Bill defeat - UNP wants Govt. out

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 April 2000, 14:10 GMT]
Sri Lanka's main opposition, the United National Party, boycotted Parliament this afternoon to protest against the government's refusal to step down over the defeat of a bill to dissolve the Paddy Marketing Board, a money losing public enterprise. According to the UNP, the Sri Lankan President who is also the Minister for Finance had stated in her budget speech on February 14 that the Paddy Marketing Board would be dissolved by her government. Therefore the defeat of the bill to scrap the PMB is in effect the defeat of the Statement of Government Policy argued the UNP.

Chairman of Committees, Mr. Rauff Hakeem MP who was in the chair at the time of the voting told UNPers who were clamouring from opposition benches for the government's resignation that he had no right to ask it to step down because the dissolution of the PMB was only a resolution under the financial act and not a money bill.

Article 49 (2) of the Sri Lankan constitution says "If Parliament rejects the Statement of Government Policy or the Appropriation Bill or passes a vote of no confidence in th Government, the Cabinet of Ministers shall stand dissolved, and the President shall, unless he has in the execise of his powers under Article 70, dissolve Parliament, appoint a Prime Minister, Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers, other Ministers and Deputy Ministers interms of Articles 43, 44, 45 and 46.

The PMB dissolution bill was presented for voting in Parliament today by Minister for Agriculture and Lands Mr.D.M Jayaratna MP.

Fifty nine MPs voted in favour of the bill and 62 voted against. Four ruling party MPs who were in the house today abstained.

Sources said that these government MPs were opposed in principle to the dissolution of the board as they are from paddy producing regions where farmers have benefited by the PMB's price guarantees in the uncertainty of the Sri Lankan rice market which is frequently hit by cheap imports.

The Tamil United Liberation Front also abstained from voting while MPs of the People's Liberation Organisation of Thamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Eelam People's Democratic Front (EPDP) voted for the bill.

The sole MP of the Thamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, Mr.'Selvam' Adaikalanathan voted against it.

Deputy Finance Minister G.L. Peiris also argued today that there was no need for the government to step down over an opposition defeat of a resolution to dissolve the Paddy Marketing Board, as the defeat was not over a finance bill but merely a resolution under the finance act.

The Opposition and the left say that the government is dissolving the PMB under pressure from the World Bank and the IMF. They point out that farmers will be adversely affected by the vagaries of the rice market in the absence of the PMB.

The government, however, insists that the board has become a major financial liability.


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