18 June, 2021

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Political Machinations: The Abuse Of Vehicles

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

There is some surprise at the Divisional Secretariats I have been visiting regularly over the last couple of years, when I turn up in a rather shabby vehicle, with only a couple of others with me. How shabby it was I discovered when one of the tyres, which were near to bald, went flat between Gomerankadawala and Padaviya Sripura. Fortunately my driver and security dealt with the matter swiftly, despite a jack designed for a motorbike having been given to us instead of the original, and we were less than 15 minutes late. The vehicle, which is generally trustworthy despite its appearance, got me safely back to Colombo without a spare. It is certainly much better than the posh Montero I was once given, which guzzled petrol, whereas this does 10 kilometres to a litre of diesel when travelling long distance.

Even in the days, long gone now, when I had three security personnel, I did not use a back up vehicle. It would simply have cost too much for fuel. Thankfully, in addition to providing me with a vehicle, government provides diesel for long distance official journeys, so I am not out of pocket. But the rate at which I ask for diesel is apparently considered very modest, and held up as an example to other drivers who require much more for similar journeys.

One can hardly blame drivers though, since vehicles are perhaps the most productive of the cows which are milked by politicians as perks of office. Recently in COPE we have tried to deal with the question of departments having handed over vehicles to Ministries – usually for the use of Ministers – and then not getting them back. Sometimes there are no records available to help recover them, sometimes there is simply no will given the primacy of Ministers. And of course when one Minister enjoys such perks, it is difficult to restrict others.

Following yet another lame rejoinder to instructions we had issued, I wrote to the Chairman of COPE that ‘I have been struck by the number of vehicles given to Ministries that belong to agencies we are supposed to monitor. This is in the context of burgeoning supplementary estimates to provide yet more vehicles to Ministries. Should not the Cabinet have an audit of the number of vehicles assigned to individual staff at Ministries, including Ministers, their Coordinating Secretaries, their Media Units etc? It would also be useful to note the amount of fuel consumed by these vehicles, with perhaps an assessment of how much is claimed by different agencies for travel to the same destinations.’

The problem with regard to media units is one I know well, for as Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights I often had to approve fuel allocations for the media unit to cover the work of the Minister in the District he represented. What use this was I could not fathom, since though what they wrote up appeared on our own website, it did not have much impact elsewhere. The Secretary to the President agreed with me that having such media units for each Ministry was quite unnecessary, and an efficient central unit would actually be more productive as far as government was concerned.

But I suppose, given our preposterous electoral system, it is not productivity for government that is sought, but support for individuals. And of course media units can come in useful for this in other ways, as I discovered at the time of the election – when thankfully I was no longer Secretary – when the Media Unit had a fracas with an opposition candidate, who was then jailed, which indubitably contributed to his election to Parliament as against more senior and well known candidates in his party.

My suggestion regarding comparisons of fuel claimed was not primarily designed as a check on honesty, since obviously different vehicles need different amounts of fuel, and some dignitaries need to stay in more comfortable accommodation than some towns possess, which would involve additional travelling. But such an audit would also make clear which vehicles are uneconomical, and might help government to develop a policy of using eco-friendly vehicles, unlike the Montero and others of that ilk.

The letter itself was prompted, not only by the responses that showed how little COPE can do if not backed up by administrative action, but also by a recent set of supplementary estimates, requiring Rs 360 million for the purchase of vehicles. In fairness to the politicians, almost Rs 200 million of this was for 23 vehicles for judges of the Supreme and Appeal Courts, and I suppose anything that enhances their dignity, assuming vehicles can do this, is to be welcomed. But all of this worries me in a context in which Grama Niladharis who cover large areas often do not have even motorbikes to facilitate their work.

The UN has begun providing motorbikes to some government officials, and this is welcome. But it is sad that it should have taken the UN to realize that those responsible for welfare need transport if they are to fulfil their duties properly. And I should note that this applies above all to the police, who are perhaps the worst off, given their range of duties, with regard to transport.

