Earlier this week, the Daily Mirror joined other independent media groups, civic action movements and the people in protesting strongly against the government supplementary estimate for a huge Rs.1.17 billion to import super luxury vehicles for some ministers and Deputies.
In an editorial headlined ‘Where are they driving the people? ’ the Daily Mirror described this move as ‘shameful and disgraceful’ for a Yahapalana government which was committed to the principles of Alpechchathawaya or a simple and humble lifestyle. We urged the President and the Prime Minister to stop this wasteful expenditure or political luxuries at a time when hundreds of thousands of people were still suffering in the aftermath of the floods, landslides and last Sunday’s thundering inferno in Kosgama.
Today we are happy to join the Sri Lanka’s people in congratulating Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his immediate and effective action on Thursday when Parliament was debating the no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The Prime Minister gave orders to the treasury that it should not grant even a cent for the import of vehicles for ministers, deputies or MPs until funds were allocated to build houses for those whose houses were destroyed by the floods or landslides and the blast at Kosgama and to renovate the partly destroyed houses.
Even yesterday, the Independent Television Network showed hundreds of people who had lost almost everything they had in the Kosgama blast and were living virtually on the streets with only packets of meals and bottles of water being provided. One victim said he was managing a garment factory where they had 10 juki machines and were having good sales till everything was destroyed on Sunday. He also complained that officials were doing little or nothing to give him and thousands of others a proper house with basic facilities and means to earn a livelihood.
The Prime Minister’s office revealed that the order to suspend the supplementary estimate was given in accordance with the Yahapalanaya government’s policy of giving priority to the provision of relief to the people. The Premier told the treasury to work out the full amount required to provide relief to the people affected by the floods, landslides and the inferno. Until this was worked out the treasury should under no circumstances make allocations to buy vehicles for ministers, deputies or MPs.
Accordingly, the supplementary estimate to purchase vehicles will be suspended until all the required funds are allocated to provide assistance to construct houses to replace the destroyed ones and to repair the damaged ones.
While being grateful for the suspension of this severely criticized supplementary estimate, we believe that most people would agree with us in urging the Prime Minister not just to suspend but to cancel such wasteful expenditure for luxury vehicles for politicians. Among the highest allocations in the supplementary estimate were Rs.70 million to buy a luxury vehicle for the Minister of Regional Development, Rs.70 million for the Justice Minister and Rs.70 million for two cars for the Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister.
During Thursday’s debate, watched live by millions on TV, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake made a significant point. He reminded the government that for the first time since Independence, what happened on January 8 last year was not a vote for any popular personality but a people-power revolution for change, for good governance, democracy and social justice. We hope the government will remember this. We also hope the people, the independent media and civic action groups will remember the power of the people and public pressure.