President did right | Daily News


President did right

President Maithripala Sirisena, it is reported, had shot down a Cabinet proposal to increase the allowance of Parliamentarians by Rs, 200,000. Speaking at a function at the BMICH on Tuesday, the President revealed that MPs were already getting a monthly take home pay inclusive of allowances of Rs.400,000. He said he refused to sign a Cabinet Paper requesting a further Rs. 200,000 on top of this.

No person in their right minds would disagree with the President on this score. To say that MPs are already a pampered lot would be a gross understatement. It was only recently that they (MPs) received an allowance of Rs.100,000 each for the purposes of setting up offices in their electorates - or so the public were told. The request now for an additional Rs. 200,000 shows the extent to which our Parliamentarians have developed thick hides.

It is nothing short of callous disregard for public opinion, nay, the suffering undergone by the ordinary citizens reeling under the cost of living, while in the far flung villages the people are without water and are forced to trek miles to collect the precious liquid in earthenware receptacles from what is left of the dried up tanks.

The measure of their insensitiveness could also be gauged from the fact that it is only three months ago that the worse carnage in peace time Sri Lanka occurred when terrorist bombings killed over 250 people and injured over 500 at two Catholic churches, a Christian denominational church, three Five star hotels and a Guest House. The cries of the survivors and those rendered orphaned are still ringing loud, as witnessed on Tuesday, when the next of kin of the dead victims surrounded His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith pleading for justice, when the latter visited the bombed Katuwapitiya church following a separate incident.

At a time when these families have lost their breadwinners, children their parents, parents their children and those left orphaned and destitute having lost their means of existence struggle to pick up the pieces, it is indecent nay despicable indeed for our MPs, who have already helped themselves lavishly, like Oliver, to ask for more.

What pray, have these MPs done to deserve such largesse the public are bound to ask. The people who voted their MPs to Parliament to represent their interests are only being shortchanged, if recent happenings are anything to go by. Parliament, more often than not, has to be suspended due to those supposed to voice their people’s grievances failing to turn up. When they happen to be present, some are in deep slumber, and, at other times, at each others’ throats.

What is on offer is the taxpayer’s money. The additional Rs. 200,000 multiplied by 225 will come out of the pocket of the ordinary man when he buys his rice, dhal, chili, sugar etc. How must he feel when he, who contributes to the Rs.28 million a year to maintain a single MP (as revealed by JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa) is being asked to give still more?

For, in addition to their salaries they are bestowed with a string of allowances, including for attending Parliament sittings, which is what they were elected for in the first place. They are also entitled to heavily subsidized meals that include gourmet fare. Free foreign trips are also part of the package as are free fuel, telephone, postage, electricity etc. There is also the little matter of duty free vehicle permits sold to the highest bidder, including by a Bhikku MP who is much in the news these days. At the end of it all there is a generous pension for the asking by a mere completion of five years as an MP.

All for what purpose, one may ask. Besides, what levels of education do they possess to be entitled to such a bonanza? It is only too well known that a sizable portion of our lawmakers have not passed the GCE (O/L) exam, and, shockingly, it was reported that four of our MPs had gone only as far as Grade 8 in their schooling life. Worse, it is they who are entrusted with the task of enacting the country’s laws. What knowledge could they possess to comprehend the contents of an important Bill or abstruse arguments on such matters as Constitution making. This, while thousands of graduates are today demonstrating in the streets, getting baton charged, demanding jobs. The situation could only deteriorate further, for, waiting in the wings to make their entry are the progeny/siblings of the present lot who too cannot but be a chip of the old block.

The President acted right in refusing to sanction this abomination. In other countries lawmakers are known to take pay cuts at times of crises. But here it appears that the reverse is the norm. This column upholds the notion that this country ought to have a smaller Parliament with more professionally qualified and educated MPs. As it is, it is a crowded field, with Provincial Councils, Pradeshiya Sabhas etc., also sponging on the masses.

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