More than 75% to 80% belong to lower middle class but look at the new vehicles on the roads
- Parliamentarians need to realize that they must practise austerity
- The role of the politician is not to grant but to generate employment
- Bring down the glory of Parliamentarians
We are going through a very critical phase in Sri Lanka. The country needs immediate measures to put things back on track which will give short and long-term lasting results.
In order to achieve that we need procedures in place while being mindful that our programmes MUST give results, which benefit all citizens and not just a few, as previous programmes and projects have.
For example, we are all well aware that the airport in Mattala, the Port in Hambantota, the Convention Centre in Hambantota and even the Uma Oya Project in the Uva Province have not given us the expected results.
Some of these projects have become white elephants while others are yet to prove fruitful.
First and foremost, the current Parliamentarians (And politicians in general) need to realize that they must practise austerity. Over the last few years, people have been talking about austerity.
However, the Ministers and officials are still going for luxury vehicles and other commodities at the expense of the public.
About 75% to 80% live below the lower middle class level or even below. These people cannot afford to spend Rs. 250 to survive the day, but look at our roads, they are full of new and nearly new vehicles- when a large majority cannot even make ends meet.
Where is our conscience in all this? How can one strata of people afford luxuries while the other suffers in poverty?
A vast majority of Parliamentarians have come from similar backgrounds. They have not had luxuries as children. Probably their parents had to forego meals to feed them and send them to school. So, poverty and suffering is not something that they are unaware of. But, the moment they see any sign of money, they change and change for the worst.
The question is how the three levels of administration; Local Authorities, Provincial Councils and the Centre (Parliament) complement each other.
We need to, at some point, question whether the Provincial Councils are a requirement in this small country.
The vehicle permit is such an attraction to get into Government Service. And these professionals have no shame that housemaids in the Middle East, women in the clothing industry and the tea industry are paying for all these
Choosing the right people
If we look back into our history of post-independence politics and governance, we seem to have gone backwards.
We fail to choose the right people into the governance structures. At present we see candidates who have earned money by illegal means and contributed little to society.
A tin sheet or a cooking utensil had earned votes for unsavoury characters. However, it is not untrue, that the voter would like to vote for quality people; by which I mean learned, honest and with integrity.
Here, the political party must put forward the right candidates. The party can use a vetting process before offering candidacy.
Expertise in Ministries
There is still a way to overcome this problem. The Government must get experts to the Ministries who will be responsible for fashioning the policies of the Ministry.
The experts should be paid an allowance for the work they do for the Ministry and not salaries and exorbitant benefits.
This way, we can ensure that only the committed experts will come forward. Money should not be the determining factor in appointing these experts.
Do all Cabinet Ministers, read all the papers presented prior to voting for them? In such situations, these experts I propose could lead to healthy discussions before approvals.
Members of Parliament should find time to attend committees. Opening buildings and attending all events in their constituency is not really their job.
Doling out money is not the best way to alleviate poverty. Free money creates more poverty unless people are made to work somewhere to earn that dole.
By all means, the Government must protect the ultra poor as they are very vulnerable, especially with the rising Cost of Living.
There has to be a safety net but first, the Government must keep a tab on income disparity.
Protect the Farmer
The farming community in this country has been having a raw deal for decades now. They have serious problems with regards to fertilizer, then the unpredictability in the weather due to climate change such as drought and floods. As the food producers to the nation, they need a safety net as well. As a country, this is where we should place our investment because if we can ensure food security, we can resolve almost all the other problems.
The Government needs to know why some food items are imported. For example, bananas are being imported? Then what about the local banana farmer? How can we safeguard his/her business? Why can’t the Government intervene to control the imports of this nature?
As a nation, we must popularize agriculture. During our schooling, agriculture was drilled into our systems. But no more.
It is no secret that the issuance of vehicle permits has destroyed the country. In my opinion, no one should be given a permit.
If we do, there has to be a ceiling on the value or the engine capacity. The person should return the vehicle and not make a sale and make a profit or buy it from the government.
Today, the vehicle permit is such an attraction to get into Government Service. And these professionals have no shame that housemaids in the Middle East, women in the clothing industry and the tea industry are paying for all these.
And will any of these women be able to buy such a vehicle ever?
All benefits and perks should be removed and there should not be too many overheads and many employees
Members of Parliament
There is a notion that they can appoint people to be in his staff and have them being paid a salary. The Ministers should revert to the old but correct system of working with Ministry officials, who are qualified Public Servants.
There must at least be a limit to the number of persons that a Minister can appoint to his Ministry. The role of the politician is not to grant but to generate employment.
It is imperative that we bring down the glory of being a Parliamentarian. All benefits and perks should be removed and there should not be too many overheads and too many employees.
Water, electricity and telecommunication can be provided at a far reduced price than it is now. But because all these institutions are loaded with people, the costs are high. The burden is on the voter.
It is no secret that President J. R. Jayewardene was the ideal Executive President we ever had. He knew the role and the requirements of that role. Although the position had ultimate powers he hardly exercised them. He never interfered with the Ministries.
Then again he had the right people in the Cabinet. But look at the Executive thereafter, the post-holder gets involved in everything.
This started with Premadasa and continues TO DATE. Except for J.R. Jayewardene, all other Presidents have been having a large secretariat for the President to run the country. It looks like there is a Government within a Government (While having an Opposition within the Opposition)
This is an extremely delicate topic which needs to be handled with care. The establishment of rule of law is essential for a country. But it has to be seen that it has been established. The Judiciary should not be subjected to pressure by the administration. They must deliver judgement in keeping with so many principles. They could be deliberate messages to society so that there will be no repetition.
Litigation cases piling up is a serious concern. It appears to be a systemic flaw. If a case is heard for 15- 20 years it serves no purpose. Especially child abuse cases which take over 10 years serves no justice to any victim.
They must come with a plan to reduce the backlog. The purpose of the judiciary is to be decisive and swift so that we create a law-abiding society.