Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa today accused the opposition of attempting to get the old Parliament reconvened to use their majority to block government finances, thereby sabotaging the anti-coronavirus campaign and bring the government into disrepute before the election.
“ The opposition’s concern obviously is that if the election is held in a situation where the anti-Coronavirus campaign in Sri Lanka has shown much better results than in most other countries, they would be placed at a serious disadvantage. Hence we see that the opposition’s present efforts are aimed at getting the old Parliament reconvened and using their majority in Parliament to block government finances, thereby sabotaging the anti-coronavirus campaign in order to bring the government into disrepute before the election,’ the Prime Minister said in a statement issued today.
He said that the while the President, the government and the state apparatus have focused their entire attention on combating COVID-19, the political opposition is vociferously demanding that the dissolved Parliament be reconvened and asserting that after 30 April, the President has no legal right to allocate funds for the maintenance of government services without the approval of the old parliament and even issued a threat to the effect that unless Parliament is reconvened, the President and all in the government run the risk of the loss of civic rights and the confiscation of property.
“Parliament was dissolved at the beginning of March when there were no coronavirus patients in the country. After the first Corona virus patient was found one and a half weeks later, the Elections Commission postponed the election till the 20 June. The Elections Commission has already announced that the election could be postponed further depending on the advice of the medical authorities. The EC will hold the election at a suitable time in accordance with the powers vested in them,” the Prime Minister said.
“The opposition argues that Article 150(3) of the Constitution allows the President to allocate funds for the running of government services at a time when Parliament has been dissolved only if the previous Parliament had not passed an Appropriation Act. They claim that the previous government had passed a Vote on Account up to the 30th of April and that therefore, after this date, the President has no authority to allocate funds for any purpose. This is an absurd argument. Under Article 150(3) of the Constitution, the President has complete authority to allocate funds for any purpose for which funds had not been allocated by Parliament,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Parliament has already allocated funds for a given purpose, there is no need for the President to intervene in the matter. “The opposition also alleges that the President is not reconvening Parliament with the ulterior motive of misusing the funds coming in from abroad for the anti-coronavirus campaign. They contend that Parliament should be reconvened to supervise how that money is spent. All funds received by the government go to the Treasury via the Central Bank system. There are procedures that must be followed in spending this money. Funds in the Treasury cannot be spent in the manner that yahapalana ministers spent the money of the Central Cultural Fund,” he said.
The Prime Minister added that after the new Parliament convenes. the opposition will have the opportunity to raise questions about how government money was spent between the time of the dissolution of the old Parliament and the convening of the new Parliament. “ Until then they should refrain from misleading the public with blatant lies. At this moment, we should set politics aside and concentrate on controlling the coronavirus outbreak and restoring normalcy to the lives of the people.”
He also called on the public to extend their fullest cooperation the health sector workers, and Army, Navy, Air Force, and Police personnel at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.