When the Kapuwa shits inside the Devale what happens to its sanctity?And “Wetath niyarath goyam ka nam kata pavasan ehi amaruwa”
Posted on July 19th, 2010

Dr Sudath Gunasekara (SLAS) President Senior Citizens Movement Mahanuwara

I am, though reluctantly, writing these few lines for what ever it worth, (of cause in good intention yearning for good governance) in response to a news item that appeared in the press. This I think is a matter of great public interest regarding which those in authority should take an immediate decision.

 I reproduce below the said news item that appeared few days back highlighting how two MPP have made a fortune by selling their duty free vehicle permits (a political bribe given by the government in every five years to politicians and higher officials) and how others are making hectic arrangements to sell their permits as well, to get this windfall benefit. According to this news item one is a government MP and the other a UNP MP.

 “MPs hawk permits

Several newly elected MP’s are said to be privately calling bids to sell their vehicle permits for millions of rupees after at least two parliamentarians had sold their vehicle permits for more than Rs 10 million each.
Sources said one of the National list MPs from the Government had sold his vehicle permit for Rs 12 million, while a newly elected UNP parliamentarian had sold his vehicle permit for Rs 10 million.
Cabinet that met on May 26 unanimously decided to increase the minimum duty waiver permit for an MP by US$ 15,000. The tax free allowance for parliamentarians’ vehicles which was US$ 35,000 earlier, has now increased to US$ 50,000. (PW)”

This is the five yearly gymkhana, a special privilege every politician and all public servants (above a certain salary point) and certain categories of employees of corporations and institutions like the universities get once in every five years since 1987  after the declaration of the Dharmista Rajyaya by JR. Today the number of beneficiaries under this scheme may be nearly 25,000 if not more. I am sure the Customs may be able to give the accurate figure. These permits are said to be given to these politicians and officers to perform their official duties efficiently and effectively for the benefit of the citizens numbering about 20 million. The five yearly frequency is decided on the assumption that all vehicles become un-roadworthy (which is a first class myth invented by the shrewd architects of this antisocial, immoral and unethical bribery scheme) to perform their duties efficiently and effectively to enable them to deliver their services to the general public. It is also said that no permit holder can sell the vehicle or the permit before the expiration of five years. But up to date no punishment has been given to a single person who has sold the permits or the vehicles obtained on such permit. The recipients of these duty free permits are expected to use these vehicles for their official traveling and they are also not expected to use official vehicles. But in real practice almost with cero exceptions all these permit holders either sell the permit (mostly) or the vehicle as soon as they get it. They sell the permit under a lease agreement mutually agreed upon the parties and the total amount realized becomes a bonanza from heaven for the permit holder. The vehicles are imported and registered in the name of the permit holder to overcome legal problems and they also don’t pay any tax for the millions they make over night. The de facto owners also don’t pay any duty or tax for their new acquisitions. Thereby the government loses duties and taxes from two sources.

Assuming that a certain permit holder (an MP or an officer) remains in politics or service for 35 years then he/she will get 7 permits and assuming the market prices will also remain constant and the average selling price of a permit will also be Rs 12 million (as in the above deal mentioned in the news item) such a person will receive a regular net income of Rs 200,000 a month and on this deal since this is a five year bonanza. This will be an additional income of Rs 2,400,000 for a year. This works out to Rs 84,000,000 for a period of 35 years. This will be even more as some vehicles fetch a much higher price in the open market. This income will be an additional, indirect and illegal bonanza over and above their salaries, traveling and subsistence and other perks and various allowances such as rent, petrol allowance, free telephones, secretarial allowances, entertainment, foreign trips, employment for  family members (only for politicians) and attendance allowances etc. Even if the government effectively controls these illicit deals in any case the permit recipients will sell these vehicles after five years and make a fortune out of it, unless the government stops this fraud. Therefore it is very clear that this five yearly duty free vehicle permit is a direct bribe by the government in power to keep these politicians and officials under obligation to those in power to induce the recipients to do all what the authorities want them to do. If you don’t call it a bribe, I really do not know by what name one should name it.

