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Budget to be presented on Nov 17



by Saman Indrajith

The new government would present its first budget to Parliament on November 17, Parliament sources said yesterday, adding that however the matter on the dates for the debate had not yet been finalised

 In the Appropriation Bill for 2021, Government expenditure for the year 2021 has been estimated at Rs. 2.6 trillion with the limit on borrowing set at Rs. 2.9 trillion.

 The government on 20 Oct. presented two appropriation bills to provide for the financial years 2020 and 2021. Along with the Appropriation Bill for 2021, the government presented a separate bill to cover the expenses for 2020 including the funds withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund under the authorisation of the President between March and August this year.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa authorised the withdrawal of funds from the consolidated fund using powers vested in him under Article 150 of the Constitution, once in March and again in June during the period Parliament stood dissolved with elections postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the election victory of the SLPP in August 2020, Parliament approved a resolution to obtain around Rs 1.7 trillion to cover state expenditure for the next four months of the year by way of a Vote on Account .

The government expenditure for 2020 is estimated to be around Rs 2.538 trillion for the service of the period beginning on 1 January, 2020 and ending on 31 December, 2020. The limit on borrowings this year is Rs 2.65 trillion, according to the Bill.

In the Appropriation Bill for 2021, the government expenditure for the year 2021 has been estimated at Rs. 2.678 trillion with the limit on borrowing set at Rs. 2.9 trillion.

The highest allocations in both years will be for the Ministries of Defence, Highways and Provincial Councils.

The limit on borrowings for the financial year 2021 has been set at Rs. 2,900 billion with the details of such loans to be incorporated in the Final Budget Position Report which is required to be tabled in Parliament under section 13 of the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act No. 3 of 2003.

The highest allocations in the Budget will be for the Ministry of Defence topping Rs. 355 billion (Rs. 355,159,250,000) of which Rs. 316 billion (Rs. 316,806,290,000) will go for recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure at Rs. 38 billion (Rs. 38,352,960,000).

The State Ministry of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management will get around Rs. 152 billion (Rs. 130,818,002,000 for recurrent expenditure, Rs. 21,647,040,000 for Capital expenditure).

The State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government under which allocations are made to the nine PCs will get over Rs. 338 billion of which around Rs. 279 billion (Rs. 279,824,000,000) will be recurrent expenditure and around Rs. 58 billion (Rs. 58,250,000,000) capital expenditure.

The Ministry of Highways will get around Rs. 330 billion, of which around Rs. 329 billion (Rs. 329,999,590,000) will be capital expenditure and Rs. 185,415,000 recurrent expenditure.

The Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government will get around Rs. 271 billion of which over Rs. 270 billion (Rs. 270,473,000,000) will be for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 1 billion (Rs. 1,250,000,000) for capital expenditure.

The allocation for the Ministry of Finance is around Rs. 157 billion with recurrent expenditure amounting to over Rs. 100 billion (Rs. 100,338,845,000) and capital expenditure stands at Rs. 57 billion (Rs. 57,264,870,000).

The Ministry of Education will get over Rs. 126 billion with over Rs. 102 billion (Rs. 102,670,000,000) allocated for recurrent expenditure and around Rs. 23 billion (Rs. 23,870,000,000) for capital expenditure.

The Ministry of Health has been allocated around Rs. 159 billion but the bulk of Rs. 128 billion (Rs. 128,480,998,000) will go for capital expenditure and around Rs. 30 billion (Rs. 30,995,000,000) for recurrent expenditure.

The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing will get around Rs. 23 billion (Rs. 530,341,000 for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 22,990,858,000 for capital expenditure.

The expense head of the Office of the President has been allocated close to Rs. 9.3 billion (Rs. 9,345,660,000) of which Rs. 3,206,180,000 will go for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 6,139,480,000 for capital expenditure.

The office of the Prime Minister will receive Rs. 1,051,750,000.

Party Leaders who met for a special meeting at the Parliament Complex last week had decided to take up the Appropriation Bill 2020 on Nov 12 and pass it the same day, Parliament sources said, adding that they also decided that the government would present budget 2021 on Nov 12.

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”



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Bathiudeen granted bail



Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions



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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI



By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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