Higher Education Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has resorted to naming and shaming in a bid to recover nearly one billion rupees some university dons who are currently resident overseas owe the country. There are 485 defaulting dons, according to a list published by the Ministry of Higher Education in the newspapers. This is a welcome move and why his predecessors failed to do so is the question.
Many Sri Lankan professionals, including doctors and university teachers, whose further education or training overseas has been funded by the state, have not returned or paid back the money. Successive governments have appealed to them to pay back their dues, but in vain. Minister Rajapakshe has hit them where it hurts most. It is hoped that he will be able to shame the defaulting teachers into paying up. More strength to his elbow!
Minister Rajapakshe is a former COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) chairman, who took some bold steps to make public the parliamentary watchdog committee reports and ensured that action would be taken on the basis of their findings. His effort yielded the desired results and some of the illegal privatisation deals were cancelled by the apex court.
Now that Minister Rajapakshe has named and shamed a group of errant university teachers, let him be urged to launch a campaign to reveal the details of bank loans MPs have defaulted on and the amounts they have earned by selling their duty free vehicle permits. The kith and kin of politicians have also drawn huge bank loans, some of which have been written off. Details about these bad loans should also be publicised.
Dr. Rajapakshe will earn more public plaudits if he can pressure the MPs to reveal their assets with accretions thereto over the years. Some of those who did not own even bicycles when they entered politics now have fleets of super luxury vehicles at their disposal besides palatial houses which are said to help astronauts identify Sri Lanka from outer space. People have a right to know how their beloved representatives’ wealth has accumulated. (TW’s Spot Comment: irshard badiuddin and hisbullah are typical examples while ali zahir moulana’s strategy is different.)
Government leaders’ foreign junkets cost the public an arm and a leg. It looks as if they were vying with one another to make the most number of foreign trips and set a new world record. MPs have benefited from the largesse of a company, which fraudulently earned massive profits to the tune of billions of rupees at the expense of some state banks and the workers’ pension fund. These lawmakers who have sold their souls to the bond racketeers must also be exposed forthwith. Who will publish a list of shame containing their names?
The newly constructed building for the Western Provincial Council is said to look like Kubla Khan’s abode, Xanadu. Thankfully, an order for more than 100 luxury chairs, costing about Rs. 650,000, has been cancelled due to adverse publicity the government received. The imposing edifice’s carved front door with brass embellishments alone is said to have cost more than an ordinary house. Millions of rupees have been spent on a large number of air freshener machines installed in the building, we are told. (Is the place so stinky?) This building is located in a city where more than 50% of people live in slums and shanties! Some of the vehicles imported for the yahapalana leaders who promised to lead simple lives have cost Rs. 300 million each. Who will list such luxuries?
Politicians including the self-proclaimed messiahs have been indulging in this kind of wasteful expenditure while people are made to stump up more and more money by way of tax increases and monthly fuel price hikes. Many more lists of shame are called for.
Will Minister Rajapakshe care to make a serious effort to help cut down on such criminal waste of public funds or at least name and shame the culprits?