All these years we have had governments of politicians by politicians for politicians. They are busy feathering their nests, to hell with the public. On Tuesday, Parliament was told that three million rupees had been allocated for repairs to the Speaker`s official car. Although this is a colossal amount of money, we do not intend to make an issue of it, because the Speaker cannot move about in an ordinary automobile and the kind of vehicles politicians use in this country involve heavy maintenance costs.
However, we cannot but ask why the government, which generously parts with public funds for such purposes, does not care a damn about the needs of the hapless people. A machine used for open heart surgery at the National Hospital has broken down and as a result the number of lifesaving operations performed at that premier health institution has come down to three from four. But, who has raised this matter in Parliament?
A few weeks ago the Ratnapura General Hospital was affected by a severe water shortage, which triggered protests by both hospital workers and patients. The hospital was almost crippled and the ordinary people who could not afford treatment at private hospitals underwent untold suffering. The lame excuse hospital authorities trotted out was that some water pumps were out of order. No politician intervened to remedy the situation. With the money spent on one of the SUVs politicians are using, water pumps could be purchased for all the hospitals in the Sabaragamuwa Province!
We learn that kidney patients seeking dialysis were turned away on August 05 owing to a power failure at the Anuradhapura Hospital, which demonstrated its callousness by waiting till seriously ill patients reached an upper floor to ask them to come again another day! People who had come from faraway places for kidney dialysis had to return home, suffering in silence. But, no politician cared to step in to provide, or at least campaign for, a generator for the benefit of poor patients.
Such problems are prevalent in all other sectors in dire financial straits. But, there is no end in sight to the on-going criminal waste of public funds. No political event has been cancelled or postponed for want of funds.
Now, we hear that the government and the Opposition are designing a huge compensation package (Rs. 5 mn each) for the families of parliamentarians who die of even natural causes! Believe it or not, it is the UNP s brainchild! Who says the UNP and the SLFP do not see eye to eye on anything?
They may fight over anything under the sun but always agree on one thing helping themselves to public funds. Have we ever seen a single lawmaker spurn a duty free vehicle permit, perks and thumping pay hikes? They may stage make-believe cock fights on TV for the consumption of the gullible public but they stick together as one to further their interests.
All Western Provincial Councillors, save the JVP members, are junketing overseas at a time people are asked to tighten their belts for the sake of the country which is grovelling before international lending institutions. Provincial Councils have become a massive drain on the State coffers but their members are shamelessly indulging in profligacy.
Now that the cost of repairing the Speaker`s car has been made public, will an Opposition MP ask the government the number of vehicles ministers, deputy ministers, non cabinet ministers and ordinary MPs and their staff are using, the value of the fleet of vehicles placed at their disposal and expenditure on fuel and maintenance?
Likewise, will a government MP give us details of the vehicles that the Opposition parliamentarians are using and how much taxpayers pay for their fuel and maintenance? People who are paying for those vehicles with their kidneys and hearts have a right to such information.
But, the smart money says these questions will never be raised!