By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
News has begun to trickle into the public domain of Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa MP agreeing to permit the leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and former Leader of Opposition R Sampanthanthan MP, to continue to reside in the official residence and retain the two official vehicles assigned to the Leader of Opposition.
Rajapaksa has supposedly agreed to the request as he already has a residence provided by the state as a former President.
It is very easy to be magnanimous and charitable when the costs involved are not paid from one’s own pocket.
Sampanthan has supposedly received a ‘Quit ‘Notice’ from the relevant authorities. He has also been notified, legal action would be initiated in case of failure to vacate the house.
The TNA leader wishes to remain in the residence of the Leader of Opposition due to his private residence in Colombo being located on the top floor of a multi-storied building which does not contain an elevator. Being 86 years old, he supposedly finds it challenging to climb several flights of stairs up and down daily.
It is understood, a cabinet paper had been submitted and approved formalizing the arrangement.
No reasons are known for the two vehicles.
As a result, an ordinary MP now has the use of a state bungalow and two vehicles besides being entitled to a Duty-Free vehicle permit which if not already sold can now be easily sold as is the practice with our MPs.
The residence and vehicles are not Rajapaksa’s private property to do as he pleases. They are given by the state for the duration he holds the post of Leader of Opposition. His attitude in this instance is typical of how state property was abused during his administration.
However, this is not about Rajapaksa, Sampanthan or any individual. It is about the impropriety of state property being used as private property.
Given the cabinet decision (probably made to curry favor with TNA), a distinct possibility exists of new accommodation and vehicles becoming necessary whenever the next Leader of Opposition assumes office.
The public has seen this kind of abuse of state property and the waste of resources in the past when successive Presidents occupied Temple Trees, thus compelling the state to provide alternate accommodation for several Prime Ministers. All this while keeping the President’s House mothballed.
A frequent complaint heard is the lack of policies and regulatory frameworks governing most things. The fact a ‘Quit Notice’ has been sent is proof, a system does exist in this instance. The policy has been circumvented with a cabinet decision.
Gone are the days when gentlemen politicians such as W Dahanayake who packed his suitcase and left his official residence Temple Trees. He took a bus to Galle leaving behind his official vehicle, the day after the people voted his government out of office.