President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday replied to a letter sent to him by former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera in which the latter had made a request for the resummoning of Parliament to conditionally resolve crises and to approve public expenditure.
In the reply to Samaraweera sent through his Secretary P.B. Jayasundera, the President said the letter contained many factual inaccuracies and gave a detailed answer to the questions raised by the former Minister.
The President also said that from 2015 to 2019, both Samaraweera and the Finance Minister before him had presented a number of supplementary estimates each year whilst failing to ensure the legality of relevant legislation related to budget proposals in Parliament.
He noted that despite the Appropriation Bill and the Budget estimate for 2019, that arrears of Rs. 182 billion, which included unpaid bills for fertiliser, medicines, relief for elders, and material and services for construction projects, were allowed to remain.
The President also accused the former administration of obtaining foreign loans to the amount of Rs. 211 billion but failing to include these in the public accounts even after spending it without any approved allocations.
He said that the last Government had also failed to clearly state reasons for the decline in the growth of the national income from 5% to 2.5% annually and the widening gap in State loans and the Budget deficit, as well as failed to note that the foreign loans were defaulted even after selling off national assets, like the Hambantota Port, and not accommodating the depositors with any relief when financial institutions such as ETI collapsed.
“If the Appropriation Bill was not passed at the time of the dissolution of Parliament, then under Article 150(3) of the Constitution, the President is empowered to meet the expenses via a Vote on Account bill for up to three months of convening the new Parliament. This procedure has been followed in all previous instances when the Parliament was dissolved before passing the Appropriation Bill and is well within the legal framework. Yet, having held the position of the Finance Minister, you have failed to indicate that you are aware of this process,” the letter from the President said.
Jayasundera said the President has directed him to bring to Samaraweera’s attention the regrettable fact that the proposal to settle arrears of Rs. 182 billion and Rs. 211 billion foreign loaned project funds incurred when he was the Finance Minister was rejected when presented in Parliament.
“This was rejected despite being presented by the Prime Minister with the approval of the new Cabinet of Ministers of the Government appointed after the Presidential Elections and that of the Attorney General. Through this action, the President was prevented from fulfilling the mandate given to him by the majority of the people. This is in complete contrast to the support extended by the then Opposition to the minority Government of 2015,” the letter said.
The President has also communicated that he is perplexed as to the possible reasons for an “educated, intelligent, ardent believer in the neo-liberal socio-economic model, and senior politician who had managed the economy” to be against allowing people to exercise their democratic right through participation in elections