Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has told the newly-elected UNP local council members, at their swearing-in ceremony at Temple Trees on March 19, that people had elected them not to see those who came on bicycles leaving office in Benz cars.
Interestingly his main rival, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also expressed similar views to the newly-elected local councillors of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) from the districts of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Ratnapura at their swearing-in ceremony held in Colombo just one day after the Prime Minister met his local councillors.
Mr. Rajapaksa is reported to have said that one should not enter politics with the objective of making money and if they go after contractors handling development projects the councillors would be taught a good lesson by the people at the next election.
If the two leaders had said what they really meant and if they were serious about what they said, it could be assumed that they might have discovered where the Sri Lankan politics have gone wrong. It is the money-making motive of politicians that has ruined politics and thereby the country. Against this background, the speeches of the two leaders, had the local councillors really thought that they were made after a serious thought, would not have gone well with them.
Never in the history of the country had any political party at the helm of affairs had prepared a overall development programme that would fulfil the aspirations of the people in the field of income generation, employment, education, health, housing, transport, reconciliation, etc., except with regard to certain concepts such as socialism put forward by leftist parties. Yet, those concepts seem to be Utopian in the context of the present world order. And no party had hitherto had at least thought of such an overall programme. They indeed do not seem to want one.
If the two leaders had said what they really meant and if they were serious about what they said, it could be assumed that they might have discovered where the Sri Lankan politics have gone wrong
On the other hand, never in the history of individual politicians, except for those rebels in the north as well as in the south who genuinely had thought of sacrificing their lives in search of solutions to the problems of the people they represented had any dream of economic and social progress. All that they want is to plunder government coffers in the guise of development. At the local government level they would want to get the local level contracts under the name of their relatives or friends and to climb up to the next administrative level, the provincial councils. There, they would get more perks, privileges, powers to plunder and the opportunity to ascend to the top level, the Parliament.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna parliamentarian and the Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Sunil Handunnetti when asked at a TV debate during the recent local government elections as to why these politicians spent such a huge amount of their personal funds for the election campaign while knowing fully well that they would be receiving a salary of about Rs.15,000, if elected. He said many local government members, at the end of their tenure become the owners of at least a backhoe.
At the parliamentary level their chances to become rich are ample, apart from the perks provided to them such as vehicle permits, housing allowance, fuel and telephone allowance, at the expense of the tax-payers. A recent newspaper report said the government spent Rs.7.5 million a month to maintain a minister. There have been parliamentarians who literally came on motorbikes, as the Premier stated and become multi-millionaires, if not billionaires.
It is not the personal weaknesses of individual politicians, but the system which had been developed by the politicians over the years with the assistance of the unquestioning masses that had created this situation. Never in history had any political party or a trade union or a social organisation demonstrated against the moves by parliamentarians to increase their perks. In the contrary, supporters of the UNP, SLFP and the SLPP prefer to defend their respective leaders who had been accused of high profile corruption, involving billions. Hence, it is pointless to advise the politicians at the lowest level not to go after money while maintaining the corrupt system.