Ranil silences UNP backbenchers

By Methmalie Dissanayake

The President’s Heads of Expenditure (HoE) of the ‘Budget 2019’ was passed in Parliament yesterday (13) without a division, despite the United National Party (UNP) backbenchers threats that they would vote against it to defeat the President’s Heads of Expenditure.

The Committee Stage debate on the expenditure heads of the President and several other offices began at 10:30 a.m. During the entire debate, the UNP backbenchers heavily criticised the President.
However, when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya asked the House whether they need a division on the President’s Heads of Expenditure at the end of the debate, both Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that they do not call for a division. This was despite UNP Parliamentarian Chaminda Wijesiri calling for a division on the Heads of Expenditure. Speaker Jayasuriya then informed the House that he would note down the objection of Wijesiri and passed the Expenditure Heads without a division.
At this juncture, UNP backbenchers Hirunika Premachandra, Mujibur Rahuman, Wijesiri, Rohini Kumari Wijeratne and Hesha Withanage were seen walking out of the Chamber. All the JVP MPs were absent at the end of the debate.
Apart from the President’s Heads of Expenditure, the Expenditure Heads of the Prime Minister, the Judges of the Superior Courts, the Office of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Public Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Office of the Finance Commission, the National Education Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Parliament, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, the Offices of the Chief Government and Opposition Whips, the Leader of the House of the Parliament, the Election Commission, the National Audit Office, the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, the Audit Service Commission, the National Procurement Commission and the Delimitation Commission were taken up for debate yesterday.
The UNP backbenchers who said that they would vote against the President’s Heads of Expenditure stressed that the decision was taken because they cannot face their supporters in villages due to the conduct of the President. Making a speech during the debate, Premachandra said that the name Maithripala Sirisena is a term equal to the word ‘ungratefulness.’
“It was we who made him the President.

We made many sacrifices for that while his own Party ditched and insulted him during the Presidential Election of 2015. But what did he do? He stabbed us in the back, removed our Prime Minister in a snap move and appointed his rival as the Premier last year. Now, because of his actions our supporters are frustrated.

How can we face them when the President who came to power on their votes is betraying them? We have to go to the villages. We have to face them. That is why we decided not to vote for the President’s Heads of Expenditure.”
UNP MP Professor Ashu Marasinghe said that they thought the President would be another leader like late South African President and Nobelist Nelson Mandela.
“Everyone knows what Mandela did to protect democracy. We hoped that this President would do the same. But it was only an illusion,” he said.
United People’s Freedom Alliance MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that it is crystal clear that the Government has split over the President’s Expenditure Heads at the moment.

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