The controversy surrounding the price of meals provided to Parliamentarians surfaced once again, when an Opposition MP sought the Speaker’s involvement in putting the record straight on the costs involved,stating that they do not want to face the wrath of the public.
Raising a point of order, Colombo District Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP S.M. Marikkar said there were newspaper reports stating that a meal of an MP costs Rs 3,000, but was given at a subsidised price of Rs 200.
“People ask whether we eat gold here for such a price. The fish served this morning in the Parliamentary canteen was not fresh. That is the situation of the food being served to the MPs here. We eat better at home, but in the meantime there are reports that the cost of a meal for an MP is Rs 3,000. Someone has to correct this and tell the truth. This had been stated at the orientation programme for MPs at the Parliamentary complex on 25 August.
The correct figures must be given. I am speaking on behalf of all 225 MPs. The impression the reports created is wrong. It seems that the cost of all who are eating here is counted together to make a total sum and that is divided by 225 to arrive at the conclusion that one meal of an MP costs Rs 3,000. Wrong figures had been given at the 25 August workshop. I hope the Speaker would correct this.”
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: “Were you there at the last session of the 25 August workshop, because there I gave the correct figures while making a statement on this matter.”
MP Marikkar: “The newspapers have not reported what you said. I hope that you will correct it here, so that it would be telecast live.”
During the workshop on 25 August, Director (Finance) of Parliament A.S. Upananda stated that a meal that costs Rs 3,000 is given to an MP at a rate of Rs 200. Upananda made that statement while speaking on the functions of the food and catering and housekeeping departments of the Parliament. He stated that an MP is charged Rs 100 for breakfast, Rs 200 for lunch and Rs 50 for snacks and tea.
Following the statement, new MPs protested.
State Minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola: “We had those meals during the past couple of days, but I am sure that a single meal would not cost that much. The food given is not worth that much.”
MPs shouted that the matter should be corrected and that it was a shame to state that they eat at Rs 200, what was worth Rs 3,000.
Colombo District MP Premanath C. Dolawatte: “I do not think that this meal costs Rs 3,000. We do not need your food. We could bring food from home.”
Dr. Arambepola: “I looked for where we would have access to a Rs 3,000 buffet meal. There is no such thing. Do not publicise wrong facts. These facts create a wrong image. That is why people hate MPs.”
Assistant Secretary General of Parliament Tikiri Jayatilake: “We have some MPs who had not even obtained a single meal.”
MPs shouted that the statement amounted to lessening the value of the orientation programme.
Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Neil Iddawela: “What we meant here is the cost of a meal.”
MPs shouted that the figures of the cost of a meal were wrong and volunteered to calculate the figure themselves.
Iddawela: “In a day, around 2,000 persons receive food from Parliament and during Budget debates, the average number of persons who partake of food is around 3,000.”
MP: “Are all persons in Parliament being given food?”
Iddawela: “Yes. All working at the Police, banks, the post office and the Ceylon Electricity Board are given food.”
MPs said it would be better if they brought food from home, because there would be no blame on them.
Iddawela: “That we could decide in the future. I have just received the correct figures from the audit branch. A meal with fish costs Rs 950, while a vegetarian meal is Rs 629 for an MP.”