Sri Lankan Muslim party under pressure on budget vote

Colombo(Xinhua) : Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), an ally in the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, has come under pressure from its membership not to support the government in the key vote to take place Dec 14, party officials said Sunday.

“A majority of our executive committee members feel that we should abstain from voting,” said a party official who wanted to remain unnamed.

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He said the grassroot members, particularly from the troubled eastern province, thought that the Rajapakse government had failed to address the security issues of the Muslims and their land ownership in the east.

“A decision was taken at the executive committee meeting held Saturday night to leave it to the party leader Rauff Hakeem, the high command, to take a final decision on the matter,” he added.

Hakeem, who is the posts and telecommunications minister in the government, and his five other legislators voted in favour of the government Nov 19 on the second reading of the government’s 2008 budget.

This was amidst moves by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) to entice defections in order to topple the government.

The government won the Nov 19 vote by 118 to 102 votes in the 225-member parliament and declared that it would win the Dec 14 vote by a bigger margin.

However, the UNP said the opposition are confident of toppling the government in the final vote.

Analysts said the position of the SLMC, with six legislators, would be crucial to the third and final reading of the budget on Dec 14.

According to the local law, should the government lose a parliamentary vote on the budget, the government has another opportunity to present a budget afresh. The failure to win the second budget would force dissolution of parliament.