COLOMBO: The new Sri Lankan government today cleared its first test in parliament as its interim budget was passed with a near unanimous majority. The interim budget, overseen by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was passed with 163 votes for 1 against in the 225-member assembly.
The outcome was politically significant for Wickremesinghe, whose United National Party (UNP) has only 41 members and may be seen as the first demonstration that the new government enjoys a majority in the House. "This is a first step towards a new political culture in this country," the premier said.
The overwhelming majority vote demonstrated that they were working as a unity government, he added. The budget presented on January 29 spelt out immediate economic relief measures while taxing the super rich. It offered a series of economic relief measures, including waiving off farmers' loan by 50 per cent.
It also raised salaries of around 1.6 million public servants, slashed food and fuel prices while slapping new taxes on the most profitable private companies.
The economic relief measure are aimed at the next parliamentary election which will be held after April. The opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) voted in favour of Wickremesinghe's budget.
Sri Lanka witnessed two-term president Mahinda Rajapaksa voted out of office in January 8 elections, in which the then biggest opposition party UNP backed Sirisena, who defected from SLFP and emerged as the common opposition presidential candidate.
A day after Sirisena won the election, Wickremesinghe was elevated from the position of opposition leader to prime minister but had not proved his majority in parliament before today's vote.
Sirisena inherited the SLFP leadership from Rajapaksa who bowed out after his defeat.
The government, however, has been made to face another test when the opposition handed over a motion of no confidence against senior minister John Amaratunga over his alleged involvement in several local councillors being beaten up. As many as 114 members had signed the motion which is to be debated later.