Opinion

Politics Turned into an Industry

January 11, 2023

The political disarray in Sri Lanka is akin to ‘Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning.’ The 225 representatives who are democratically elected by the people to serve the citizens of this country appear to be only interested in their affairs. MPs keep mum about the facilities and perks they get on a plate. Why aren’t politicians in this country hell-bent on grabbing more and more? Most Ministers appoint their kith and kin as their secretaries and officials. After being in Parliament for four to five years, MPs qualify for a pension. Stable government servants or private sector employees must toil for years until they are eligible for a pension! Does no one among MPs or laypeople suggest abandoning this pension scheme for MPs? The citizenry is pressed to the wall and unable to have a decent meal these days. Every commodity is so expensive, and so many young children are recorded as undernourished (according to the latest report from UNICEF).

Suppose the Sri Lankan Government wants to cut down on unnecessary expenses.  As the first President, there are enough of J.R. Jayewardene introduced schemes, such as abandoning pensions to widows of Ex-Presidents. Maithripala Sirisena is supposed to draw the Ex-Presidents’ pension and the current MP’s salary. Chandrika Kumaratunga is also entitled to a pension. Why should Hema Premadasa (wife of the late Ranasinghe Premadasa) still get so much Police protection? So, is Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike with an ‘army’ of police protection? Indeed there are no threats to their lives now, unlike during the LTTE war.

Fundamental Problem.

The fundamental problem in Sri Lanka is how police protection is given to every parliamentarian and Ex-Presidents’ living wife. According to statistics, most police officers are allocated ceremonial duties as ‘bodyguards’ for MPs’ safety, leaving a massive vacuum for implementing law and order in the country.

Why is Sri Lankan  Ministers cum state ministers need luxury vehicles for travel? They use costly vehicles amounting to millions of Rupees. And the worst is that they are exempt from customs and excise duties, which amount to another couple of million for importing luxury vehicles. Like in other countries, why cannot our local ministers emulate their foreign colleagues? A former Prime Minister of Britain, John Major, who is on holiday in Sri Lanka, much liked to travel by underground Railway (tube trains) in the UK. Generally, UK Prime Ministers have been keen to be seen mixing with other passengers, while London mayors have praised the London Underground network, which opened over 150 years ago.

Why cannot the Sri Lankan Ministers use public transport like  John Major?

MPs might comment that public transport in Sri Lanka needs to be developed. The answer to such a question would be that two major political parties have been running the country for the last 74 years, and they should have resolved the problem many years ago! Numerous Sri Lankan Ministers have been galivanting in foreign lands and have not seen complex transport systems for many years! Still, have they done anything to develop the transport systems?

Escorting Vehicles.

When a Minister commences a journey, several police jeeps and dozens of escorting vehicles (even today) are seen following the Minister’s car. During the LTTE war, one would have assumed there was a threat to their life. Continuation to this day means a waste of government money and being pompous. These are only a few examples of government wastage.

Politics is becoming an Industry.

The current politicians in this country have turned politics into an industry. They spent a fortune during elections to come to power and had to satisfy those who backed them financially. So, once the contestant becomes an MP or Minister, one is under an obligation. Every audit report indicates there is bribery and corruption at the highest level. Whether it’s a corporation or a ministerial tender, interested dealers and suppliers will keep an eye on such tenders and get involved with the Minister concerned, as bribery and corruption are imminent in millions. At the same time, the masses are pressed against the wall, with taxes and commodity prices hitting rocket levels. So, how can Sri Lanka get out of this mess? Sri Lanka once proudly stood among the international community but is now a bankrupt country. Today Sri Lanka has to go to the international colleagues and the IMF with a begging bowl! There is so much waste in the government. When people suffer to such an extent, representatives of the so-called people behave as if they are deaf and blind! Why can’t they contribute at least some portion of their salaries and allowances and other perks to build up the country? No! It’s not their choice to wait until US dollars are earned from tourism.

Emulate Britain.

The UK is an excellent example to emulate. Politicians of all parties, in unison, dispelled their political ideologies and supported the country when the UK entered a war with the Falklands Islands under Margaret Thatcher’s (Conservative Party) Premiership.

Politicians in Sri Lanka haven’t got the bottle to follow suit. Their thinking and motto are to come to power by hook or by crook. If the country is allowed to deteriorate this way, MPs will have no Sri Lanka to engage in politics, and a foreign government will be back again to rule Sri Lanka.

This disturbing factor has been a significant topic of conversation among all classes of people in the country and internationally. A logical thinker becomes perplexed about how the so-called dedicated political parties of all hues continue their power struggle.

Adding to such chaos, a different kind of debate is in progress among political researchers and analysts, including legal luminaries, with a difference of opinion about the members of the Parliament,

Any national-minded citizen of Sri Lanka would prefer to avoid any interference by foreign countries in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.

A sensible person needs to understand that foreign diplomats or international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) should not try to interfere with Sri Lankan domestic or political affairs. After all, their duty should be to promote trade and cordial relationships with the host country and not to interfere and dictate terms to the host government on domestic issues.

Any practical person needs to understand that foreign diplomats or INGOs should not try to interfere with Sri Lankan domestic or political affairs. After all, their duty should be to promote trade and cordial relationships with the host country and not to interfere and dictate terms to the host government on domestic issues.

The country needed dedicated rulers with young blood who would not tolerate any boloney, thus replacing a set of geriatrics responsible for the present situation. We also need an efficient diplomatic corps that is well aware of the boundaries of Sri Lanka in promoting trade and tourism and capable of intermingling with foreign diplomats. In the past, some of the diplomats coming to the Sri Lanka High Commission were not fluent in English; as such, they could not perform one hundred per cent, resulting in one diplomatic family inviting their friends of the High Commission staff and vice-versa, thus neglecting their duty. The writer has lived in London for many years, acted as the London correspondent for all the Sri Lankan English newspapers, and has always intermingled with the Sri Lanka High Commission at No. 13, Hyde Park Gardens, London, West 2.

 

 

 

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