The No-Confidence motion brought by the Joint Opposition (JO) group against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was defeated by the Government by a majority of 94 votes in Parliament on Thursday. Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake wound up the Debate and responded to some of the allegations leveled at him and the Government. Both Government and [...]


War of words in debate on no-confidence motion against Ravi


The No-Confidence motion brought by the Joint Opposition (JO) group against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was defeated by the Government by a majority of 94 votes in Parliament on Thursday.

Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake wound up the Debate and responded to some of the allegations leveled at him and the Government.

Both Government and Opposition lawmakers spoke during the Debate. Following are excerpts of some of the views expressed during the day-long Debate.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake:

The previous government left the economy in tatters. It was like a grenade being handed over with the pin removed. We have put a full stop to corruption and we have managed to get the economy going in the right direction. We found ways to increase revenue and stop waste. I wish to thank the President and the Prime Minister for displaying the spirit of unity with which we in this Government work. Those disturbed by this are trying to create problems. Even the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gives leadership to this Group has not signed this motion. If there is conflict in the statistics relating to the figures that are included in the Appropriation Bill presented to Parliament, I will hand over the responsibility to the President and the PM to take whatever action. I have been in this Parliament for 22 years, and for 21 years I have submitted my assets and liabilities declaration. You can take a look at that if you like. There are allegations that some of the MPs here have not submitted their declarations. We are not the type to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

We are committed to clean politics. I was taken to court 48 times by the former government over foreign exchange control laws violations, but I have overcome those obstacles and cleared my name and come here. I can confirm that every cent we spend will be for the good of the public, and Parliament will be kept informed of all finance related matters. The previous government spent billions on useless projects, which is why we are so heavily in debt. We are in debt to the tune of Rs 9,888 billion. So, given this debt, how do we provide for vital sectors as education and health.

We have managed to do so by ensuring there is a clean administration. We have been able to increase revenue by the collection of income taxes, from excise taxes as well as customs levies. We have the right vision. Please don’t engage in trying to stop the forward march of this Government. Instead, join us and help this country. Today, our country’s stature has been heightened in the eyes of the world. This is the change that has taken place in the country since we took over. Your No-Confidence has misfired on you and we have the confidence to face such false allegations.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:

The presentation of this No-Confidence motion itself shows that there is democracy in the country. During the previous regime, the Finance portfolio was under then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and no one could bring such a motion against him. The IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Dept identified arrears and fiscal risks in Sri Lanka. Its report states that, based on the additional information provided by the Dept of Public Enterprises, it has identified Rs 1,281 billion in liabilities as at end 2015. This represents an increase of 33% compared with the previous year. Four SoBEs CPC, SLPA, SriLankan Airlines and CEB represent 94%. The No-Confidence motion states that,

The Minister of Finance has intentionally or unintentionally violated the provisions of the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act through the serious statement, “Over another 100,000 crores taken by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government has not been accounted for”. What the Minister said is true. It is the former President who has violated the provisions of this Act. He has spent money and not kept Parliament informed of it. We should inquire into this and, if found guilty, we should suspended him for a week and send him off to Uganda. This has been a bad year economically, for all the countries in the world. We have to take these things into consideration when discussing the economy.

JO Group Leader UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena:

Since the Budget was presented to the House in November, it has been amended completely. The Finance Minister has done so without consulting Parliament which has control of public finances. The Government has started bowing down to the dictates of the IMF. The conditions under which the IMF gave a loan have not been made public. These conditions are meant to betray the country and drag the people down to a worse economic situation than they already are in.

Even the Chamber of Commerce has come out condemning the actions of the Finance Minister. He sits here and thinks he can mislead the country and the people. You may want to rule, but the country is heading towards economic chaos. You should resign and go home without continuing to fool and mislead the people.

