Ranil queries Basil’s India visit during Budget Debate

Ranil Wickremesinghe

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (7), said the Government should reveal why the Finance Minister undertook a visit to India during Budget Debate.

“Did he go worshipping Bodh Gaya or was it the Indian Government? This must be revealed to the people as it is of utmost importance than the Budget 2022,” he added.

Raising a privilege question in Parliament, Wickremesinghe said the Government promised to present details on the foreign currency reserves to the House last week.

“However, the Government has failed to do so until now. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa is on an official visit to India at the moment. They present the information we sought to India, without even informing us. Why can’t the Finance Minister reveal this information to us?” he inquired.

The Central Bank Governor during an online forum said that Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserve is currently about USD 1.5 billion. Why do you hesitate to reveal this to us? This is actually a violation of our privileges. The Finance Minister should be in the House during the Budget Debate. This is the first time a Budget Debate is being held without the presence of a Finance Minister, he stressed.

In response, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said that a detailed answer for the questions raised by Wickremesinghe and other MPs regarding the economic situation in the country including foreign currency reserves is being prepared and would be presented to the House very soon.

Intervening in the conversation, Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena noted that the Finance Minister attends the debate from time to time.

“When there are special meetings and events, he has to attend them. I know about the conduct of past Finance Ministers. I also was a Finance Minister back then,” he said.

Wickremesinghe said that no Finance Minister visited foreign countries during budget debates.

“Can you tell us why he want to  India to attend a pilgrimage” he queried.

Semasinghe said, “The Finance Minister has done his duties properly. He attended several Sittings. The problem is Wickremesinghe does not attend many Sittings.”

Wickremesinghe: “The CBSL Governor said the Government would not kneel before other nations. Then why did the Finance Minister go to India?”

Semasinghe then said that Wickremesinghe is doing the duty of the Opposition single handed. “I thank him for that. The Opposition Leader and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) never asks questions like this. The SJB fled Parliament because they cannot face the people now.”

(Source: Ceylon Today – By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake)