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
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
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
"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
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
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