Protecting whose privileges are more important in a democratic society. Is it those of Politicians or citizens?
Posted on July 23rd, 2021

Dr.Sudath Gunasekara. Mahanuwara,

The answer is very simple and straight. That is the privileges and rights of the citizen are above the politicians. The purpose of founding a State is for the protection of the natural rights of people, in the society. In a modern democracy sovereignty is in the people. Politicians are elected by the people to make legislation and run the government in order to carry out its programmes and policies to fulfill the aspirations of the people. As such citizens are the masters. To that extent politicians in theory are servants of the people and not masters as the politicians in our country think. Therefore in a democratic society politician cannot have special privileges over and above those of the masters and calling to stop detention of MPs for alleged criminal offences and protection of their privileges is unrealistic and unethical. Treating politicians like any other citizen under law will clean up the Parliament of this type of criminal elements and make it the supreme legislature of the country, as its conventional definition stands, sans criminals and rogues.

Allowing such undesirable elements to remain in Parliament seriously infringes on the rights of the people and as such to give special privileges to members of Parliament or in any other political institution as Ranil calls for is undemocratic, unethical and illegal. It is particularly so with regard to anti-social politicians who are in jail  for convicted offenses or remanded for alleged crimes, like Rishard Badurdeen and Ranjan Ramanayaka or any other. In reality the MP ship of such politicians should be first, terminated immediately and second they should be debarred from entering politics or holding any public post in future by removing their civil rights for life. Such action will clear the political stable for future generations.

But sadly the situation gradually changed after 1956. It got worsened after 1977, that opened the door for all sort of politicians like Ranil Wickramasinha, Ravi Karaunanayaka, Malik Samarawikrama Mervin Silva, Rishard Badurdeen, Hakeem, Hisbulla, Wignesvaran,  Rajita Senaratna, Duminda Silva, Champika Ranawaka, to name a few noted characters and many others who claim for more privileges, in addition to all unlimited princely packages like enhanced salaries,  many other allowances even for attending Parliament and enormous fringe benefits such as Pensions after five years for them and their spouses and five more family members as Private Secretary, Coordinating Sect, Public relation Officer, and Media Officer given by JR to these looters, appointed violating all recruitment procedures  to public service. Most of these people come to politics to make money with Government contracts, Permits for timber, sand, rubble, liquor bars, filling stations and government jobs. In addition they get luxury official vehicles and duty free Vehicle permits once in three years (They all sell these permits for 20,30 40 millions although they are meant to be used for official duties in their jobs. You can add to these privileges which I have not included.

 In addition to the 196 puppet MPP who are said to have been elected on a district basis on proportional representation basis with another political gimmick called the preference vote. None of these 196 represents any electorate. As such today people don’t have an MP of their own. Furthermore these District MPP are people nominated by the Party leadership, often parachute’s from outside the electorate who don’t have even their vote in the District. None of the MPs represents a given electorate, Sometime even people from far corners of the Island are also nominated. For example a person from Hambantota can contest a seat in Kurunegala or even Anuradhapura. In addition there are also 29 so-called National list nominees of the party leaders provided by the Constitution to accommodate their henchmen, family members, class mates, friends and people who contribute to their party funds. Most of them end up as powerful Cabinet Ministers. The funniest thing about them is they are not representatives of the people. You can just imagine how representative democracy operates in this country.

 It is for this bunch of fake representative , who don’t represent any given area or a seat or people, Ranil is asking for more privileges as if the present overflowing privileges are not enough. Just think as to how the mind of this politician who had been the PM in  this country for several times often by accident and above all who has played the leading role in two Central Bank robberies in this country by overriding the president poor Sirisena in  2015 and 2016.

 Once these privileges are given to these looters it is not going to stop there. It is like giving a razor to a monkey. It will trickle down to Provincial Council and Pradesiya Sabha Council levels as well. That is nearly another 15,000 politicians or more, are bleeding the national coffers with no service to the people or the country for the money spent. They are maintained only to collect the vote for those who go to Parliament.

 As such a country that was at the peak of prosperity in 1948 is already at rock bottom, of chronic poverty and debt being only second to Afghanistan, a land locked barren desert. Where are we being driven blindfolded by these politicians together with an overloaded public service (1 public servant for every 16 people and I politician for every 2235 men who together consume 85 % of the national tax income. This country has the highest per capita politicians and public servants in the world.

 To my knowledge no country in the world provides such enormous privileges and facilities to their politicians or public servants like this.

This situation was quite different in the early days. Because politicians at that time were of a different class and a different breed. Luxuries of Colombo life were not something new to them as they were well to do people in their electorates who got in to politics mostly for prestige. Unlike the present day politicians they never asked for new vehicles, big salaries or allowances or official quarters in Colombo.  For example even in early 1960s the allowance (Note it was not a salary) of an MP was R 500, a junior Minister was 750 and a Minister got only 1000. Only the Governor General Prime Minister and the Chief justice had official cars. At that time no politician or state officer was given official vehicles. They were given a loan to purchase a vehicle. No driver, no fuel. For official travelling they were paid a mileage allowance. In fact most of the politicians either came in their own vehicles or by train to attend Parliament. Just to mention few names, (which I give below) who have left behind a name and an indelible mark in history for work they did for the country and their electorates under that system. They all represented a particular electorate unlike today. 

