In the aftermath of the SLMC crossover to the Opposition yesterday, the 36-member strong JVP announced that it might change its present stand on the government budget, should the situation demand that. `We don`t think there is still any need for changing our position, but after taking into consideration all the developments in the run up to the crucial vote, we will make a final decision` JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa told The Island.
The JVP opposed the budget at the vote on the second reading last month but later backed the defence vote at the committee stages, fuelling speculation that it would side with the government at the third reading. However, the JVP leadership said the partysupport for the defence vote was symbolic. Its decision to oppose the budget stood.
At the Nov. 19 vote, the government got 118 votes for its budget at the conclusion of the second reading, while the combined Opposition mustered 102 votes including the JVP`s 36. Two of the three SLFP dissidents voted with the Opposition. One abstained and two Opposition MPs were absent. The SLMC crossover yesterday increased the Opposition`s strength to 108, including the two MPs who were absent.
Minister Anura Bandaranaike voted with the government reluctantly, claiming that he did so out of his respect for the founders of the SLFP ? his parents.
The CWC is reported to have said it has not yet decided whether to vote for the budget but the government is confident of securing its support.
Its decision is expected to be made known before the vote is taken tomorrow. SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem walked across the well of the House yesterday afternoon, flanked by three of his MPs amidst cheering from the Opposition ranks.
Prior to his crossover, he had made a special statement explaining why his party had decided to break ranks with the government. MPs Basheer Segu Dawood, Faisal Cassim and Hassan Ali crossed over to the Opposition along with Hakeem.
Hakeem said he and his colleagues had resigned from their portfolios and decided to leave the Government as they could not protect the interests of the Muslim people as members of the government.
He said he did not leave the Government with any malice or resentment but as the composition of the Government was such it was not possible to work for the SLMC electorate, especially in the East, where the Muslim people were losing their socio-economic rights, land and security. He had informed both the President and the Prime Minister of his decision to leave the Government. He said the SLMC was not opposed to the SLFP but to certain `rightist faces within the Government`, meaning the JHU by innuendo.
The difficulties that Muslim villagers are facing in the East due to restrictions on land use are believed to be a reason for the SLMC exit from the government.