Sri Lankan parliamentarians spend more time in foreign capitals than in their electorates. During a spate of natural disasters which left over 200 people dead and hundreds of thousands of others displaced a few moons ago, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged his MPs including ministers to go back to their constituencies and be with their electors in distress. Only a few government and Opposition parliamentarians were considerate enough to brave the extreme weather conditions to help those who had elected them and, thereby, made it possible for them to live off the fat of the land. But for the media and the security forces the disaster victims would, perhaps, have been left without any relief.
It has been reported that 15 MPs are scheduled to visit China to attend a disaster management programme of all things. The group consists of parliamentarians representing both sides of the House, we are told. They get on like a house on fire when it comes to their perks, salaries, privileges and foreign trips. Let them be urged to stay back and try to manage the two biggest disasters the country is faced with—the government and the Opposition. Many politicians and bureaucrats have been overseas umpteen times purportedly to study waste management, but our garbage problem is far from solved. They use various other excuses to go overseas much to the neglect of their duties, at the expense of the taxpaying public.
Why should parliamentarians go all the way to China to study disaster management?
The Chinese government can be requested to send some disaster management experts here to conduct workshops for politicians and public officials. Let the Chinese specialists tell them about the Shenzhen waste dump collapse, which killed 73 people in China two years ago; 45 persons, including several state officials, were sentenced, a few months ago, up to 20 years in jail over that tragic incident. Strangely, no one has been brought to justice over the Meethotamulla garbage dump disaster which left at least 32 people dead about four months ago. So much for accountability under the yahapalana regime!
We believe there is only one country which our ordinary MPs, ministers, Prime Minister, President and former Presidents, still active in politics, should visit. Unfortunately, they never mention the name of that land. It is Uruguay, where they ought to meet the ex-President, Jose Mujica (82), who, while in power, donated 90 percent of his salary to a charity and lived on his wife’s ramshackle farmhouse, refusing to occupy the presidential house. He uses a vintage beetle. (Our MPs have bought, during the last two years alone, super luxury vehicles worth more than two billion rupees while reaffirming their commitment to good governance!) Mujica has been receiving treatment at government hospitals, where he waits in queues like other people. (Our leaders rush overseas for treatment even if their body temperature rises by a few degrees while bragging that they have developed the health sector of this country!)
Image from internet
President Mujica retired in 2015 with an over 70 percent approval rating. He had only two policemen and his three-legged pet dog to guard him! As for his austere lifestyle, Mujica once famously said: “I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.” Banners with these inspiring words prominently written thereon must be displayed in Parliament, two presidential palaces in Colombo and the residences of the former presidents.