All these people with very few exceptions like the medical doctors who are not in charge of administration, have one or more official vehicles at their disposal. Some politicians use or rather misuse even dozens of official vehicles drawn from departments and corporations under their ministries. So in actual practice what they do is, they sell the permit and use the official vehicle both for official and private business. This cheating is common to both politicians and officers. Therefore it is a joint operation where parties are mutually interlocked for a common purpose of robbing public funds. None of these people can say they are unaware of this national crime. Every body from top to bottom knows this. They also know that thereby they are cheating and robbing public money and they also know that this is an extra privilege they enjoy, which the majority of citizens in this country don’t have. Therefore it is immoral, unethical, illegitimate and uncivilized too to rob public money in this manner when the masses are suffering from abject poverty. No politician or official has rejected this permit or objected to this highly irregular practice so far. I am still to see any other country in the whole world where politicians and higher public officers are engaged in this type of shameless abuse of authority and misappropriation of people’s money.

Has any one taken the trouble to work out the total loss to the country’s revenue and the wastage and the amount of miss-appropriation resulting from this utterly irregular and unethical practice? On the one hand while the government is going round the world with the begging bowl on its head on the other these unscrupulous people siphon the same begged money to indulge in this type of extravagance making the country poorer every second pushing it down the Gadarene slope.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

When both legislators and executives who are responsible for making laws and their judicious execution for the benefit of the subjects, behave like this, who is the God who can rescue the ordinary people? As the famous Sinhala saying goes “wetath niyarath goyam ka nam kata pavasam ehi amaruwa”

Why can’t the government, if it is really sincere and serious in its service to people, put an end to this robbery of government’s funds and go back to the early system where those who need vehicles to perform their official duties are given loans to buy vehicles and paid traveling so that it will save billions that could be gainfully used for development that will benefit the starving masses and their future children. Giving a duty free permit to a public officer to buy a vehicle when he retires from public service as a mark of gratitude for the services rendered may be a better proposition.

This of cause is only one single example of misappropriation and miss-government rampant in this country. Look at the overloaded political machinery and the public service. The jumbo Cabinet, overloaded Parliament, utterly useless Provincial Councils, hundreds of government and semi-government institutions packed with political ticks contributing nothing to national product or development, number of holidays we have, absence of law and order everywhere, absence of comprehensive and meaningful planning for sustainable national development -just to name only few salient areas. It has been said that Sri Lanka has the highest number of Ministers, politicians and public servants per person in the whole world (1 public servant for every 16 persons and 1 politician for every 4800 persons).

We all boast that this country had been ruled according to Buddhist principles of statecraft for the past 2500 years. It is also said that Dasarajadharma had been the very foundation of governance in this country. But if those rulers who did so in the days gone by come to know even by chance how things are happening here today they might rise from their graves and vanish to some other world with a firm determination never to return again even to their grave pits in this country.

According to the Buddhist theory of State even sovereignty is subject to Dhamma which in the Buddhist sense means the obligation of the ruler to promote the material and spiritual welfare of its subjects. The ruler is elected by popular consent (mahasammata) and he is therefore a servant of the people (ganadƒÆ’-¾sa) the social contract established thereby  gives the people the right to oust the government which is not working for the welfare of the people. The universal epithet “ƒ”¹…”rajƒÆ’-¾ bhavatu dhammikƒÆ’-¦’ therefore has laid down the fundamental moral and ethical principle and the framework a righteous ruler has to follow in statecraft. “ƒ”¹…”The wheel of power has to turn in dependence on the wheel of righteousness’ (balachakram hi nisƒÆ’-¦”‚ºrƒÆ’-¾ya dharmacakram pravartate) is a golden epithet all rulers should never forget.

