That master craftsman of the private tuition world, former minister and now the economics guru of the Joint Opposition, Bandula Gunawardena, recently supported vehemently the offering of perks and privileges to our elected — and even selected — representatives of the people. News reports said that, at a media conference a few days ago, Gunawardena [...]


And so let us prey!


That master craftsman of the private tuition world, former minister and now the economics guru of the Joint Opposition, Bandula Gunawardena, recently supported vehemently the offering of perks and privileges to our elected — and even selected — representatives of the people.

Bandula Gunawardena

News reports said that, at a media conference a few days ago, Gunawardena was adamant that low (oops, sorry for that) lawmakers should not be deprived of legitimate perks and privileges endorsed by parliament.

That I suppose is the kind of logic that made this Gunawardena aver during the term of the previous government that a family of four could survive on some two thousand rupees a month or some such rubbish. It often reminds one of the garbage disgorged by one side of the yahapalana administration for the constant delay in holding local council elections that seems to surpass the mounds of rubbish gathering in some city and suburban towns .

As some say if Minister Faiszer Musthapha cannot deal with the garbage how could he deal with the gathering storm over the local council elections? But that is Musthapha’s problem. No wonder he seems so elusive with messages left going unanswered.

But, as they say, that’s another story. Bandula Gunawardena’s attempts to justify the perks and privileges graciously extended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are so hilarious that parliamentary colleague Ranjan “One shot” Ramanayake, very much in the news recently, should consider casting Gunawardena in some comic role so that the people of Sri Lanka constantly let down by promising politicians might at least have a good laugh before retiring to bed still gnawed by pangs of hunger.

So what does Bandula Gunawardena have to say about the legitimacy of parliamentarians being served with more perks? Why the redoubtable Gunawardena said with a straight face — well sort of one might say — that the legitimacy of the largesse derives from the very heart of the lawmaking process.

It was parliament that approved of this generous offer by the prime minister. And how did parliament take this bold step of piling more and more perks on parliamentarians? Why that is very simple. The elected representatives of the people showed their approval by hailing this democratic step. Who are the representatives of the people — never mind the fact that some of them failed to be elected but fortunately the electoral system had left the backdoor open for the publicly disavowed to creep into the “holy of holies”?

Well that is where we get to the political nitty-gritty as it were. Those who approved the new perk of Rs. 100,000 a month for the 225 worthies in that great assembly of the peoples’ representatives are the ones who will collect the moola every month. It is the beneficiaries of this gift from the political deity who enthusiastically voted in favour.

In your childhood most of you would have played that musical game called “Here we go round the mulberry bush”. We have no intention of endowing the Hon. Gunawardena with the prowess for turning out such childhood games. But then who knows he might well have an inventive genius like that economic conundrum that produced the real possibility of a family of four living on a sum that was paltry even then.

So when one plays mulberry bush with the Gunawardena theory it goes something like this. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe proposes an extra Rs. 100,000 a month for our cash-strapped MPs. They graciously and heartily cheer the prime minister and say “yes” we will take it but with pangs of conscience eating into their moral being. Then they get together and vote for it. And so it is recorded in that worthy tome called Hansard that parliament approved the resolution or whatever such sleight of hand is officially called. And so the deed is done as Shakespeare might have said in Macbeth.

Of course Bandula Gunawardena thinks this is a legitimate perk, all nicely gift wrapped, delivered by parliament and sent registered post though this has not been registered in the public mind as a gift deserving enough for all the public service these representatives have done for the people of Sri Lanka.

After all, they say, there are numerous other ways they could have made 100 times that amount or more. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s generous offer of Rs. 100,000 a month might be enough for an additional coordinating secretary to the second additional coordinating to the Minister of Arecanuts and Betel Leaves to run a second home . But it will hardly suffice if Gunawardena wants to play host to Ravi Karunanayake who claimed the other day that Gunawardena once visited his home and had a “small drink”. The quantity was not specified, nor was the brand but it is hoped that Karunanayake was a good enough host not to pour a thimbleful.

When Wickremesinghe announced this additional allowance of Rs. 100,000, sceptics said this was a ruse to win over equivocal MPs to his way of thinking and build himself sufficient parliamentary backing for new policies he had in mind.

This is both unfair by the prime minister and the MPs. If Wickremesinghe was intent on winning support he would not have stopped at that frugal amount. After all he has the finance minister seated by him, never mind that Karunanayake is constantly talking of the country’s fiscal deficit and the need to rethink the taxes. At one time he had some input into the Central Bank too, as readers might remember.

So to hell with fiscal deficits and all that rubbish which is good for Bandula Gunawardena that economics pundit who has turned out thousands of economics students in his day. Of course I am still to meet a Joseph Stiglitz or a Friedrich Hayek emerging from our tuition master’s economics class. But then I could have easily missed these worthies, carefully settled as they might be in some executive suite of a high-paying NGO and drawing salaries and perks that the government cannot afford — unless the individuals are imported from Singapore or snapped up when passing through the gates of Harvard.

Some say that Wickremesinghe felt sorry for the poor people’s representatives who had to attend the funerals of friends and voters and weddings and “at homes” at which they had to make substantial monetary contributions to meet the expenses incurred by families and hosts and to show party loyalty.

While the intention to help supporters and others in the constituencies seems laudable enough even though the money is coming from people who know neither the MP nor those who are supposedly benefitting from the MP’s generosity, there are those who wonder whether the money is going where it is supposed to or other pockets deep enough to fill with more of the same.

Some wise guy said that the MPs may need more money to distribute now at funerals see that more are likely to die laughing at MPS giving gifts to constituents instead of family and friends. The public rightly asks why a cash-strapped government should provide more perks and privileges for MPs when they have already been given enough and the people from whose pockets the money goes are regularly burdened with more taxes and ill — thought of policies over which parties within the Government fight like dogs over a bone.

Meanwhile, the public are watching the disgraceful conduct of GMOA doctors, who, having got their education through the free-education system paid for by the taxpayer, are holding the very same persons who spent for their education to ransom through trade union action in the daytime and making money in private medical institutions at night.

And these are the jerks who also demand perks. What a set of avaricious circus clowns.

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