House falls apart as new alliance generates heat
By Shelani Perera
The much awaited political happening of the week, the signing of the MoU between the SLFP and the JVP, was the most debated issue when the House resumed sittings on Tuesday.

Amidst heated arguments, with government members cautioning their PA counterparts about going for an alliance with a party that once said unuth ekai, munuth ekai, several bills were taken up which included amendments to the Value Added Tax, Inland Revenue and Water Board.

The Opposition lost no time in hitting out at the government, charging that it was scared of the alliance. Responding to Minister A.H.M. Azwar's statement, that the name of the alliance should have read " Somawansa- Weerawansa Government, " the JVP hit back saying, " it seems that the Minister can't get over the Sandanaya, You don't have to worry about us."

The slandering continued till Friday and reached a climax when Speaker Joseph Michael Perera adjourned sittings for ten minutes, and ordered PA Parliamentarian Jagath Pushpakumara to leave the Chamber after he refused to abide by the Speaker's ruling.

This occurred when the government moved a motion calling for a debate on the legality of JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe's return to Sri Lanka. The Speaker wanted amendments to the motion leaving out the name of the JVP as the party.

This caused chaos in the House with the government claiming a debate was needed. Members from the government and the Opposition kept asking for point of order interrupting the Speaker. Parliamentarian Pushpakumara was not given a point of order, amidst the Speaker calling for order in the House. Charging that it was a gross violation of his parliamentary privileges, the parliamentarian refused to abide by the Speaker's ruling. Even after sittings were adjourned for ten minutes, the legislators from the government and the opposition sides continued with their verbal onslaught.

TNA MP Ravi Raj and JVP Parliamentarian Nandana Gunethilake got into yet another argument over the issue during the adjournment. However when sittings resumed a somewhat sober Jagath Pushpakumara, apologised to the Speaker for his outburst claiming that in the heat of the exchanges he did not hear the Speaker's order.

Among the Bills presented to the House The Value added Tax (Amendment) Bill was passed on Wednesday by Finance Minister K. N. Choksy where the VAT was extended to financial services made by specified institutions, such as licensed Commercial Banks, and Registered Financial Companies.

Another change affected through the amendment was the exemption of VAT on the transfer of commercial bank non-performing loans to a person under a restructuring scheme approved by the Central Bank, on brail paper and boards, pharmaceutical products certified by the Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs Authority, motor vehicles specially designed for the use of disabled persons, medical machinery. Equipment or ambulances gifted from persons abroad, capital items required for vocational or practical training.

A notable feature in the House was the lacklustre attitude of both opposition and government members .This was most prominent when the VAT bill was taken up. When CP member Raja Collure pointed out that neither the Finance Minister nor the Deputy Finance Minister were present in the House, PA Parliamentarian S. K. Subasinghe pointed out that the government bench was empty. Immediately the quorum bell was rung and the government members trooped in.

Nobody seemed interested in the bills, but the Sandanaya seemed to be on everybody's mind with Somawansa Amerasinghe's name being mentioned by almost all the speakers. The government went to the extent of even suggesting that VAT should be charged on the returning JVP leader.

When amendments to the Inland Revenue Bill were brought up, the Finance Minister claimed that the UNF took over a Government that owed a colossal sum to the banks due to unpaid claims by several key state institutions.

However the Opposition maintained that the government was making all these amendments for its own benefit and it would not serve the poor man. "It is a blessing in disguise for the Government," claimed the Opposition.

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