It is only when the ruler is just that rain comes in time, crops become abundant and the people become happy. The ruler’s basic duty is to work for the good of his subjects; work for good of the majority and happiness of the majority (bahujana sukhƒÆ’-¾ya bahujana hitƒÆ’-¾ya as the Buddha himself has laid down).Even the palace of the king according to the Buddhist concept is called “Dhammapasada”. The definition given to the term “ƒ”¹…”Raja’ in the discourses is the “ƒ”¹…”One who makes others happy with Dhamma’ or he who makes others happy by Dhamma (Dhammena pare ranjetiti Raja). Dhamma in this context is good action. According to Buddhist teaching they include Dasaraja Dharma, Satara Sangraha vattu, Pancha Siila and Dasa Sakvitivat. When the ruler becomes unrighteous the Ministers also follow suit; having seen how they do, household heads also learn from them. This is exactly what Buduguna Alankaaraya has succinctly said as follows.

Rajun                           adamituwath

Weti metindoda                 epawath

Deka unge                           pawath

Bamunu gahapathiyoda      uganith.  

One has only to look in to our own traditions to see how a country should be righteously governed. The Chakkavatti siihanada sutta, Adhammika sutta and the Agganna sutta have laid down the universal principles and guidelines that suit all times for righteous governance. It is the duty of the Buddhist leaders who are conversant with these traditions to guide the rulers (who always run to the west for models of governance and Constitutions) with such advice in time without leaving the monopoly of governance solely in the hands of politicians and officials. Wasn’t this the historical role they played in the past and why they have been dubbed as the Muradevata of the nation?

It was King Sirisangabo the pious in the early fourth century AD who said “iman sarattan pisitan sariiran dharemi lokassa hitatta mewa” (this mortal body of mine made of blood and flesh, I bear only for the weal and wellbeing of my people). The ruler in this context also includes the whole state machinery including its officers he engages to conduct the affairs of the state.

From the potentate down to the lowest officer of the state machinery every one is bound by a strict code of conduct and ethics and moral obligations in conducting their day to day duties by the people. For the service they render they are paid out of the public funds and for every cent they get, theoretically they are answerable and indebted to the people to whom that money belong.

Having said this much my heart burning question is how the present day rulers who indulge in anti social, unethical, immoral and illegal activities as given above can justify their actions in the light of this rich and hallowed religious and cultural backdrop? I only mean those who do so. Therefore obviously non sinners need not worry about what I have said.

 

6 Responses to “When the Kapuwa shits inside the Devale what happens to its sanctity?And “Wetath niyarath goyam ka nam kata pavasan ehi amaruwa””

  1. dhane Says:

    Well written Dr Sudath Gunasekara. We will never ever see any politician who will care to dismantle this misappropriation and miss-government rampant in Sri Lanka . Instead it will be overload with more benefit to them. For such act both ruling & opposition always together.

  2. Nihal Fernando Says:

    “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar” – H.L. Mencken

  3. dhane Says:

    Since there is peace in Sri Lanka why give permit to import cars to anybody and waste our foreign exchange. Let use locally made cars which gives employment to our own people and encourage local Industry. I will take any bet no political party like my proposal to even to discuss. Will see which party will give any encouragement to our local
    industry.

  4. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    This is the down side of even good politicians though not confined only to SriLanka. However, lets hope the present regime take serious note of these malpractices and withdraw such facilities given to politicians and govt servants, especially during these difficult nation building period. It would be better for the Govt to issue official vehicles to all MPs and then, auction these vehicles to the public at the end of five years or so. I commend Dr Sudath Ganasekera for highlighting this unfair and uncalled for benefit given to politicians.

  5. Raju Says:

    Departing U.N. official calls Ban’s leadership ‘deplorable’ in 50-page memo

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/19/AR2010071904734.html

  6. Siri Says:

    The President should look into this matter. A car pool should be made available to Government officials and members of Parliment for official work. They should use their private vehicles or public transport for private trips. The High Government officials and Parlimentarians should be given an opportunity to experience first hand how the public transport system works. They will then work to improve the system and the general public too will benefit. As an alternative if cars are localy produced or assembled they should be given an opportunity to purchase these on a priority basis so the workers will have employment and the cars and spare parts can be standardised. This will promote a new industry in the country and save considerable foreign exchange. It will also stop money going to the European countries for fancy cars such as BMW’s and Mecedes Benz’s. Such fancy cars are unnecessary in a small country like Sri Lanka.

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