( Full Text of Editorial Appearing in “The Island” of December 1st 2016 Under the Heading “MPs have all the luck!)
Santa seems to have got his wires crossed. Else, he would not have landed near the Diyawanna Oya several weeks ahead of Christmas. Usually, he favours children, but this time around he seems to have given priority to those who have torsos of adults and brains of children. Parliamentarians have received a massive increase in their allowances and a huge pay hike is said to be in the pipeline.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government came to power, promising economic relief to the masses. Initially, after the change of government, the prices of some commodities were slashed and public employees were given a substantial pay hike. But, what was given with one hand was taken away with the other after the self-proclaimed messiahs had been ensconced in power. It was a case of swings and roundabout for the people.
Less than two years on, even the trade unionists who threw in their lot with the present-day leaders at the last two elections claim the people are now in a worse predicament. Marcus Antony, who leads a trade union, representing the export promotion zone workers, has recently told the media that the present administration is facilitating the exploitation of workers as never before.
The unconscionable VAT increase has sent the prices of essential commodities into the stratosphere. Even the sick have not been spared. Any sensible government would have reduced taxes on private health care and education as those who opt for them, albeit for want of an alternative, do the cash-strapped administration a big favour. Now, thanks to the VAT hike it is a double whammy for those who pay for their health care and children’s education without being a burden on the impotent state which cannot develop hospitals and schools. Those who should be rewarded have been penalized! The ruling politicians must be descendants of legendary King Kekille, who was bovinity personified!
The government declared on Tuesday it was ready to face a doctors’ strike. That the government leaders don’t care two hoots about disruptions to public health institutions is only too well known. For, they are not dependent on free health care; they rush overseas if they ever so much as develop a tooth ache. It is the ordinary people without wherewithal who worry about doctors’ strikes.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe never miss an opportunity to wax eloquent on the virtues of reconciliation and the need to solve problems through negotiations. But, they have not met the protesting doctors, according to the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA).
Parliamentarians have all the luck. (No wonder the ordinary people have none of it!) They have just received another bonanza. Rs. 100,000 each has been added to their allowances and they will be paid Rs. 2,000 more for attending Parliament. It has been argued that MPs are invited to various functions; they have to buy wedding gifts etc and, therefore, they must be paid more. One is intrigued.
Attending weddings etc is not among the official duties of an MP. He or she may accept invitations to such events in his or her private capacity. It is nothing but unfair to make the taxpayers who are struggling to dull the pangs of hunger pick up the tab.
Another absurd argument being peddled in favour of increasing MPs’ allowances and salaries is that unless they are paid well they will depend on moneybags for funds. They will be dependent on financiers anyway and it is only wishful thinking that an MP will choose to paddle his or her own canoe if he or she is paid more.
People try to propitiate devils they fear by making various offerings. A government, troubled by a gnawing sense of insecurity, showers bribes on lawmakers lest they should rock the boat. The government and the Joint Opposition are usually at daggers drawn, but when it comes to feathering parliamentarians’ nests, they get on like a house on fire.
The government seems to think that if it cannot fulfil its promise to grant economic relief to the people it should at least look after their representatives. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration has proved that it is a government of politicians by politicians for politicians.