Unpopular and wrong
Posted on November 26th, 2016

Editorial Island

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted he was making an unpopular proposal and knew that he would be criticized when he said a few days ago that salaries of MPs are grossly inadequate for the work they are required to carry out in their constituencies. He said he was proposing substantially higher wages to reduce corruption and attract better talent to parliament. Nobody shouted him down when he said what he did because if there is anything on which all legislators agree without demur, it is on pay and perks for themselves. But we must say in fairness that is not a trait exclusive to parliamentarians. It is true for all human beings. Whatever the prime minister may think about MPs needing better compensation, public opinion will run strong against any proposal to increase the emoluments of legislators. As it is, the large majority of the people resent MPs pay and perks which are unrelated to average incomes of ordinary people. Some time ago there was an attempt to link parliamentarians pay to those of judges so that when judges got an increase, MPs too would get one.

When Wickremesinghe said his wife earned more than he did, most people who read his remarks would have smiled. It is quite possible that the premier’s wife, a university professor, gets a larger pay cheque than her husband. But what the taxpayer of this country spends to maintain their prime minister bears no comparison to what the universities spend to maintain an academic. Comparison on this score is no doubt akin to comparing apples and oranges. But it is the prime minister who in passing made that comparison. Wickremesinghe is rather fond of comparing his pay with those of others. Speaking at the 30th anniversary of the Ravaya newspapers a few days earlier, he said that editors of most newspapers (“I don’t know about Ravaya” he qualified)and news directors in the electronic media earned more than he did. While there are many people in the country paid more than their president, prime minister, ministers and other elected representatives, there are many more that are paid far less.

The prime minister is right that we do need to attract better people to parliament, people who will not loot the public purse as many have done in the past and continue to do at present, and make useful contributions to both the legislature and good governance. In the early post-Independence years, the parliamentary allowance of an MP was a meager Rs. 750. They came in their own vehicles to sittings of the House – some like Dr. W. Dahanayaka came by bus or train because they did not own a vehicle – and nobody got duty free permits to buy vehicles. They paid for their own petrol which in those days cost about Rs. 2.50 a gallon. Undoubtedly many of those elected to the then House of Representatives were people who had private means – landowners and the like – as well as professionals who did nicely as lawyers and doctors. But others were by no means rich or comfortably off and did not ask for more. LSSP leader Dr. N.M. Perera, despite his very high qualifications, did not practice a profession and was among the earliest to urge that MPs be paid pensions. NM did however engage in some private business and older readers would remember his being pilloried over the Giridara Mill in the sixties and references in newspapers to plantations he had owned – Oakfied and Moragolla. While he could be attacked for being a capitalist in a capitalist system while professing socialism, none would dare accuse him of ever making a dirty rupee.

There would be a substantial body of opinion in the country that paying MPs better will not reduce corruption or in any great measure attract better people to the legislature – a few maybe, but not all that many. As it is, the existing pay and perks and the opportunities that abound for politicians to make crooked bucks have attracted many undesirables to the legislature. Exigencies of politics have made those who were rejected by the electors to be appointed on the National List. President Sirisena says that the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP strived might and main to have party candidates they labeled as “Sirisena supporters” defeated and he made these appointments to have people he trusted in the House. However that may be, the principle of such appointments does not bear examination and it is to be hoped that the National List is abolished in the new constitution. It is hard to think of anybody but the late Lakshman Kadirgamar who deserved to come unelected to parliament in accordance with criteria set out for National List nominations. There have been some worthies who have enjoyed ministerial appointments by coming into parliament on the national lists of both major parties!

We are now a middle income country according to the official classification of international multilateral lending agencies. But like in most developing countries, most wealth here is concentrated in the upper strata of the population. There was a report in yesterday’s The Island that the richest one percent of Indians own over half that country’s wealth. This is very true of very many countries in the world although the figures may be less dramatic. Given conditions that prevail here, the majority of our people would feel that our MPs do not do badly in terms of pay and perks in comparison to most of their countrymen (and women). Granting legislators increased emoluments in the context of prevailing country conditions will be both unpopular and unfair. Maybe some honest legislators who might do better outside politics (we do have a few of them) have persuaded the prime minister that a wage revision is appropriate. Given that he is more fortunately placed than most of his parliamentary colleagues, Wickremesinghe may well view such requests sympathetically. But acting on such sentiment, however well intentioned, will not only be unpopular but wrong.

