1:15 PM

Opposition gears for Budget fight

Opposition moves are underway to defeat the government’s Budget for 2009, although the government currently possesses a clear majority to have it passed with relative ease.

Against overwhelming numerical odds, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) vowed to defeat the 2009 Budget, claiming it had a moral obligation to do so on the grounds that the proposals are not pro-people.

Speaking to The Nation, UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said despite the current numbers in Parliament which give the government a very clear majority with 117 MPs, with the combined opposition comprising only 107, the UNP considers it a number one priority to defeat the Budget.

However, the opposition has a tough fight on its hands, with the Wimal Weerawansa led National Freedom Front (NFF) likely to swing the government’s way during the Budget vote, bolstering the UPFA’s numbers to 128.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that the main opposition and the SLFP Mahajana Wing led by Mangala Samaraweera are trying to win back a few UNP dissidents between now and the third reading of the Budget, but given the numerical odds, the opposition would require at least 20 additional MPs to stand a chance.

Asked how the UNP would garner the requisite numbers to pull off a Budget defeat, Attanayake responded that it would be done, although the details of the manoeuvres could not be revealed ahead of time. He said the TNA and the JVP had been very clear about voting against the Budget.

JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe confirmed that his party has decided it will vote against the Budget. “We will support the vote for the Defence Ministry, but other than that this Budget offers no respite whatsoever for the people,” he said.

However, he admitted that the government had the necessary majority to get the Budget passed.
The government, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the Budget will pass with ease. “We do not have any doubts about the Budget being passed and we are absolutely sure there will be no difficulty in doing so,” said Leader of the House and Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva.