When there was so much of controversial news, and the Media itself was being criticized by the Prime Minister (refer last week’s column ‘Media at a glance’), where he called the Media a “disruptive threat” and said “such threats must be countered as a Media warfare is shifting from physical to on line; and cyber faced systems are becoming an extremely demanding task.” In such a backdrop, a move by the Western Provincial Councillors (WPC) became an interesting topic on Social Media.
The move was to purchase ‘125 luxury chairs’ for ‘104 Councillors’, to place their buttocks comfortably, at a cost of Rs 844,000 per chair (with tax).
The hullabaloo erupted on this proposed manoeuvre from the public, as well as, from some of the Councillors themselves who claimed that although it was a good move to bring all Western Province Institutions under one roof, yet the cost for such an operation was absurd. Ultimately the matter was referred to the Western Province Governor, who appointed a Committee to investigate the matter and later cancelled the order and lambasted the Committee, as he found the report of the Committee was heavily flawed! At first, it appeared to be incongruous when extra chairs were included in the proposed purchase order, when there are only 104 members in the WPC – the worst being, members assembled only fortnightly for meetings. The new proposal was believed to harmonize with interior décor of the newly opened Provincial Council building, which has cost an enormous amount of “tax payers’ money”
Western Province Governor – Cancelled the order.
Upsetting the Hornet’s Nest
Naturally, this exertion managed to upset the hornet’s nest among the general public, and drew a lot of adverse comments on Social Media. In such a backdrop, is it possible to agree with the Prime Minister’s comments that Social Media is a disruptive threat? The answer to this question has to be certainly negative, because the proposed scheme has proven to be a blatant wastage of tax payers’ money and many critics seem to smell a rat.
Once the cat was out of the bag, many defensive arguments surfaced from various officials connected with the WPC, one of which indicated their requirement was to have some ‘decent’ chairs similar to the ones found in the Parliament. The Chief Minister of the WPC was also seen on TV, blaming the Media, as usual, for inaccuracies in reporting – but if not for the Media exposure, it would have been a case of ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.
On 11 September, another Media exposure on a massive fraud involving the Sri Lanka Cricket surfaced, which was detected at the nick of time, prior to millions of dollars being paid into a private account in a foreign bank. Bribery and corruption in this land has now become a contagious disease similar to a common ‘nose cold’, and the germ seems to spread to all quarters quite freely in a habitual fashion.
A video on YouTube added more fuel into the proposed WPC’s misdeed with a comparison of the British Parliament seating arrangement. An illustrative photograph of the House of Commons exhibited long bench-like seats in a row on both sides, and the Speaker of the House at the head of the Parliament Bay. This type of seating in the British Parliament has been in existence for the past 50-60 years, but no one seems to have bothered to make any complaints or query about the seating arrangements or comforts. Britain is one of the most advanced countries in the world, and to furnish the Parliament with luxury chairs would be the easiest thing for the British.
Another special feature in the House of Commons is the absence of a reserved chair to any particular Member of Parliament, except of course to The Queen, when she attends Parliament for the State opening, an event formally marks the beginning of a Session of the Parliament. Traditionally Queen Elizabeth II, as the Head of State, makes a speech from the ‘Throne’ in the Parliament, known as The Queen’s Speech – detailing her Government’s intentions for a specific period.
Except the Queen’s reserved and preserved seat, there aren’t any swinging or circulating chairs in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords.
Speaker’s Chair in Sri Lankan Parliament
Britain is considered as one of the most advanced and developed nations in the world, where members democratically elected to Parliament consider themselves as ‘people’s representatives’, who are obliged morally and bound legally to serve the public. Unlike in Sri Lanka, Parliamentarians are not paid an extra allowance for each Parliamentary sitting as their commitment and responsibility are inherited in their blood stream.
In comparison with such dedicated commitments of the British behavioural patterns, the attitudes of some of Sri Lanka’s Provincial Council Members, Town and Urban Council Members, and even some MPs’ are to be much desired as their conduct has been akin to a bunch of incorrigible grammar school boys, thus making themselves a laughing stock. The demeanour of some MPs’, even those who are regarded as senior and experienced, have become indecorous to the extent of getting involved in brawls and fisticuffs in the ‘Well’ of the Parliament, addressing Opposition Members in foul language, and disregarding the school children who, from time to time, sit in the Gallery.
Sri Lanka Parliament
Millions of FB viewers saw, recently, how a Council Member upbraided a fellow Muslim Member during a Council session in the most atrocious manner using utter filth, which cannot even be quoted in Media. He mixed his abuses with racial connotations thus simply exposing himself as a real hoodlum, but not as a people’s representative! Another Town Council President has issued a notice to his Members to address him as “Sir”. No wonder why the public despise such characters as representatives of the people who get elected to serve the public as Town Councillors, Provincial Councillors, and even MPs’. This kind of adaptation is found only in Sri Lankan politics where each politician (even among themselves) address each other as “honorary” (Garu Manthree, Garu Minister) – which needs to be banned from any vocabulary. The usage of the word ‘honorary’ becomes applicable to someone who offers his/her services free of charge. That may be why the general public often call them ‘injudicious suckers’ (halparuwo), except of course about ten per cent out of the lot.
Patients having to sleep on the floor and under other patients’ beds
Let’s be serious about to what extent Sri Lanka is riddled at present with enormous problems. Although the Minister of Health is doing his best to reduce the prices of imported (quality) drugs, still patients have to share single beds (hardly enough for one person to stretch) in some of the hospitals throughout the country, while many patients are compelled to sleep on the floor on mats, and underneath other patient’s beds! Despite cutting down on prices of many expensive drugs, hospitals don’t seem to have adequate supplies to distribute to every patient liberally, making a mockery of the word ‘ treatment’. National schools have not got necessary laboratory equipment for studies, and no proper furniture available for students to sit and work; there is a lack school buildings and toilet facilities for hundreds of children in certain parts of the country, while the buildings that are dilapidated are not repaired, for unknown reasons, which compel teachers to take lessons under the shades of trees in remote villages.
In such a situation, helpless and the innocent are forced to suffer in a most brutal manner, and it is not surprising when the citizenry starts addressing these imprudent people’s representatives as egocentric, selfish, and eccentric buffoons, who are only hell bent on their personal comforts but nothing else.
The disregard of the Members of the WPC to waste millions of tax payers’ money on imported, expensive chairs to sit on them only twice a month would amount to the lack grey matter in their heads, and critics say they are not even worthy of sitting on plastic chairs.
Pic. credit: Ceylon Today, Daily Mirror and Google Photos