Rajapaksa Wins House Approval for Budget Despite Defection Buzz
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s annual budget for 2015 was passed by parliament on Monday with a majority of 95 votes.
The passing of the budget is very significant in the context of rumours that a large number of ruling party MPs would crossover to the opposition to defeat the budget and thereby indicate Rajapaksa’s defeat in the January 8 Presidential election.
In the event, 152 voted for the budget and 57 voted against, giving the government a majority of 95.
The opposition United National Party (UNP), the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), led by former General Sarath Fonseka, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance ( TNA) voted against.
Ruling party dissidents and defectors like the joint opposition Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, were not present in the House.
The voting had taken place amidst rumours that the Rajapaksa regime was giving hundreds of millions of rupees to prevent its flock of MPs from fleeing to the opposition.
However, on Sunday, several top leaders of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA ) had made public statements saying that they would stick to Rajapaksa.
“I will not leave the SLFP even if Rajapaksa leaves” declared the Leader of the House, Nimal Sripala de Silva.
The danger of defections loomed large last weekend because the joint opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, was the General Secretary of the SLFP till last week. Additionally, one of the pillars of the opposition is former SLFP chief and Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
However, only three cabinet ministers defected. The handful of others who went with them were junior ministers and a nominated MP.