The hurly-burly is done and the battle is lost and won. Dust is settling on the political front where elections were fought bitterly the other day. And, now, it is gala time for the winners. The victorious UPFA is having a fabulous feast, of course at the expense of the hapless public, and the bloodied Opposition is settling for crumbs off the table. It will be the other way around if the latter manages to turn the tables on the former someday somehow.
No sooner had the members of the new parliament been sworn in than they began to ask for duty free vehicles. In so doing, they have amply demonstrated that what is foremost on their mind is feathering their nests and not anything else. That, as is only too well known, is the name of the game in politics!
The government and the Opposition never see eye to eye on anything of public interest. Never do they co-operate on anything like protecting national security or sorting out the mess that is education. They remain at daggers drawn over such issues, to hell with the national interest. But, they get on like a house on fire when it comes to their perks and privileges! When, towards the end of the last parliament former Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara lamented that the House had relinquished some of the draconian powers it had been vested with to deal with the media, it was a parliamentarian of the JVP, which is weeping buckets for the media, who demanded to know why on earth Parliament had done so!
Parliamentarians may argue that they deserve duty concessions as they are people`s representatives. Whether they have any moral right to peddle that argument, while being paid salaries and allowances for doing precious little by way of public service, is the million dollar question. Top public officers, too, benefit from duty free vehicle permits every five years. We do not want to be told that they deserve anything, in most cases even their salaries, for their woefully low contribution to the public service, which is a misnomer. But, politicians and their top bureaucratic lackeys seem to have all the luck while those who keep the economy afloat are being milked dry. It is to those who make a significant contribution to economic development, pay taxes and generate employment and not to the unproductive political leeches and bureaucratic freeloaders that tax concessions should be given.
Let it be added immediately that the private sector is not without rogues responsible for the plunder of public wealth. It has its fair share of them! But, it still remains the lynchpin of the national economy and thanks to genuine, industrious investors over six million people bring home the bacon. Sadly, they lose most of what they earn owing to taxes. Inefficient governments unflinchingly rob the private sector to pamper politicians and the public sector unabashedly and add insult to injury by showering tax concessions on spongers.
Worse, nothing has been done about the gross abuse of duty free vehicle permits. Politicians and public officers sell them openly in violation of the law. A few years ago, S. B. Dissanayake admitted in a TV interview that he had sold his duty free car permits and said he knew others had done likewise. Who is the Opposition politician who has condemned this illegal practice and called for action against the culprits? None! The government and Opposition politicians are as thick as thieves pun intended where the abuse of their perks and privileges are concerned.
Urging politicians and bureaucrats to desist from abusing their privileged positions is an exercise in futility. However, they must be pressured to reduce unconscionably high duties which have rendered brand new vehicles unaffordable to many people and thereby turned the country into a dump yard for imported second hand vehicles heavy on fuel and in need of very expensive repairs.
It is the public crushed under a heavy economic burden who deserve tax relief!