Govt. fast-tracks to appease JVP ahead of
crucial Budget vote
- Gunning for COPE Chairman continues
- Will Karu be called to form a
Lanka is heading for yet another week of political turmoil, with
the government and the opposition braving for the third reading
of the Budget scheduled for Friday, December 14.
At this juncture, the point to ponder is how some of the
political parties manoeuvered to vote for the Defence Budget
The JVP, which opposed the second reading of the third Budget of
the Rajapaksa administration, however, voted with the government
in this instance, drawing the attention of the entire country.
The more plausible reason for this is that the JVP is more or
less obsessed with the security situation in the country and are
seasoned campaigners against the terror tactics of the LTTE
against the state. If the JVP decided otherwise, it would have
had a negative impact on them, politically, hence, the “aye.”
However, it may not have a bearing on the third reading of the
Budget, and the JVP is very likely to revert to its earlier
stance and vote against the government, as they did during the
second reading on November 19.
The emerging political scenario is that there could be a split
in the JVP right down the middle during the week, with the more
vociferous Wimal Weerawansa siding with the government. Several
other members, including Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Vijitha
Herath, have had discussions with the UNP too.
Sensing disastrous political consequences if the JVP votes
against the government and the opposition manages to get seven
members from the government benches, the government has done
everything at its disposal to appease the JVP.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama’s onslaught on the UNICEF
is also a part of the government’s effort to win over at least a
section of the JVP.
What the government wants at this juncture is the JVP to abstain
from voting at the third reading, which would be considered as a
great favour towards sustaining Parliamentary power, by the
In a worst case scenario, where the government is defeated at
the third reading, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is likely to call
upon Karu Jayasuriya to form a government, instead of UNP Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe, expecting more defections from the UNP to
form a national government, while the JVP is poised to assume
the role of the main opposition.
At the government Parliamentary group meeting held on the
President’s birthday, just prior to the second reading of the
Budget, a resolution was adopted by the government group to
refrain from inviting UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a
government. It was moved by Deputy Minister Nirmala Kotalawela.
However, it is too premature to predict as to how the UNP would
react to such an emerging scenario, and simultaneously, it is
difficult to asses as to whether the government could expect
more defections from the UNP, in the event Minister Jayasuriya
is called upon to form a government.
Gunning for Rajapakshe
In the meantime, government is closely looking at a motion
filed in the Supreme Court last week by Attorney-at Law Sudath
Perera, stating that the 33rd Respondent in the Fundamental
Rights case filed against the privatisation of the Sri Lanka
Insurance Corporation (SLIC), had, in fact, rendered
professional services to the PERC, in his capacity as a lawyer.
The 33rd Respondent in the case is Parliamentarian Wijedasa
Rajapakshe, who is also the COPE Chairman, which revealed acts
of corruption and mismanagement within government institutions.
The motion also states that Rajapakshe provided professional
services and a legal opinion dated July 24, 2006, on the sale of
shares of the SLIC, to PERC, at its request.
The motion further states that Nihal Amarasekara as PERC
Chairman, in his personal capacity, had complained to the COPE,
where Wijedasa Rajapakshe is Chairman.
It states that the Aitken Spence & Co. Ltd. and Aitken Spence
Insurance (Pvt) Ltd. believe that the matter contained in the
said legal opinion is of the utmost importance and material for
due adjudication of the application pending before court,
challenging the privatisation of the SLIC.
However, Amarasekara is now trying to dispute the position taken
by the said respondents, by another motion to be filed in court
shortly. His position is that he resigned as PERC Chairman long
before PERC consulted Rajapakshe. Amarasekara states that he
resigned in Novemeber 2005, whereas the said respondents have
cited a legal opinion obtained in July 2006.
What the government is interested in is to find out as to
whether Rajapakshe had levied professional fees for services
rendered as a lawyer cum Parliamentarian, in a bid to ask court
to invoke provision 91(1) (e) of the Constitution, which states
that “a person is not qualified to be elected as a MP or to sit
and vote in Parliament, if he has any such interest in any such
contract made by or on behalf of the state or a public
corporation, as Parliament shall, by law, prescribe.
What the legal experts say is that there should be corresponding
law made by Parliament prescribing the nature of the contract,
if the court is to take action against Rajapakshe. They point
out that in the absence of such law, it is difficult to sustain
the case and ask for relief under the Constitution.
They also point out that this provision flows down from the
Soulbury Constitution promulgated in 1947 and since then, there
has been no effective law to deal with such situations.
However, in the 90s, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was unseated under
the same provision by the Court of Appeal, though there were no
laws to prescribe contracts with the government.
Dr. Senaratne told this column that the court unseated him
despite Senior Counsel K.N. Choksy’s submissions to this effect,
on a petition filed by present Justice Minister Dilan Perera in
the Court of Appeal and it was Rajapakshe, a close friend of Dr.
Senaratne, appeared for Perera.
It is very clear from the foregoing, that the government and the
opposition are getting ready for a big tussle during the week in
the run up to the third reading of the Budget. Though the
government is aware that it is not in a position to oust
Rajapakshe from Parliament in a hurry, it is exploring all
possibilities to find a way out of the situation and oust him