Sri Lanka’s hastily cobbled coalition has pledged that any unfulfilled promises in its 100-Day program will be delivered following parliamentary elections expected any time now. Yes, but jaded voters will think of it as just another broken promise that will be obscured by the mists of time.
Political analysts and the majority of the public are aware that our present legislature is clearly overcrowded and should be pared to less than half that number. But now we are given to understand that the proposed electoral reforms will attempt to increase the number of MPs to 250. This is clearly a kick in the teeth for the tax-paying public who are already weighed down with coughing up the prosperous perks for 225 lawmakers.
Surely, our nation could be run far more smoothly with a much smaller Parliament. Besides our current legislature is disproportionately too flabby for a nation our size with a population of 20 million or so.
It seems obvious that successive administrations have been taking in too many freaks, with not enough circuses to employ them in. As for the rest, hardly any one of them speaks out against what they see as incompetence, waste and corruption in all its myriad forms
It seems obvious that successive administrations have been taking in too many freaks, with not enough circuses to employ them in. As for the rest hardly any one of them speaks out against what they see as incompetence, waste and corruption in all its myriad forms. That is because Sri Lanka’s sick system of governance is peculiarly devised to ensure its politicians are well provided for.
History has proved that such lopsided parliamentary and ministerial multitudes will only result in a mishmash of overlapping jurisdictions, with the assurance that too many will be passing the buck and with no one being held accountable. Another message being proclaimed loud and clear is that any small communal or ideological group is in a position to make or break governments and hold them to ransom while exacting almost extortionist demands.
Yes we have seen and heard it all before. It is an old familiar tune struck up by every administration in its attempt to insult the people’s intelligence by trying to trick them into believing that they are having everything pretty good. Still, it seems that the ruling party spokesmen are the ones suffering from severe delusions if they underestimate the astuteness of the public.
History has often proved that governments who prefer to sugar-coat rather than face reality are bound to go the way of the Dodo, which every schoolchild knows is extinct.
Besides we all have doubts as to whether this Government, in similarity to its predecessors, can achieve its main task, which is to focus on curbing corruption within the administration while making a concerted effort to bring down the stratospheric cost-of-living. Also, with the prospect of a superfluous number of ministries looming on the horizon to appease disgruntled constituents within the coalition will only go to make the confusion more confounded.
For one, several ministries will mainly be overlapping one another. And it is uncertain whether the ministers will at least justify their existence and become truly motivated towards working for their open-handed salaries and extraordinary fringe-benefits, instead of mouthing poppycock.
In a nation where poverty and inequality remain depressingly far-reaching, perhaps nothing is more ruinous of public trust in a democracy than the belief that parasitic politicians feeding off the public purse hardly feel the pinch. And worse still, is the certainty that corruption which they derided, will continue to thrive.
Time was when at Independence in 1948 Parliament was composed of 101 members – 95 elected MPs and six nominated MPs. In those spacious days MPs drew a monthly stipend of Rs. 600. Those of them who owned cars used them for both official and unofficial purposes. They paid for both the fuel and maintenance of their vehicles.
In comparison imagine the perquisites of their successors today, who vote themselves fat salaries and countless allowances, to enable them to live in Elysian splendour. They demand fleets of luxury limos and retinues of aides and secretaries all paid by the public purse. And to cap it all they have given themselves an entitlement to a full pension after five years in office.
But the more perceptive will realise that all is not zeal and enmity in Sri Lankan politics. Quite apart from anything else, there is sufficient reason to believe that there is a cold and calculating streak of opportunism among all our politicians, particularly when it comes to striking accord while voting themselves increased allowances and outrageous perquisites to indulge in their free-loading style of splendid living.
To add to these shameful perks MPs are now officially allowed to sell their duty-free vehicle import permits which they get once in five years. They could earn as much as Rs. 20 million from such a sale accumulating profitably to their overloaded list of perks and privileges at public expense.
It is true that our present electoral system is punctured with glitches and needs a complete overhaul. Besides, with the ‘manape’ or proportional representation system still in force, the contests are not about party policy, but more about political personality. As a result, elections for many have been more about vote-splitting than actual vote-getting. Several smaller parties will be playing the determined spoiler. Still, some voters might have a certain regard for individual politicians and might just avert their eyes from the dictatorial images their parties represent.
Whatever views one holds for and against electoral reforms the nation cannot afford to increase the number in the legislature. Too many of our lawmakers area mill-stone around the nation’s neck. They are positively expendable.