Opposition Leader TNA MP R. Sampanthan:

The economy of this country has been in a powerless state for a long time, and it is not something that has come after the change of government. The country has been in debt, both domestic and foreign, for a long time, largely because of the manner in which public finance was used and expended, and neither were there returns from projects in which large sums of money were invested. These projects were meant to promote the ego, than for the public good or benefit of the country. Extravagances and profligacy have been quite excessive in this country for a long period of time. The supremacy of Parliament over public finances cannot be diminished or disregarded. We would like to caution the Finance ministry and the Government that you are being carefully watched by the people of this country.

There is no purpose trying to establish guilt among others or against former culprits unless you are absolutely and perfectly clean yourselves. With the people of this country, we will continue to watch carefully for developments. There is room to be not totally satisfied in the way the Finance Minister and his Ministry have dealt with Finance proposals, as far as Parliament is concerned. This Parliament owes it to the public of this country that, every cent expended as public expenditure is for the benefit of the public of this country, and not for the benefit of anyone else.

Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Amaraweera:

The SLFP decided to join the Government following discussions. As part of the Government, we have to enjoy the benefits of this coalition, while there are certain uncomfortable situations we have had to deal with. We have issues with this Government. I have been criticised by those in the JO group, saying there is “pittu” in my mouth since I became a minister, as I have not spoken out against the Central Bank Governor (CBG). It is true, I handed over a petition to the Bribery Commission against the CBG after he was appointed, and I still stand by that position, despite being in Government. Our stance on this matter will not change. The SLFP members have informed both the President and the Prime Minister on the need to act against the CBG.

Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister S.B. Dissanayaka:

We are aware that if a Finance Bill is defeated it can bring about the fall of a government. We in the SLFP consider a motion of No-Confidence against the Minister of Finance as a move against the Government and the President himself. We must all realise that we are in a coalition of the two main parties of this country, along with several smaller parties. Hence, all our policies and all our plans may not be implemented. We got together to solve several pressing issues that the country was facing. One was the reduction of the executive powers of the President, and also to bring about a change in the electoral system .

We have gained much success under this coalition Government. We are on the brink of winning the GSP plus facility, as well as having the European Union ban on fish exports, removed. The President is keeping a close tab on Government expenditure. Nevertheless, on behalf of the SLFP, we would ask the President and the Prime Minister, as the Governor of the Central Bank’s term is coming to an end, it is best for them, as well as the Government, to let him go. The President revealed during the General election campaign, that he had told the Prime Minister “the Governor must go”. There is a problem regarding this person.

UPFA MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena:

If the Government cannot control taxes, then it should not remain in office. This was the view of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake when he was in the Opposition. Now the same person is telling us something else. Its true, I signed the No-Conference motion because I have to do so as a person in the group. I am keen this Finance Minister remain in office because, the longer he is in office, the shorter the term of this Government will be. Take the issue of vehicle imports. Today prices have been raised to such an extent, it is beyond the reach of an average citizen of this country. Vehicle prices have been raised five times since he became Finance Minister. Only vehicles that are two-years-old are allowed to be imported to this country, but how were 570 permits issued to import vehicles as old as six years? Who benefited from these imports? The Finance Ministry gave the vehicles to their supporters for their election work. When the time comes this Government loses power, the officials and the minister who is responsible for this will have to be ready to answer these charges.

UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa:

Is the Finance Minister acting in a manner that allows Parliament scrutiny of how public finances are utilised? He has completely denied the right of Parliament with regard to public finances. The Government is spending millions to buy vehicles for ministers and, at the same time, opening President’s House to the public to distract them from such wasteful expenditure. Taxes have been raised without a proper gazette being issued or, the law being amended. Isn’t this ground enough to bring a No-Confidence against the Finance Minister? People are being asked to make sacrifices, while ministers are engaging in extravagant expenditure. Some people call the Prime Minister, “Mr. Clean”, but, if he continues with the present Finance Minister and the present Central Bank Governor, he will be dry-cleaned.


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