Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was recently caught lying and attempting to mislead the public over the government’s latest decision to provide vehicle allowances to 58 Parliamentarians.
In one instance, the Minister, while responding to a question raised by BBC Journalist Azzam Ameen said that, the vehicle allowance was a temporary measure taken as some of the vehicles ordered for the use of these MPs had still not arrived.
During a press conference, Karunanayake said, “the government, as well as both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe decided to grant vehicles to some MPs without portfolios as they too have to carry out development work, and tend to issues in their areas. Vehicles have been ordered but it has not arrived yet, so the allowance is temporary, till the ordered vehicles arrive. It’s not like the MPs can travel by bus.”
However, when the same issue was taken up in Parliament last week, Karunanayake in response to JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that if even Dissanayake wanted the vehicle allowance bonanza then he too should join the government. He made no mention about the vehicle allowance being temporary.
“There is a big difference in the government and opposition MPs. The MPs in the government have a lot of work to do, so we have to provide facilities for them to carry out their work diligently, this is why we are taking these measures. We are not just giving them cars, we are giving them to carry out their work,” Karunanayake said.
He also added that 85% of the cost was for taxes and the government was paying it, and therefore this was the ‘change’ unlike in the previous government.
Last week, the Colombo Telegraph reported how President Sirisena had expressed his concern over the cost of tax the government was incurring from the vehicle allowance to be granted to 58 MPs. The move was also seen as an attempting to score points by informally agreeing to ‘bribe’ Parliamentarians as Sirisena attempted to further strengthen his position.
According to a leaked letter, Sirisena had at no point vehemently objected to the allowance as a whole but had instead expressed his concern over the tax components in the allowance. The Rs. 590,000 allowance will increase to Rs. 700,000 a month per MP due to the VAT and NBT taxes. The total cost of the new allowance is expected to cost the country Rs. 2.4 billion.