Some of this could be eased by ensuring better public transport in rural areas. But we have signally failed to develop a policy about this. Neither Central nor Provincial Transport Boards see themselves as having a mandate to ensure basic services, and the suggestion of the President, that for vital matters transport should be entrusted to Divisions, has been ignored. As we see with the Ministry of Education, unwillingness to allow alternative modes of delivery increases with the incapacity to provide that service on the part of any large institution entrusted with the responsibility. But the result is an increase in the disfunctionality of those who actually have functions to perform.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Is this Rajapassa Psychophant trying to set some record in the area of self-righteousness when he writes such bilge!
    Why doesn’t he devote his next instalment of Motoring News to the Lambhorginis, Maseratis etc that his boss’ progeny are tooling around in?
    Jackass!

  • 0
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    Oh! You baby.

  • 0
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    Rajiv Wijesingha.

    Instead of this ABUSING OF VEHICALS Or Some COPE gilmarts,
    Why cant you advise your Big Boss to Reduce This Jumbo Cabinet[te] with the Joke of the Globe, Sri Lankan Government Ministries.

    Then all those killings and abusing will stop.

    If we the Uneducated can think,
    why, DONT YOU THINK SO.

  • 0
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    Dear Prof. your nose is still brown. This self pitying BS ain’t gonna wipe it away. Planning to spin your own cotton, don a dhoti and call yourself the Rajapassa Ghandi? Don’t be silly sir!

  • 0
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    Rajiva W..please please come for an election the next time. Hopefully we the voters can rid you of this misery.

  • 0
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    What petty nonsense is this? Especially coming from this recently disgruntled MR lapdog. Who even takes him seriously anymore after his sojourn in the MR camp?

  • 0
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    It is really crazy to talk about “The Abuse Of Vehicles” when abuse of people; men, women and children are rampant!

    This is like trying to stop the slaughter of cattle, when slaughter of humans is ignored.

    Has he got nothing better to write about?

  • 0
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    Hey dude, politics is a dirty gravy train with Rajapassa and his family of brothers and imbecile sons- the dirtiest buggers in Town.

    Corruption and BAD GOVERNANCE is how the regime pays its cronies and maintains it power while the poor have to pay taxes – for politician’s car races and high life.

    This article provides insight into the total lack of governance and ACCOUNTABILITY in the regime that rewards politicians who break the law repeatedly. The solution is to topple this MOST CORRUPT of regimes before it is too late. Politicians are the SCUM OF THE EARTH and those in the UPFA are the worst.

  • 0
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    There is a Daily Running Chart book, in every state vehicle in which details of each journy must be entered – time and milometer reading at beginning of journy,same at end of journey – signed by the user NOT the driver.
    Fuel should be pumped into each vehicle on fixed days,in the presence of two officials – amount entered in the DRT.
    This was adhered to by all public servants entitled to official vehicles.
    If this is adhered to,misuse of vehicles & wastage of fuel will be minimised.
    State drivers selling fuel from official vehicles to private van/jeep/bus owners is common, after manipulation of the DRC to show even double the actual mileage.
    Rajeeva can enforce this – will he dare?
    p.s
    What does he do at divisional secretariats?
    Does he check Attendance Registers,Vehicle/Travelling files?

    • 0
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      All vehicles previously by used by politicians while in office should have been surrendered to the Commissioner of Elections.

  • 0
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    You expressed “indignation” at the massacre on the 1st of August together with the other two POLITICAL appointments to the diplomatic missions DAYAN and TAMARA

    why not show others the way by quitting the government all together then the question of fuel economy won’t arise , right?

  • 0
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    It was in news that Minister of Housing Wimal Weerawanse said that Treasuray Secretary had allocated seven more vehicles from last years budget to his ministry when he even did not request for.

    How many more other ministries may have these over allocated excess vehicles. Who are in charge of these allocations.

    Also what happened to the 27 Brand new Mercedes Benz cars that were to be given free to Supreme court Judges. Have they already been given to them or waiting to be given when the CJ Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake case comes out in order to bribe them.

    If the British Patliamentarians including the Prime Minister could travel using their Public Transport, I don’t see why our politicians also follow through.