2 Responses to “Unpopular and wrong”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    The Yamapalanaya and this ASININE Prime Minister is adding INSULT to INJURY!

    As if the import of billions of Rupees of luxury vehicles for politicians, looting the people’s wealth in the GREAT CENTRAL BANK ROBBERY ever, and imposing a higher VAT on essentials while the Rupee depreciates rapidly sapping it buying power as a result of their HORRENDOUS MISMANAGEMENT of the ECONOMY is not enough, this SHAMELESS man Ranil Wickramasinghe proposes to INCREASE the salaries of the MP’s to BRIBE THEM FURTHER to stabilise his increasingly tenuous hold on power!

    These people are TOTALLY OUT OF TOUCH with the common man, and how difficult it is for ordinary people in Sri La ka to make ends meet!

    The ELECTION PROMISE to REDUCE the number of Ministers far below the number in the previous parliament has been FORGOTTEN; instead they have INCREASED the number!

    Furthermore, instead of REPEALING the 13th Amendment and dissolving the PROVINCIAL COUNCILS as unnecessary redundant bureaucracies, they are proposing to implement a 13A+ giving police and land powers to these Provincial Councils with LARGE REDUNDANT bureaucracies of their own, and proposes to fund their operations with 40% of the National Budget
    The separatists of the North and East will happily use that money to undermine the Central Government, import and settle illegal immigrants, crrate and msintain private armies, ecpel the armed forces of the nationsl govetnmrnt and Sinhala people, and genetally DISMANTLE the country into warring BANTUSTANS!

    Obviously, if you increase the salaries of the Mimistets and MP’s of the Central Governmeng, you have to do the same for the officers of thr Provincial Government as well, thereby INCREASING the total number of officials BRIBED to participate in feeding as KEPT HOGS at the National Trough.

    Have we forgotten the Rs 10,000 salary increase for public employees that was given as an regime change election pledge that helped to BANKRUPT the nation, to the extent that various officials claim imminent national bankruptcy as a reason to levy in teased taxes and cut benefits? I would like to ask all those IDIOTIC public employees who voted for the Yamapalanaya, how is that salary increase working for you with the rapid depreciation of the Rupee and the VAT tax increases, more than offsetting that inestimable election bribe?

    At the end of all thsee self-serving profligate expenditures, the Nation will not have any funds left for any national infrastructure development, to educate our children, to provide health care for our citizens, to care for our elder retired citizens and pay their pensions, or to maintain an efficient police force to maintaim law and order, or to maintain a national defense force able to defend and protect the country.

    We are told not to worry, this VAST BUREAUCRACY of Ministers, Members of Parliament, various officials of the Provincial Council Administrations will be living well and provide valuable sevicts to us …. so the “country” will do well too if we keep them happy.

    But you and I know that the proposed salary increases are BAREFACED BRIBES to keep the MPs from DEFECTING from the Yamapalanaya, as the pressure to do so MOUNTS day by day.

    These Yamapalanaya IDIOTS are DEAF & BLIND, and they do not see the TSUNAMI of ANGER that is BUILDING UP against them in the country. When that TSUNAMI hits, mercifully they will be RENDERED MUTE as well!

    They who have SOWED the WIND, will REAP the WHIRLWIND! SOON!

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Traitor chief die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande Wadakaya pol pot r@nil wickramaSinhalakiller is not just
    murderous, mega lying, mega thieving. He is also crafty to the core like his murderous alugosu (to Sinhalese
    only) uncle, old fox thambi mudiyanselage jr@.

    Batalande wadakaya knows he is in a bit of trouble and losing support due to the mega thief’s CB daylight robbery.
    So crafty alugusowa wants mas katu for the greedy deshapalu low lives. So propose an increase in salary and
    they will lick his back side and his job is safe. Election is a long long way away. So no worries. When the election
    time comes say few mega lies, free helicopters or something, a lot of Sinhala modayas will vote for the r@nil
    wadakaya. Traitor tamils, mussies and catholics vote for the wadakaya 100% anyway. Only some Sinhala
    modayas the wadakaya has to fool. A lot of them are brain dead fools any way to believe his fairy stories. Wadakaya
    knows it!

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