Why do some people take to politics? Is it out of their love for the masses? Politicians will answer that query in the affirmative. And only nitwits will believe them! We may have had such altruists in days of yore but they are now extinct. The real motive of anyone seeking political office at present is nothing but self-aggrandisement. That is the surefire way to success in life in a land of suckers who hero-worship politicians of all hues, whether they are cattle thieves or murderers or rapists.
While in office, they live in clover at public expense. Plunder is the name of the game. They help themselves to public funds, disport themselves in junkets all over the globe, build palaces, save part of the loot for their progeny and unleash violence to ensure their stay in power. Atop all that, they draw salaries, enjoy perks and a plethora of other benefits. When the party is over, they also get a pension! The public gets no respite even after those leeches cross the great divide. Their spouses and families have to be maintained by the state.
It is against this backdrop that Thursday`s Supreme Court (SC) decision should be viewed. A three-judge bench including the Chief Justice curtailed the huge package of retirement benefits that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had given herself with the connivance of her puppet cabinet at that time. The SC rightly deemed her package `excessive` and showed politicians that sky was not the limit in expending public funds for their benefit. The learned judges deserve bouquets of flowers, nay, truck-loads of them for having taken a former president down a peg or two.
When US President Harry Truman left the White House in 1953, he, as one of our readers pointed out on April 26 quoting an International Herald Tribune news item, had no income or support of any kind from the federal government other than his Army pension of $ 112. 56 a month. He was provided with no government funds for secretarial help or office space, not a penny of expense money! He and his wife moved back into their own house. He refused to do any kind of job in retirement, as he wanted to maintain the dignity of the office he had held. He spurned several offers including a very lucrative one which would have fetched him a whopping sum of $ 100,000 just for lobbying for a real estate company.
We could also be proud of two of our past presidents, who behaved themselves in retirement. JRJ moved back into his Ward Place residence and maintained a very low profile thereafter. He stayed out of politics and avoided controversy. D. B. Wijetunge returned to his Kandyan roots when his innings came to an end and is living in his own house peacefully. It is unfortunate that CBK failed to emulate her predecessors! Had she come to terms with the end of her second innings and risen above petty politics she would have become a true statesperson at least in her retirement. But, she lent herself to the Opposition and some disgruntled elements within the government as a political bludgeon. She blundered by helping further the interests of the very politicians and their propagandists who had gone all out to make life miserable for her, when she was in power. Ironically, in trying to prop her up after she became a spent force by rekindling her ambitions, which made her try to remain active in politics allegedly to harass her present political enemies, her old foes unwittingly ruined her chances of sloughing off party politics.
A person is jailed for stealing a horse, it is said, not only to punish him for the theft but also to prevent other horses being stolen. The SC ruling in question has a deterrent effect. It should serve as a warning to those eyeing the horses in the public stable. Leaders must remember that political office is only a borrowed garment, which has to be returned to its owner?the public?in the end. The present President said something to that effect upon being installed. We hope he still remembers that. CBK also uttered similar things before she was ensconced in power in the mid 1990s but reneged on what she had promised and finally had to eat a great deal of humble pie.
The SC judgment should be framed and hung in the President`s Office so that presidents to retire or to be retired in the future will be mindful of what befell CBK.
Where are those slipper-licking ministerial lackeys who so unashamedly sought to lavish public funds on their former boss?
When a poor man knocks up a wayside kiosk to keep the wolf from the door, the government bulldozes it and hauls him up before courts. But, politicians are offered prime state land upon retirement!
All the ministers who aided and abetted the attempted plunder of state property must be made to tender an apology to the public!
Shame on them!