“The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for” ~ Hemingway
The Kokis eaten on our traditional New Year didn’t have much time to digest when the news broke that the luxury vehicle permits worth US$ 62500 was issued to all 225 Members of the Parliament of Sri Lanka which they can sell for close to Rs 20m each permit.
What is the change we voted for? Is this the culture we want to take forward? According to the Daily News editorial 25th November 2015 “Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake mentioned during his long Budget speech that the Government would abolish all kinds of vehicle permits, including those given to Members of Parliament.”
There was not much of noise for permits as I assume everyone has accepted and probably already taken home. Apart from this, each Minister will receive Rs35m for a Ministry vehicle and a Deputy Minister Rs28m. This is the grand new year gift for the common people of our nation. In contrast to the political elite, the office assistant in Government gets paid only Rs28,000 with close to 100 hours overtime payment as the monthly salary and has to look after his children, family and buy presents for the family to celebrate new year with the rising cost of living. The situation has not changed much for the forgotten assistant for the last ten years.
With this exorbitant spending we are going with a begging bowl to IMF asking for financial assistance to solve our financial crisis. Sri Lanka is requesting financial assistance in the next few weeks of around US$ 1 billion to US$ 2 billion from the IMF to sail over the current economic tide. To create a cabinet close to 100 Ministers was not the struggle the public or this author joined during the last election supporting the central theme Good Governance. The Sunday Times on the 17th of April carried that around Rs5m a month is the cost to maintain one individual Minister. While the politicians are asking the public to support their policies they are robbing the public in day light.
The cost of many products will rise with the increase of Value Added Tax VAT to 15% from 2nd May and again the common man has to add this addition burden to his life style. According to Economists the main conditions for the loan from IMF are to reduce the nations budget deficit, raise revenues and bolster its foreign exchange reserves. If the country is facing such economic situation, why is it that the politicians are accepting luxury permits and getting separate permits for Ministries.
Ideally, the State should be reducing permits and some members should not accept or go for affordable electric vehicles as pledged by President Sirisena in COP21, to create a better environment to reduce carbon foot print. Many speak of these good values but implementation is not evident in our society. According to Central Bank reports, by 2020 Sri Lanka aims to reach a per capita of $7000 which is in another four years. Now we are at $3500 and such unfruitful lavish financial spending one should question the direction of the country’s leader’s actions.
The media should educate the people on these shortcomings and support the public to create a better culture and environment. The minister who does not accept or brings an electric car should be on the front page for others to follow. There was a reason some journalists gave their lives in the past to report the truth, they reported with unbowed and unbiased slogan. This has to be at the forefront in Good Governance pointing out the errors before it leads to a total mess.
I can only refer to George Orwell’s 1945 political satire the Animal Farm which is a good example of today’s political climate. When the animals decided to rebel against and restore a new and better order, they eventually understand nothing much had changed- just the name tag. The initial commandments for a better order had to be secretly revised to clear themselves of accusations of law-breaking. After animals take over they eventually get into a bigger mess and start missing the old ways. The farm which was called Manor Farm was renamed as Animal farm, which couldn’t sustain, eventually it was renamed back again as Manor Farm.
Hope still exists that the new Government will rectify these issues and stick to the promises they made. The country we live is a fine place and worth fighting for. The State must restore a better order, and at the end its worth fighting because “there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience” said one of the greatest journalists we ever had in this Island.