Shame on MPs in last-ditch naked bid to grab free 20 million buck permits

View(s): 356


Never mind that we’re all on a burning rope bridge desperately struggling to cross, with fire in our bellies and burning anguish in our hearts, the yawning gulf between bankruptcy and recovery, behind us come a stream of duty-free luxury vehicles, tooting their horns at us to get out of the way for them to reach the other side before election day.

And we, too, part of the endless flow of human misery, with leaner frames and tightened belts slowly crawling on the perilous bridge, enviously stare at this set of VIPs as they rush past our gaunt figures, without the slightest thought as to how we will make the crossing to the promised land the President vowed to lead us on foot.

While the President has repeatedly exhorted the people to bear with him and suffer the sacrifices necessary to rise from the depths of financial ruin as he strives to stabilise the economy to place it on firmer ground, the people have done their part beyond his strident call.

On stagnant salaries, they have borne every hardship thrown at them. The high taxes levied, the exorbitant rates of VAT imposed, and the skyrocketing cost of essentials, compounded by a sharply devalued rupee have forced them to helplessly grin and bear through their daily battles to keep the ravenous wolves from their doors. What makes their ordeal worse is that far from their agonising cries, none in the upper echelons of Government seems to hear their plaintive bleats nor seem to care a tuppence about their wretched plight. The preaching for restraint is not followed by example.

Not even the sudden shock of economic collapse that reduced the entire nation to beggary roused them to abandon ostentatious lifestyles nor weaned them away from fattening themselves from the public purse. Their main concern was that the door to corruption was fast closing as lucrative projects swiftly vanished. But even in the dregs of drought-stricken waters, they continued to fish, dangling their baits and taking their chances in the hope of hooking the rare opportunity that may suddenly appear from the sewers of corruption.

Three months ago when it was revealed that the Central Bank had, in its newly acquired independent status, used its own ladle to serve over-the-top salary increments to themselves, without so much as informing the President or Parliament, the people’s outrage was equally matched by the indignation expressed in Parliament by shocked MPs on all sides of the House.

For once the people and their elected MPs met on an even pitch as both roundly condemned such extravagant increments served by the Central Bank unto itself. This blatant self-enrichment was not only unjustifiable to say the least but to do so out of all proportion in the midst of a people’s beggary was even vulgar in the most extreme.

The SUNDAY PUNCH commented on February 25: “But for these highly paid public fat cats to serve themselves extra-rich full cream milk while the rest of the nation are on a starvation diet and battling wolves at the door, smacks of sheer callousness and stinks to high heavens as unjust enrichment.”

The Governor of the Central Bank and its senior officials were hauled up before the party leaders’ meeting and the Committee on Public Finance to be given a thorough roasting and accused of ‘drawing from the ‘TIN’ to help yourselves by the barrel’. They were pilloried for stuffing themselves with rich cake while the masses were starved of bread.

But for all the indignation expressed so vividly at these meetings against state officials helping themselves to larger slices of the national cake in the backdrop of squalor where poverty is rampant and teeming wretchedness blocks the gutters, nothing has come of it but a burst of hot air. Central Bank officials, from peons to deputy governors, continue to enjoy the monthly bonanzas they awarded themselves without remorse or qualms.

But in that shining hour when MPs cast party politics aside and unified to uphold the moral principle, ‘Although the law may allow it, not all men exploit it for their own selfish advantage, without considering the equitableness of their actions.’ they deserved our unbridled praise and earned top Brownie points for finally realising it is unbecoming conduct to unfairly exploit the public purse and trust out of sheer avarice, even though the law may permit. Their righteous indignation won for them the people’s applause.

But, miracles, alas, don’t seem to last for long in Parliament. Before three months have passed, a cluster of MPs who had then mounted the moral high horse and unequivocally condemned the Central Bank top brass for having helped themselves, have themselves stooped to take the same low road as those they had once crucified for shamelessly taking.

So this then is the calibre of some of the MPs in Parliament. They have brazenly shown by their naked craving the straw-filled men they truly are, hollow zombies driven by brutal lust to acquire the maximum amount of money during their brief tenure in Parliament. Men who will espouse the value of upholding high moral principles to attack state officials who use their ‘independent’ spoon to help themselves to bumper servings to their plates while the rest languish in gutters of hell but damn all moral creeds when it comes to exploiting their privileged rights. These are just some of the honourable bunch of unholy men, nearly 7 million sent to Parliament 5 years ago to dawn a splendorous sunrise for Sri Lanka.

