PM dismisses defeat of expenditure heads

Saturday, 30 March 2019 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Says loss of funds a mere pittance of Rs. 320 while allocation was Rs. 2.3 b
  • Supplementary estimate a possibility 
  • MR strikes conciliatory tone, says similar incidents took place during his Govt.
  • Rajapaksa proposes discussions if necessary but says situation must be rectified by the book 
  • Kiriella rubbishes Opposition glee, says funds will be passed before April      


By Ashwin Hemmathagama, Our Lobby Correspondent

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday denied that the defeat of several expenditure heads in Parliament on Thursday created any serious threat for the Government and dismissed its repercussions by pointing out it was only a loss of Rs. 320. 

The expenditure heads for Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government and the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development were defeated in a surprise vote on Wednesday.  

But Wickremesinghe insisted the Government could move a supplementary estimate if necessary to recover the traditional deductions proposed or could continue without the negligible deduction. “The deduction due to defeat was Rs. 320. We could consider moving a supplementary estimate to recover the deduction of Rs. 320 from the full allocation of Rs. 2,312 billion. The fault was on our side where the attendance of lawmakers was poor,” said the Prime Minister.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who raised no objection over Government plans to move a supplementary estimate if necessary, held a similar incident took place during his Government and it could be resolved after discussions.

“Expenditure heads had been defeated even during the time of our Government. We have no objection over the Government resubmitting the expenditure heads as long as the procedures are followed. But don’t rush things by taking shortcuts,” said Rajapaksa. However, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) lawmaker Bandula Gunawardana demanded an explanation from the Government over the defeat. In response, Minister of Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella held the Vote on Account has provided sufficient allocations till 30 April and the Government would resubmit the motion for Parliament approval. 

“Don’t worry, the Government will not fall. The Government had already passed a Vote on Account for the first four months of the year. We will get the expenditure heads of those two Ministries passed before the end of April. There is nothing to get excited about. The deduction is negligible. We will represent the motion according to Standing Orders. We will have discussions also with the Leader of the Opposition as well to do this,” said Kiriella. 

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday defeated part of the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government, and all expenditure heads pertaining to the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. A surprise vote was called by the Opposition and the Government was unable to muster enough votes to counter it successfully.

Even though the quorum bells were on for five minutes, the Government benches lacked adequate numbers to win the votes. The expenditure head 260 on District Secretariat Nuwara-Eliya received 20 votes in favour and 38 against. The expenditure heads from 261 to 321 of the Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs and Provincial Councils and Local Government were defeated, receiving 23 in favour and 38 against.

Last on the list, the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and the Department of National Physical Planning was defeated, receiving 24 votes in favour and 38 votes against.

The Vote on Account will provide allocations for the Ministries till the end of April. Moving a supplementary estimate, the Government can allocate funds for the remaining months of the year for the defeated expenditure heads. Last time an expenditure head was defeated was during former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure, when the supplementary estimate moved to fund Minister A. Thondaman’s portfolio was defeated.