By S. Rubatheesan
Parliament has refused to disclose educational qualifications of ministers and Parliamentarians (MPs) on the basis it would be an ‘invasion of privacy’.
Responding to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Sunday Times, Parliament’s Assistant Secretary General and Information Officer Tikiri Jayatilleke said: “Educational qualifications relate to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information or the person concerned has consented in writing to such disclosure.”
The officer also said that according to the Sri Lanka Constitution’s Article 90, no references had been made to the educational qualifications of an MP. The only qualification to be elected as an MP, according to the Constitution, is that he or she should be an elector.
Responding to other questions, Mr. Jayatilleke gave details of the financial benefits, services and facilities provided to MPs. According to him, every MP is paid a monthly allowance Rs 54,285 along with a Rs 100,000 monthly allowance to maintain an office.
The MPs are also entitled to a sitting allowance of Rs 2,500 a day for attending Parliamentary meetings and another Rs 2,500 a day for attending committee meetings when the committee meeting is held on non sitting days.
The Information Officer also revealed that every MP is given Rs 350,000 annually for postage facilities with a quarterly payment of Rs 87,500. The MPs are also entitled to a monthly allowance of Rs 50,000 for land and mobile phones.
When asked how many sitting MPs have criminal charges against them, the officer said that information was not in Parliament’s possession, custody or control.
Providing details of the meal prices offered to MPs in the Parliament complex, he said a meal priced at Rs 200 was given to MPs, journalists, visitors and the staff. He said an MP could also bring a maximum of twelve visitors a day to the canteen on a sitting day and the extra cost would have to be paid.
As for the fuel allowance for MPs, the official said the amount was paid on the basis of the distance from Parliament to the MP’s electoral district. Accordingly, MPs in the Colombo district are paid on the basis of 289.94 litres of diesel a month and those from the Gampaha and Kalutara districts 344.58 litres.
Another separate monthly drivers allowance of Rs 2,500 a day is paid for attending each meeting of Parliament.
If an MP is not provided a driver from the Government, Rs 3,500 is paid along with Rs 1,000 as entertainment allowance. In addition, a separate monthly transport allowance of Rs 10,000 is paid for a maximum of four personal staff of an MP to cover their transport costs, the RTI response noted.