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Budget passed with majority of 110 votes

The final vote taken on budget 2017 was passed in parliament with a majority of 110 votes in parliament yesterday.

The vote received more than two third of votes in favour as 165 members voting for while 55 voting against.JVP leader Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanyake called for a division by name.

The JVP, MPs of the Joint Opposition voted against while the SLFP, TNA, CWC, SLMC and EPDP voted with the government. Four MPs were absent. They were Mahinda Rajapaksa, Siripala Gamlath, Premalal Jayasekera and Thenuka Widanagama.

Government members booed the Joint Opposition when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name was read out for voting.

Winding up the marathon debate that took 25 days, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said: "What we have presented was a national budget. This is neither UNP nor SLFP budget. That is why this budget is appreciated by all. We have increased the VAT with great displeasure as there is no other option. We would bring the percentage of the tax down soon".

The Minister said that there are hoards of currency notes of 5,000 denomination hidden in the possession of some opposition politicians. "We know that those monies are used to bring people for protests. Every protestor is paid Rs 5,000. We would soon do what Modi did in India to place the currency hoarders in trouble. Then people could find those who have hidden stocks of Rs 5,000 notes."

"I recall the words of former army commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who pledged

that he would finished the war and would not leave that task to his successors. In the same way our government pledge to win the economic war. We would not leave that task to another government", he said.

The Minister thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for their guidance, his ministry officials, parliament staff and the Speaker and media for their contribution to make the budget debate a success.

At the end of committee stage debate Joint Opposition group leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena called for a division on expenditure heads of the Finance Ministry. Speaker Jayasuriya moved the House for a vote which received 164 votes in favour and 55 against.

Budget proposals were presented to parliament on Nov 10 and the second reading debate started the following day. Second reading stage vote was taken on Nov 18 and passed with a majority of two third of votes. It received 162 votes in favour and 55 votes against.

The third reading debate commenced on Nov 19 and continued till yesterday for 19 days except on Sundays.

Electronic voting system was first tested in Parliament yesterday soon after the budget vote was taken.

At the end of the session, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya requested all MPs present to participate in the test voting so that the count could be compared with the results of the normal voting took place couple of minutes back for the budget 2017.

The electronic vote recorder was introduced to parliament several weeks back but could not be used for the second reading vote taken on budget 2017 as some MPs had failed to submit their finger prints to the Secretary General of Parliament.

When the division was called each member pressed a button fixed to their desks indicating their decision within the time period allowed by the Speaker.
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