The Committee Stage budget debate on the Ministries of Trade, Marketing, Cooperatives and Consumer Services and Export Development and International Trade was held in Parliament yesterday (28).
Opening the debate for the Opposition, Colombo District UNP member Ravi Karunanayake said Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardhana who had contributed much to the debates and governance when he was a member of the UNP, had now changed his policies by joining the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government. He was now making a futile attempt to find reasons for the government`s inability to bring down the cost of living and provide relief to the people. The price of goods had risen beyond the reach of the common man, but the budget had failed to make any proposal to provide relief to the people.
The proposals of the Minister like developing cooperatives, were not practicable ones as the country could not depend on the co-ops which were not capable of providing the people with sufficient consumer goods. It was the present government that was responsible for the closure of the CWE, but they were blaming the UNP. The government`s inefficiency and cost of maintaining the large number of ministers was the burden on the people, but it was useless to blame the UNP for everything, he said.
Minister of Power Mahindananda Alutgamage said it was Ravi Karunanayake who was responsible for the closure of the CWE as he had spent large sums of money to pay about 2000 employees he had recruited by paying thumping sums of money for his personal staff on CWE account. He also had spent public funds to purchase buildings of his friends and got a foreign lottery contract and had remitted 8 million to get a British music group down. These transactions were not made with the money he had brought from his personal funds, but public funds.
Under the Foreign Exchange Fraud Laws of 1952, he was liable to imprisonment as he had got involved in a three million dollar remittance that was sent to buy shares of a Bank owned by the UNP Chairman. He carried a visiting card with the legend `Member COPE` to give others the impression that he was representing the committee. The two year UNP government of which he was a member, was the most corrupt government in the history of the country and the COPE had not revealed that there were two Heads of Government who were involved in frauds but had only probed the small fry. Therefore he should remember that all his public transactions cannot be hidden as the government was aware about what he had done in the UNP cabinet, Alutgamage said.