The Supplementary Estimate for the financial provision of Rs.537,962,790 to purchase vehicles for seven ministers, three State ministers and two Deputy ministers was tabled in Parliament this week. Presented by the Chief Whip of the Government Gayantha Karunathilaka, the Supplementary Estimate states that it was necessitated, as provisions allocated last year for this purpose were not utilized.
Accordingly, the Supplementary Estate sought approval to purchase a vehicle for the Special Assignments Minister at Rs.42,600,000. It also requested the provision of Rs.42,000,000 to purchase a vehicle for the Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister, Rs.86,000,000 for the vehicle of the State Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, Rs.41,000,000 for the Science, Technology and Research Minister, Rs 43,000,000 for the Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister, Rs.43,000,000 for the Higher Education and Highways Minister and Rs.43,000,000 for the Sustainable Development and Wild Life Minister. The Supplementary Estimates also include financial provision of Rs.62,250,000 to purchase vehicles for the Auditor General’s Department and for a vehicle on lease for the Auditor General.
Whenever a general election looms, candidates from various political parties voluntarily offer to solve all our problems and dedicate their lives for the common people. We usually witness this every five years. During the election period, we are their sisters, brothers or any other relative depending on the age difference.
The bright and gleaming smiles on their faces and their apparent commitment towards fulfilling the needs of the people is displayed when gifting the voter with mobile phones, T shirts, caps, rice, coconut and other food items. These are often supplemented with intoxicants such as liquour and cigarettes for active supporters who dedicate their time solely towards these election campaigns.
The residences of such politicians who strive to serve the common people are more or less like a Dansala at all
times of the day. In their generosity during such campaigns, a politician’s residence is only second to the greatest donor, Anepindusitanan (baron), mentioned in Buddhist scriptures.
However, after having been elected to Parliament, we begin to see a difference in our friendly politician, who just before the elections regularly visited our humble abode with numerous promises. While the momentum of giving promises gradually fades away, our representatives in Parliament seem to be drowning in a sea of rewards for being elected to serve the people. It is no secret that being elected to Parliament has become a way to earn millions, despite the acute economic problems in the country. The authority on the revision of remuneration of MPs and ministers is vested constitutionally with the Parliament itself. It has been revealed that when the salaries of the officers in judicial services are revised, MPs too are entitled to these salary revisions. The proposal tabled by late minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle on November 23, 2006 to revise the salaries and allowances of ministers and parliamentarians concurrently to the revision of salaries in the judicial services was passed in parliament. This method of revision is still in effect.
The late minister also added that there should be a comparative revision of parliamentarians’ salaries and allowances with the revisions of the judicial services in future. There were instances of increasing the allowance of members elected to the State Councils even during the State Council period prior to independence.
The Leader of House (State Council) D.B. Jayathilaka brought about a move on July 28, 1931 for the payment of allowances to members, considering their economic difficulties at the time. Accordingly, the proposed amount of allowances were as follows:
- For a member Rs.400
- Deputy Chairman of the council Rs.750
- Ministers and Speaker Rs.1,000
The move also stated that these allowances should be increased to Rs.1,500 for Chairman of Committees and the Speaker, Rs.1,000, Deputy Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker and Rs.500 for a member of the Council. This move was seconded by State Council member D.S. Senanayake.
Meanwhile, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike proposed that the allowance paid to a member of the SC be decreased to Rs.300 which was seconded by Sir John Kotelawala. Another proposal was tabled by State Councilor G.C.S. Corea, requesting a payment of Rs.200 for a member living within ten miles of Colombo, Rs.300 for members living within 50 miles and Rs.400 for members beyond 50 miles. However, only the move brought by the leader of the House D.B. Jayathilaka was passed by the SC. Government servants’ salaries are formulated after considering the qualifications and experience, whereas no such requirements are necessary for parliamentarians to be entitled to a revised salary. Their ability to gain a sufficient number of votes to be elected into Parliament is the only criterion for such financial benefits. However, due to numerous public protests, the Parliament had to stall the increase in salary and allowances of MPs corresponding to the increase in salaries of the Supreme Court judges during the latter part of last year.
Recently, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed the need to increase the amount of allowances now paid to parliament members considering the volume of work they have to do to serve the people. He moved to increase the allowance to Rs.2,500, expand transport facilities and provide air tickets to parliamentarians in the Northern and Eastern provinces. These increases were implemented without any hesitation. However, the move to provide additional vehicles on hire was suspended by President Maithripala Sirisena.
- MPs outside Colombo are entitle to a 900 sq. ft house
- Recently, the government spent Rs.108 million on foreign trips for ministers and MPs
Besides the financial benefits, parliamentarians are also provided with other facilities. MPs outside Colombo are entitle to a 900 sq. ft house. while ministers are provided with two-storey houses in Cinnamon Gardens, coupled with entitlements for a $50,000 worth duty-free vehicle. Other free services provided to them are indigenous and western medical treatment and spa services, communication equipment and stationery. Members of parliament also enjoy bank loan facilities on very easy and simple terms and concessions for the education of their children. While ordinary people are given Rs.250,000 for the treatment of certain diseases, politicians are fortunate enough to receive concessions on medical expenses, amounting to several millions of rupees. Recently, the government spent Rs.108 million on foreign trips for ministers and MPs while arrangements had also been made to provide leasing facilities for the vehicles of 40 MPs. At present a total of Rs 192,817 is paid to an MP as salary and allowances. In addition, the expenses of their office staff including salaries, telephone and fuel expenses are also paid through public money. Entitlement to financial rewards for parliamentarians continues even after the termination of their term in Parliament. They are paid a monthly pension after spending a five-year period in Parliament.