Ministers and MPs, Use Buses and Trains

Vroom! Yahapalana in top gear

Island Edsitorial

The yahapalana government has drawn heavy flak from its detractors, who say it is inefficient. But, this, we believe, is a claim reeking of prejudice and jealousy. What some frustrated politicians, suffering from political cold turkey, say about their rivals who are enjoying power and living off the fat of the land, are to be taken with a pinch of salt—cum grano salis! The incumbent administration has proved, beyond doubt, that it is as efficient as its predecessor in some respects. See how efficiently it is feathering the nests of its politicians and lackeys!

The Salawa inferno happened last year, causing a rain of exploding ordnance, which destroyed a township. Deluges occurred subsequently turning many parts of the country into billabongs of sorts. Millions of people are currently undergoing immense suffering due to a severe drought. But, the government has sought and obtained parliamentary approval for super luxury vehicles for its ministers and their deputies to the tune of about two billion rupees during the last nine months alone! It presented the latest supplementary estimate to Parliament for that purpose a few days ago.

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The holier-than-thou Joint Opposition (JO) worthies have taken the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to task for wasting money on new vehicles without using the not-so-old ones they used. If only, while in power, they had been so considerate as to prevail on their boss to refrain from taking planeloads of hangers-on to faraway countries and plunging the loss-incurring national carrier deeper into debt! The Rajapaksa government was characterised by the criminal waste of public funds. One of the JO heavyweights has been charged with abusing as many as 40 vehicles. Others who are responsible for the alleged offence have got away with it by joining the yahapalana administration, but that’s another story.Image result for duty free cars for Sri lanka MPs cartoons

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has recently been questioned by a special commission once again on a staggering loss a state media institution suffered due to the nonpayment of bills for his 2010 presidential election advertising. Political leaders must be held accountable for what they do while ensconced in power. The present government has paid millions of rupees for a building for months without using it. This is an instance of abuse of public funds and the question is what the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has been doing. The loss must be recovered from those responsible for the questionable building deal. They deserve to be in the exalted company of former Minister Wimal Weerawansa in Welikada at least for a few weeks. We look forward to the day when the yahapalana big guns are hauled up before courts and presidential commissions for the abuse of power and public property besides their corrupt deals, which are legion.

The late Anura Bandaranaike once told Parliament that a minister, who, before taking to politics, had been wearing flip-flops and pedalling a rickety bicycle, pretended, after becoming a minister, that he could not move about without luxury vehicles. The same is true of most of the present-day politicians who were in penury before entering politics, which is the Sri Lankan version of El Dorado.

People’s suffrage has never been trifled with in this manner. Elections are being postponed as the government is scared of facing them. Candidates, rejected by people, at the last general election, have not only been brought into parliament through the backdoor but also rewarded with ministerial portfolios and perks. When the government appointed a jumbo Cabinet in breach of one of its main election promises, it assured that the increase in the number of ministers wouldn’t cost the public anything extra. But, today, the rapacious ministers including political rejects are being given super luxury vehicles at the expense of the public and the modern buildings that house their ministries cost the hapless taxpayer an arm and a leg, as we reported the other day. With the money spent on each of the ministerial vehicles purchased by the yahapalana government a multi-storeyed school building can be built or the much-needed sanitary facilities provided to dozens of schools.

It was only the other day that Megapolis Minister Champika Ranawaka said priority on public roads had to be given to buses and not cars. The best way to develop public transport is to make ministers travel in buses and trains so that they will realise the suffering of the commuting public and feel the need for improving mass transit. Let Ranawaka urge his ministerial colleagues to take public transport and set an example to others in a bid to reduce the number of cars and SUVs on roads.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have recently promised to accelerate their development programmes. Maybe, they think their ministers need fast moving, comfy vehicles, to give a turbo boost to their development drive! Speed is of the essence, isn’t it?