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Thursday April 18th, 2024

Government has blatantly violated the Constitution by presenting this Appropriations Bill – Sumanthiran

The sun sets over the Parliament at Shri Jayewardenepura

ECONOMYNEXT- Opposition Member of Parliament M A Sumanthiran is accusing the government of “blatantly violating the Constitution” by asking the House to approve of an Appropriation Bill for monies that have already been spent.

Speaking in Parliament during the First Reading of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) MP said: “we are trying to legitimize grave illegal and unconstitutional acts that have been purported in this country.”

An Appropriation Bill must be debated and approved prior to the financial year for which it applies. It is only then the Executive obtains the approval of Parliament to draw from the consolidated fund, borrow and generally administer the finances of the country, the veteran advocate of the Supreme Court said.

Article 148 of the Constitution “very clearly says that the Parliament will have full control over Public Finance. No tax rate or any other levy will be imposed by any local authority or any other public authority except by or under the authority of a law passed by Parliament or of any existing Law. So, there is no law until now passed for the financial year 2020 that the Parliament has approved” Sumanthiran pointed out.

“What was approved were certain resolutions under A.150 sub A.2. Now those resolutions do not permit levying of taxes or borrowing by the government,” he said.

“Article 152 says, no such warrant shall be issued unless the sum, has by resolution of Parliament or Law being granted for specified public services for the financial year during with the withdrawal is so is to take place or is otherwise lawfully charged under the Consolidated Fund,” he went on.

Sumanthiran said such a resolution can only the drawing from the consolidated fund, such sums of money that are necessary for public services and that too for specified public services only.

“You cannot do any developmental work. You can pay salaries of public servants and other expenditure related to public services. During this financial year, we have had 2 such resolutions passed. One covering the periods 1st Jan 2020 until 30th April 2020 passed in Oct last year. And another covering the period 1st Sept 2020 to 31st Dec 2020. Now even those 2 resolutions passed by this House can only be used to pay for specified public services and not anything else” he said.

Today on this very strange Bill that we are debating, it is called the Appropriation Bill for 2020 and we are debating it in the month of November 2020.

The Bill that is before us is not only a strange Bill but it is an act to coverup various illegalities that have been purported in this country. Now, why do I say this?

All of us know that this is not how finances have been handled in the country for this year. There has been a severe need to make payments, to spend to make grants to the general public who were affected in several areas who were given 5000/- in the month of April and May in the whole country.

None of those was public services. But all those expenditures were done, expenses were met, developmental activities were carried out. All this in violation of the very strict limitation imposed by the Provision of the Constitution that says for specific Public Service only. So, there is a blatant violation of Constitution by this government and what is worse for the period 1st May to 31st August there was no resolution under A152.

What the Hon. Minister of Finance said today is that twice the President acting under A 150 sub-article 3 authorized expenses. Now, what does Article 153 say? Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law he may unless Parliament has already made provisions authorize and issue from the consolidated fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services. He can only authorize spending for public services until the expiry of 3 months from the date of which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.

Originally the new Parliament was summoned to meet in May 2020. Thereafter, after the Elections Commission postponed the elections it was put off until the 20th of August 2020. Nevertheless, the very limited authorities that a constitution gives a president is during a period of dissolution he can authorize, he can only authorize for public services, expenditure for public services and nothing else. Now there are 2 issues here, he can authorize for expenditure. But only for public services and nothing else. If you look at the Bill before us that has all kinds of developmental activities specified. Bad it is that this is coming in the month of November for this financial year, it is blatantly revealing to us that what has been expended is far beyond the authority that the Constitution gives the President.
(Colombo, November 13, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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