D.S Senanayaka, C.W.W.Kannangara. S.w.R.D. Bandaranayaka, Wilmot  A. Perera. R.G.Senanayaka. H.B Rambukwella (Disava)  Mrs Sirimavo Bndaranayaka, D.A.Rajapaksa, R.Premadasa, T.B ilangaratna, Hector Kobbekaduwa, M.B.W.Mediwaka, M.D Banda, H.B.Wanninayaka, I.M.R.Iriyagolla, Philip Gunawardhana, C.P. De  Silva, Maitiipala Senanayaka, Lalith Atulat mudali and Gamini Disanayaka. Of the present day politicians the only name I would include in this list is Mahinda Rajapasa, for three things he did namely, defeating the 30 year old LTTE,  terrorism, the countrywide first class carpeted road network (after Governor Henry Ward 1865 who did the main road network all over the Island) and Sanda Hiru   Seya at  Anuradhapura, are few such names worth mentioning. All these people have left their own indelible mark in their service to the country and the people. But all others were only mere passengers on board in the respective Governments.

But in our system inherited from the West operating in the post-independent political culture, particularly after 1977 it had been just the opposite. Here in this country people’s sovereignty ends immediately after an election. Once the politicians are elected they become the masters. Thereafter they become Mantriituma and Amathi tuma mostly alienated from the voters for five years, overnight. We all know what happens there after, until the next election. All privileges and the control over state resources and public servants are at their command to serve their personal agendas. The real masters, the people, suffer at the other end   with spiraling cost of living, poverty and social disabilities due to absence of good governance by their elected representatives, most of them migrate to Colombo or the nearby towns and most of their time they live in Colombo after the elections enjoying the luxuries of modern life including educating their children in big schools, only day dreams for the voters.

The people who get disgusted with the politicians get another bunch of rouges elected expecting a change for betterment in their hopes and expectations But the new set always become worse than the predecessors. The vicious circle goes on and on. It never ends. This is what really happened in this country since 1948. This is the Sri Lankan political culture.

It is in this appalling and ridiculous backdrop Ranil is now crying for more privileges for the 226 in the Parliament

I am compelled to ask this question from the public as Ranil Wickramasinha, who has called for protecting the privilege of Members of Parliament as former Prime Minister who has ruined the age old UNP presently in Parliament as the National list MP accorded to him by his followers as a gift for burying the 74 year old UNP and not for any service he has rendered to this country or the people as a politician who has enjoyed the privileges of Prime minister, even by accident, for five short spells.

In his speech in Parliament under reference he has referred to the British constitutional theorist Thomas Erskyne May’s seminal work on parliamentary procedure. Wickremesinghe said: Erskyne May has said attempts to influence members in their conduct by threat is a breach of parliamentary privilege. So this is intimidation of a member which violates the privilege of the house. Where did Erskyne May, in his wisdom, advised the Parliament to keep criminals and rogues in Parliament with impunity. Can Ranil give at least one such instant? Did he know that Kyne’s venerated thesis that was considered the ‘Sumnum Bonum of liberal economic policy immediately after the second World war period it was later (as early as 1958)   heavily contradicted by John Kenneth Galbraith in 1958 in his classic The Affluent Society”

Isn’t it a tragedy for a Sri Lankan politician to quote from a British constitutional theorist of 1940s to substantiate his argument without being able to quote from a native authority who shined as a national leader during its 2500 years of glorious history? His quotation clearly demonstrates the poverty of present day leaders on their own heritage and the servility and colonial mentality these Kalusuddhas still carry in their empty heads.  Isn’t this poverty of philosophy that ails the heads of our politicians, the biggest tragedy why we cannot advance as a new Nation while countries like Korea, Singapore (an Island port city only 25,000 reclaimed land from the sea) and Israel a virtual desert who were lagging behind us as shanties, when we were the second developed nation in Asia by 1948 now have become economic giants within few decades since 1960 s. As for me I put the entire blame on our visionless and unpatriotic politicians who are supposed to have mishandled this nation for this tragedy.

One Response to “Protecting whose privileges are more important in a democratic society. Is it those of Politicians or citizens?”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Sudath

    I just can’t believe what you have written above.I am a very busy man.even on a Sunday.I like the following that You have written above
    1, In a modern democracy sovereignty is in the people. Politicians are elected by the people to make legislation and run the government in order to carry out its programmes and policies to fulfil the aspirations of the people
    2,Therefore in a democratic society politician cannot have special privileges over and above those of the masters and calling to stop detention of MPs for alleged criminal offences and protection of their privileges is unrealistic and unethical. Treating politicians like any other citizen under law will clean …..
    3, 15,000 politicians or more, are bleeding the national coffers with no service to the people or the country for the money spent. They are maintained only to collect the vote for those who go to Parliament
    4,As such a country that was at the peak of prosperity in 1948 is already at rock bottom,(thanks to the Colonials.)
    5,But sadly the situation gradually changed after 1956. It got worsened after 1977

    So what can we do about the sad situation,my answer is to make SL another Singapore by getting the last Colonials back, not that they are better now as they are messing their country with the Brexit nonsense.

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