    Sri Lanka’s Parliament and the whole Govcerning system is the Biggest White Elephant out of the whole world.

  • 0
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    Many of these comments express the just anger towards Rajiva and they never attempt to put forward their views over the issues raised. This is the complete jealousy and the comments are too partial. Please please do not waste your time to criticize people like Rajiva since there are only a handful of learned who can move with such people. We really like Rajiva’s balanced criticism aimed at rectifying and refining the society. Well done Rajiva.

  • 0
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    Rajiva, it is very clear that the regime does not respect you since they do not give you a good vehicle, they do not take your advice on matters and above all they do not even consider the suggestions that you give with regards to your ministry. So why are you still sticking on to UPFA where you are not wanted? You are a leader of the Democratic Party is part of an undemocratic regime, Why? Do not ignore this questions. Please answer. We read your articles so I am sure you are reading our comments as well. Like Dayan you should have the guts to answer our questions. Thanks

  • 0
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    pompous chap trying to look self righteous!

    • 0
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      you are a lunatic as to why you do not like to listen to such people. seems a number one racist

  • 0
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    So when are you going to resign? And save us the agony of your hypocritical views…

    • 0
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      Peace lover and Peter both are writing with their pseudonyms. No spine to appear in real names, this is how such timid people conspire to create problems. such people are a real burden to a country like ours. When a learned scholars analyze an issue with a rationale justification, these people can not bear them. Hey, learn to be a principle men.

      • 0
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        Maniwasagam – You have undoubtedly failed to follow RW’s “anal yze issues” over the years – either that or you are in that ‘ignorance is bliss’ world! And by the way, Peter isn’t a pseudonym, is ‘Maniwasagam’?

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    I heard there are vehicle yards in colombo and those are full of /govt vehicles and many govt institutions do not know how many vehicles they have and where they are. Even the provincial councils function like that and some vehicles are with defeated councilors and they are no longer with the PC yet they drive the vehicles.

    Every where it is the same, Health minister so often complains, about corruption in hospitals and he does not know how many doctors are actually working for the govt.

    What we hear from bureaucrats is they can not take a decision, politicians always over ride that decisions.

    Even the Weliweriya is a result of govt neglect. Govt did not listen to the public needs and when public became rebelleious against govt’s propaganda machinery is talking the part of the story. It is the govt which provided way for the third parties, if there were, to involve.

    Simply, Sri Lanka is a rudderless ship.

    Only thing we here is top leading making shady deals and the development is for their personal advantage.

    • 0
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      Have to agree with you here Jimmmy boy

      I have seen so many good cars jeeps in a terrible state of neglect in many govt dept yards and many parts were pilfered too

  • 0
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    The English Lap dog is barking again up the wrong upassa tree!

  • 0
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    Why does Rajiva not cross over to the opposition and sit as an independent MP?

    • 0
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      Because he’s a two faced hypocrite who wants to show that he is such a principled man while being part of this government and getting the prestige and privileges of his office. Pathetic.

    • 0
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      You really don’t know ?

      Ranil and Rajiva are first cousins who hate each others guts…..that’s why !

  • 0
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    Rajiva,

    Running with hares, hunting with the hounds.

    Par for the course with you, eh!

  • 0
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    It is time the government controlled the number of vehicles issued to politicians. It will save a lot of money. In the alternative give them only a fuel allowance and let them buy their own cars from their own money. Now that there is no war there is no need for back up vehicles as well.

  • 0
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    Prof,

    You are swinging like a pendulum or more like a monkey jumping from Tree to Tree. What is your message please it is very muddied .

    I like the following

    “Even in the days, long gone now, when I had three security personnel”

    By the way how many have you got now is it You driver and a Dog. why are you travelling without a Security as if anything happened to you it will be a loss for the Sinhala Nation because you are a National Treasure much loved and valued.

    My brotherly advice to you is “TRAVEL IN THE WHITE VAN” it is much safer and you can also pick up some meat on the way.
    Marinate it Roast it and Eat with Red wine

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