Budget second reading passed

By Saman Indrajith

The second reading stage of the Budget 2012 was passed in Parliament yesterday by a majority of 91 votes.

The Budget proposals received 151 votes in favour and 60 against. The number of seats in support of the government increased by one yesterday with UNP Colombo District MP Mohanlal Grero voting for the budget and crossing over to Government side.

When the time for the vote was announced by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga requested a division by name. When the name of MP Grero was announced to cast his vote, Government members thumped their desks welcoming and approving his decision. Soon after the vote was taken and before results were announced the UNP MP rose and walked across the floor of the Well amidst welcomes and applause from the government ranks.

The UNP, TNA and the DNA voted against the budget.

UNP Colombo District MP Grero, participating in the second reading debate on the budget earlier in the day made his intention of voting with the government public.

The MP said "people in the country now enjoy the dividends of peace ushered in by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who wiped out terrorism. The government has allocated sufficient funds for the education sector in the budget proposals. I have been voted in by my electorate since I promised to work for the development of the education sector. Now, I am 55. I would not be able to serve their objectives and interests if I remain in the Opposition longer. This need to add my contribution for the development of country’s education sector prompted me to decide on voting with the government in this budget."

After he took his seat on ending his speech, UNP MPs Sajith Premadasa, Daysiri Jayasekera and Range Bandara went upto MP Grero and spoke to him.

At this point UPFA MPs Shantha Bandara and Janaka Wakkumbura went upto MP Grero and accompanied him out of the chamber.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a brief visit to Parliament yesterday afternoon to attend consultative committee meetings of ministries coming under his purview. He met UNP MP Grero in the Parliament complex while other UNP members were seen gathering at the Opposition Leader’s office for a special parliamentary group meeting. At this meeting presided by party leader Ranil Wickremsinghe it was decided that the UNP should vote against the budget and the issue of MP Grero to be forwarded to the party’s working committee for further actions, party sources said.

The President however has left Parliament by the time vote was taken at 5,00 p.m.

With  MP Grero switching alliances, the ruling UPFA has increased its strength to 161 seats in the 225-seat Legislature while there are 63 in the Opposition of which 43 are UNP MPs, 13 ITAK MPS and seven in the DNA.

Seventeen UNP MPs, including eight SLMC members, have joined the Government ranks in the present parliament while one ITAK member too has extended his support in addition to the 143 UPFA seats in the government ranks.  

The final vote on the budget is scheduled to be taken at 5 pm on December 21. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, presented the budget 2012 to Parliament on November 21 and the second reading stage debate continued for seven days from Nov. 22. From today (01) onwards commences the committee stage (third reading) debate on the budget. The third reading stage debate is scheduled to continue upto December 21 and votes of ministries would be taken separately. The final vote would be taken at 5 pm on December 21.

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