Commenting on yesterday’s Daily Mirror front page lead story headlined ‘Duty Free Cars for Ex-PC members,’ a reader quoted a famous cynic “Democracy is a system in which a dumb stupid majority elects dumb stupid leaders.”
Though it may be cynical it is also to a large extent a fact in today’s Sri Lankan political scenario as the majority continue to fool themselves and maintain a deafening silence—a silence of the graveyard—on any damn decision at the cost of hundreds of millions rupees, if not billions in public money. According to the report the Cabinet has endorsed the proposal by Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister A.L.M. Athaullah to allow duty free vehicles not only for the elected Provincial Councillors but even for those rejected by the people. Earlier the Cabinet had approved the issue of permits for duty free vehicles for Provincial councillors who had held office even for 30 months.
Whatever the pros and cons of the 13th Amendment or the introduction of the Provincial Council system may be, there is one thing that is clear for all to see-- that the PC system has bred another set of politicians who are fed and pampered from the poor tax people’s money.
A more privileged level of politicians, the parliamentarians, are given duty free vehicle permits once in five years, while they are also given loans of up to US $ 50,000 to import such vehicles. But we know that in most cases, the MPs sell their vehicle permits at prices ranging from Rs.12 million to Rs.15 million. It is a scandal within a scandal and a crime against millions of innocent people who are struggling for survival amid a soaring cost of living.
Do the people gain much benefit from the politicians for whom they give their hard earned money or from whom it is plundered in subtle ways? Who has created this super class political sect? And do they deserve such benefits at the expense of the suffering, helpless and often hopeless people?
While third-world politics and most politicians are at this level, we still have some lessons to learn from our former British colonial masters. Recently we saw a picture of British Prime Minster David Cameron travelling in a public train without any security and what is more he had to travel standing in a corner as he did not get a seat.
There was an era when national political leaders like D. S. Senanayake and his son Dudley Senanayake came forward to give what they had to people and the country and not to grab. We have heard of some others also but that era of giving instead of grabbing, of sincerely serving instead of dominating and plundering, appears to be dead and buried.