raised by the Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera said the Government has prepared a "comprehensive response" to be delivered to the European Commission (EC) via Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Brussels in a bid to retain the GSP Plus facility.

Chief Government Whip Urban Development and Sacred Area Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardena stressed that the Government will provide maximum security to the Commanders of the three Armed Forces and the former Commanders of the three Armed Forces.

"We will also protect the Opposition Leader like gold." Education Minister Susil Premajayantha commenting on the Government's utmost commitment to children in welfare camps said the Child Protection Authority will intervene to look after the children who do not have protection from any relations.

They will be given education and other needy facilities by the relevant departments of the Government.In a related development, 201 war orphaned children from Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi visited Parliament on Friday as a part of their re-integration into society after end of the war.

Justice Minister V. Puththirasigamoney made this announcement to the House after these children took their seats in the public gallery.A new political alliance, the United National Alliance was officially formed under the leadership of the UNP at the Parliamentary complex on Tuesday.

Thirteen political parties had joined to form this alliance. The JVP has not yet made any comment on it.

The extension of the Emergency by another one month was passed in Parliament on Friday by a majority of 78 votes.

All the constituent parties of the UPFA Government including JHU, NFF and CWC voted in favour of the motion while the TNA asked for a division and voted against. The UNP and the JVP were absent at the time of voting.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a surprise visit to the Parliamentary complex on Friday. The President spent nearly half an hour at the President's Office in Parliament. A large number of Government Ministers called on the President at his office while two TNA MPs also met the President. Later the President joined a tea party with Government Ministers at the MPs cafeteria.During the emergency debate, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka categorically denied a query raised by the JVP whether the Government has reduced the security provided to Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka.The Premier said this is a total fabrication and the Government has provided maximum security to General Fonseka.

He also noted that the Security Forces had been able to remove landmines in an area extending to four million square metres in the North.



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