In a last-ditch attempt to wrest from the dying days of SLPP rule, the prized 20 million buck perk of duty-free car permits, they shoved aside the certain risk of adverse public reaction, and appealed to the Speaker to grant them their last dying wish on their parliamentary death beds. The Speaker duly forwarded their request to the House Committee which duly obliged and informed the Speaker of their positive decision. The Speaker is now expected to write to the President who, as Finance Minister, has the last say on the issue.

Public protests began this week, spearheaded by a civil activist group that braved police obstacles to reach the Presidential Secretariat. At the President’s office, the group’s leader explained to the official who accepted the letter, to tell the President that if he gives approval to the MPs’ request for duty-free car permits, he risks being lowered in public esteem.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa had the last word on what’s rotten in the state of Lanka. At the opening of his 185th smart digital classroom, equipped with computers, he said: “Politicians in Parliament, in Provincial Councils, in Local Government, all have been appointed by you. They are only the temporary caretakers of the country.  But they all behave as if the freehold of Lanka has been written in their names. Instead of working solely for the people’s benefit, they only work for their personal enrichment. We intend to change that system.”

It’s not only the system perhaps that needs to be changed or blamed but the moral fibre of the players chosen to play the game that must be blamed and changed.



State Minister runs amok at the Katunayake airport

SLPP State Minister Prasanna Ranaweera played the part of the proverbial bull in a china shop to near perfection when he arrived with his wife at the airport on Thursday to see her fly abroad.

First, he entered the airport with his armed bodyguards only to be told by airport security personnel that arms were strictly not allowed inside the premises. Heading off with a huff after scolding the security men, he hired an airport porter to help with his wife’s baggage. Later with his tasks complete, the porter requested the airport’s standard stipulated fee of Rs. 1,000 for services rendered. He was then slapped.

Later the Minister told a YouTube channel: “He asked for a thousand rupees but since I had only 700 bucks in change, I gave it to him. He refused to accept the 700 bucks, and insisted on being paid the whole 1000 bucks. That’s when I flew into a rage. I thought if it could happen to me, how it could happen to poor ordinary people going to Dubai or how it could happen to tourists coming here. I told him not to do dirty things but when he rudely answered back and said, ‘he doesn’t care who I was but to pay him in full’ l got wild and I slapped him. I admit it was wrong of me to have done so.”

Prasanna Ranaweera, the MP who threw chillie water at opposition MPs in Parliament six years ago, was summoned by the police to give a statement. Thus ends another sorry episode in the never-ending saga of how some certain boorish, foolish arrogant Government Ministers, drunk on power, flex their muscles on innocent, helpless underlings to show off their exalted status to an admiring gallery.


 SLPP to spring groom as a surprise to bride 

SLPP CHANDRASEKERA: We know his name

SLPP ROHITHA: We will reveal at the wedding

For the last few weeks, all SLPP members have been tight-lipped to every query posed as to who their chosen presidential candidate might be. Such questions raised have always been met with the stock answer: “The party has not decided as yet. When it does, we will inform you. No rush.”

But recently at a party conclave, it appears the decision has been reached. So will it be the President who hasn’t still announced his candidature nor announced from which party he intends to contest if he so decides to run or will be son and heir to the Rajapaksa crown or tycoon Dhammika Perera who, at every turn, has expressed his determination to run under the Pohottuwa symbol or as an independent candidate or a rank outsider?

Whoever it may be, party faithful have been sworn to secrecy. The oath of Omerta—oath of silence—has zipped their lips. The party’s chosen seed will remain unrevealed, like the stamen of an unopened bud, condemned never to bloom, until such time the grand old man of the SLPP deems the time is ripe to present the saviour to the nation.

SLPP Chandrasekera told reporters, party members were informed of the candidate but it was decided not to announce it to the public as yet.  Perhaps the honour was reserved for Mahinda Rajapaksa as it was in 2019 to present his brother Gota to the nation as its saviour.

Well, so they have finally decoded on whom to pin their faith to pip the post at the hustings and scoop the winner’s cup. But why the ban on sharing it with the all-important voters?

The secret why the purdah has fallen on the anointed one, was explained in graphic terms by a senior SLPP Minister by comparing it to a blind date.

SLPP Minister of Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena declared: “Compare the presidential election to a wedding. The main protagonist is the bridegroom. First, the wedding house must be cleaned. The site must be prepared, dusted, swept and polished. The walls must be whitewashed, given a new lustrous coat of paint. Then you don’t present the groom in his underwear to the bride. The sight of the groom in his undies will only turn off the bride forever. No, that’s not the way. The groom must be first spruced up and dressed up in the grandest attire. Only then will his value increase. Then at the right moment, we will present him to the bride for her to take his hand.

One word of warning, though.

By the time they finish giving the full Monty to the bridegroom and find the right auspicious time to unveil him in new shining armour, the bride may have already eloped with another man.