Opposition Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva acts as the Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance. Under Parliament’s Standing Orders 121/31, when Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena spoke in Parliament on several important recommendations on the report of the Committee on Public Finance, there was heated cross talk between Minister Gunawardena and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.
The discussion was as follows:
Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena:
You don’t need seven days. I invite you to come for a TV debate for three hours. They asked for seven days. Come for three hours to talk about public finance.
I am ready for a public debate with you at any time in my mother tongue, Sinhala. The Opposition continues to speak against this. If they form a Government one day, just imagine if something like that happens to the country; it means that if this arrangement is completely changed, the whole country will collapse. That is why we need to have a debate; Do you agree with this or not? This report should be debated. If the Speaker agrees, give us a debate for three days. We suggest a debate whether we agree or not. It is a responsibility of Parliament regarding finances.
From the Opposition Leader’s statement, the intelligent masses of this country can come to a conclusion about his nature and the quality of a state leader who is going to take charge of a country. We have an authentic understanding of something very small. Speaker, I have clearly told the Honourable House that this decrease in income is not something that happened in one day. This country became bankrupt due to the complete disregard and non-implementation of the Financial Management Responsibility Act No. 3 of 2003.
This can be proved numerically. The country’s economy collapsed not because of the one-day of tax removal. When he (Sajith) was sitting in the Cabinet as a responsible Minister of the Government, I wrote a book with numbers about the collapse of the economy in those five years called ‘Arthika Asanasiya’. ‘Asanasiya’ is about how it all went bankrupt.
So look at the numbers. The judgment has been given according to the facts presented to the Supreme Court. We respect that. That is why we are saying that without knowing about this, without even an iota of understanding about the theoretical situation, they raised their hands to issue US$ 12 billion only in sovereign bonds. The 1919 sovereign bonds were issued to be paid in 1929. The person who raised his hand for all that is today saying that everyone is wrong and he is right. So, do you know a word about economics?
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa:
He (Bandula) raised his hand to give Rs. 600 billion in general concessions to millionaires and now comes to teach us economics. I am ready for a debate with you for seven days about economics. You are the mastermind. We are ready; fluent in both Sinhala and English, and also in Tamil if needed.
Speaker, I was not born between 1919 and 1929. What is he saying? It is according to his book that the outlook of prosperity has been made. Now the country is bankrupt.
We will give the complete answer. The Speaker also agreed; three days for the debate. If you want, give us a debate for a week instead of three days. This is so important. I want to tell you clearly; The Supreme Court gave a decision (don’t confuse this) on a Fundamental Rights petition submitted by three people. In particular, a one-fourth decision was made that their fundamental rights were violated. The Supreme Court ruled that the country went bankrupt through mismanagement. This is not about today’s program or the program that will be implemented in the future.
All of them raised their hands and gave Rs. 600 – Rs. 700 billion in tax concessions to the rich in this country and reduced the state income as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product from 12 percent to 8 percent.
When our country was downgraded in the rankings, they shouted that it is okay to go down in the rankings. They called it patriotism. Speaker, I am asking to give us a seven-day debate. A seven-day debate is needed. I would like to say, these are the economic experts who raised their hands to reduce the state income from 12 to 8 percent and give tax relief to millionaires.