On the threshold of budget 2013

24 October 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The 2013 budget period is around the corner, with two setbacks for the government in terms of legislative work in Parliament.
As things stand today, it looks impossible for the government to enact two pieces of legislations   before the end of this year. Divineguma Bill and the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill that seeks to give permanent powers for the police to hold arrested persons in custody for 48 hours, are the two legislations that hid legal snags in the process of making them laws in the House.

The government’s attempt to enact Divineguma Bill hit a hiccup after the Supreme Court’s ruling to refer it to the provincial councils for approval. Also, the case whether the Bill can be endorsed by the northern governor is still pending before court.


13th Amendment
The Bill seeks to deal with powers devolved to the provincial councils for rural and regional development work under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The failure to enact this legislation effectively in Parliament appears to be a blow to the government which enjoys a two-third majority, and the ruling party politicians now consider it an eye opener for them to review the 13th Amendment introduced under the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, and abrogate it.   

Once again, the political rhetoric against the 13th Amendment resonates in political circle. The allies of the government such as Mahajana Eksath Peramuna , Jathika Hela Urumaya and Jathika Nidahas Peramuna have renewed their claim for the repealing of the 13th Amendment, and thereby doing away with the provincial council system.

The sudden emergence of   such a political dialogue has left political analysts with scope to interpret the matter   in their own ways. One section holds the view that the top brass of the government, angered by the inability to make Divineguma Bill a law in Parliament, and, is whipping up political emotions of people against it. For them, the provincial council system stood in the way as a stumbling block.  There is another school of thought that opines that the government is hell bent on showing the international community that there are domestic compulsions against power devolution or sharing.

The 13th Amendment  is a piece of legislation hastily prepared and forced down on Sri Lanka by India in 1987, as a step to resolve  the national question that was in the form of a civil war at that time.  It is fundamentally flawed in many aspects.  But, if anyone wishes to repeal it, what is the alternative mechanism to replace it? That is a question asked by the pro-devolution sections of society at a time the demand for a political solution is put forward.






TNA’s grievances
All in all, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which seeks an extensive power sharing arrangement with the government looks at the whole scenario from a different perspective.

When asked whether the TNA is perturbed by the latest development, TNA National List MP M. A. Sumanthiran said, “We are not perturbed in the least. We have been telling the whole world that the government is not genuinely committed to a political solution. Now, the government is proving our point.”

Similar views are held by the left leaning parties in the ruling coalition, namely the Communist Party and Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). The two parties have already called the abrogation of the 13th Amendment which according to them would  encourage the resurgence of terrorism.

Senior Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara of the Communist Party and Senior Minister Tissa Vitarana are the two politicians who have spoken for the 13th Amendment.




UNP still strict on rebels
The main opposition United National Party (UNP) changed the venue for its parliamentary group meeting    from the parliamentary complex to the party headquarters ‘Sirikotha’ on Tuesday.  It was seen as an attempt to block three MPs Palitha Thewarapperuma, Palitha Range Bandara and Asoka Abesinghe from attending it.  Their memberships have already been suspended for attending the October 18 rally in Colombo along with former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.

According to the party’s Constitution, anyone suspended from the party membership cannot enter the party headquarters for officials work. Accordingly, the three suspended members lost the opportunity to attend this week’s group meeting.


 India interested in TNA’s unity
Disunity among parties in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has become a matter of concern for the central government of India. During the party’s meeting with the Indian government early this month, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically told the TNA delegation headed by its leader R. Sampanthan, “It is better if you all are united.”

In that regard, the Indian premier had uttered only that sentence whereas much of attention was paid particularly on the process of evolving a political solution.  TNA MP, Suresh Premachandran, said that the Indian government is concerned over what he termed ‘inordinate delay and lackadaisical approach by the government of Sri Lanka   to address the problem.

The TNA is an amalgam of the parties namely the EPRLF of Mr. Premachandran, TELO of Selvam Adaikkalanathan, TULF of V. Anandasangari, PLOTE of D. Siththarthan and ITAK of Mr. Sampanthan. There have been talks going on for some time on the need to register the TNA as a separate political party with the Elections Commissioner. There are differences of opinions among the parties in the TNA in this regard, and the Indian Prime Minister was referring to it at the meeting.







KP Debate
At the business committee meeting of Parliament on   Tuesday, Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga asked for a special debate on November 6.   Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane was insisting to know what it was going to be on.  After being prodded by the government, Mr. Amaratunga said that it would be on LTTE’s chief arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP who is now with the government.  

Upset over the UNP’s move, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said it would not be appropriate to move an adjournment motion particularly on KP.
“In this manner, you will bring a motion on the underworld kingpin called ‘Wele Suda’. Therefore, it is better to generalize the theme of the motion so that debates could be based on a number of others including KP,” he said. The government members and the opposition members exchanged funny remarks over KP at this point, the UNP asked whether he would come to see parliamentary proceedings on that day .  Mr. Gunawardane replied in lighter vein, “Even if he comes, the UNP will not be able to identify him.”





Senior Minister disturbed over opposition disunity
UNP MP from the Ratnapura district Thalata Atukorale was having a chat with another on the corridor of the parliamentary complex on Tuesday when they were bumped in by a senior minster.

The senior minster was jubilant to meet Ms. Athukorale.

“Hello, Thalata, how are you? What are you doing in the opposition? You have to be united to emerge as a powerful force to reckon with. Otherwise, it is disadvantageous for us in the government too. We have been compelled to play the role of the opposition as well,” he told Ms. Athukorale.

Both the government and the opposition are hit by internal squabbles and dissension ahead of the budget period over issues specific to each of them.  The inability of enact ‘Divineguma Bill’ is a slap on the face for the government, and divisions among the opposition members will not enable it to take on the government during the budget period in a concerted manner.
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