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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 107

Mangala fails to deliver and Ranil defeated again in Parliament

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Leader of the Opposition, who had high hopes of defeating the Mahinda Rajapakse government in Parliament was defeated once again yesterday when the Speaker, W. J. M. Lokubandara, a UNP MP, declared that the five Finance Bills presented to Parliament on Thursday was passed validly.Facing defeat Ranil Wickremesinghe pulled a fast one at the last minute. He objected to electronic voting after agreeing to it at an all party meeting held by the Speaker. Facing defeat Ranil Wickremesinghe pulled a fast one at the last minute. He objected to electronic voting after agreeing to it at an all party meeting held by the Speaker.

The passing of these bills by electronic voting was a big blow to the Wickremesinghe-Samaraweera alliance that threatened to pull out government MPs and bring down the government. Defeating Finance Bills in parliament is a common practice to prove that the governments do not have the power to use public funds to run the country. It amounts to a vote of no-confidence. It means that the governments have to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate because it has no parliamentary means of raising funds to run the day-today administration.

Everything in the strategy depended on Mangala Samaraweera, the new UNP partner who formed the National Congress, who had promised to get 18 government MPs over to the opposition. But he failed deliver and the bills were passed.

Facing defeat Ranil Wickremesinghe pulled a fast one at the last minute. He objected to electronic voting after agreeing to it at an all party meeting held by the Speaker. Then his troops stormed into the well of the House, along with the JVP MPs shouting slogans and creating a ruckus that disturbed the proceedings of the House.

Some MPs were engaged in fisticuffs behind the Speaker’s chair. The UNP MP Mahinda Ratnatilake complained to the Speaker that he nearly lost his sarong. He barely managed to keep his torn shirt on.

The Opposition argued that the bills certified as being passed by the Speaker were not valid. The Speaker stood by his decision firmly saying that he will not change his decision.

A dejected Ranil Wickremesinghe called on the Speaker to place the Finance (Amendment) (No. 257) Act, Regional Infrastructure Development Levy (Amendment) Act, Excise (Special Provisions) (Amendment) Act and Special Commodity Levy Act on the Order Paper since they were passed in violation of Standing Orders.

But the Speaker, responding to criticism from the Opposition, said that extraordinary situations called for extraordinary measures and confirmed that there will be no change in the decision made regarding the Bills.

"If terrorism is used in the course of a vote, I have to exercise my powers to cope with the situation. That is why I was compelled to take necessary steps according to my conscience," he said adding that no question could arise as to the validity of the Bills.

The Speaker said he was a UNP MP, and was prepared to leave office if the members of the House wish him do so.

“I do not want to cling to this post. I am ready to leave if any time if you do not want my services,” he said. The Speaker said he always acted according to his conscience.

Political observers note that this latest slap in the face of Wickremesinghe gives the lie to his belief that he is under a “raja yoga” – the astrological signs that are supposed to catapult politicians into power. It also explodes the myth that his new partner, Mangala Samaraweera, the former dress designer, can deliver the 18 government MPs he promised to bring over to the opposition.

The Wickremesinghe-Samaraweera-Kumaratunga troika which proclaimed that they will topple the Mahinda Rajapakse government and a form government of their own has fallen flat on their faces after the latest defeat in Parliament.

Wickremesinghe tactics were to target the two main bases on which the Mahinda Rajapakse government depends for survival: 1) economic sources and taxation and 2) the military victories. First he took the most unethical step of writing to foreign banks threatening not to pay back the $500 million the government hoped to raise through foreign banks. He wrote to Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, JP Morgan and Barclays Capital urging them not to subscribe as he would revoke any payment if he comes into power.

But his plans of grabbing power have been dashed by Parliament. He is now left with Mangala Samaraweera who has failed to deliver his MPs and Chandrika Kumaratunga who is regarded as a shay character with no future in Sri Lankan politics.

- Asian Tribune -

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