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Friday, 18 February 2011

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Provincial Councillors and pensions

Provincial Councils have correctly being labelled a huge white elephant guzzling the ill affordable resources of the State. The system has come in for severe criticism both from the public as well as political commentators calling for its abolition. Even without such opinion it is obvious to all that this is a wasteful exercise with little or no benefit to the public.

Today hardly any one is aware of what functions or duties these PCs perform. Public roads and amenities continue to remain in the sorry mess that it always is. On the contrary PCs have come to be recognized as stumbling blocks for development. We often hear of stalemates between Cabinet Ministers and PCs on the proprietorship of development projects stemming from the concurrent list. This has given Cabinet Ministers a ready excuse for shirking on their job. On the other hand the PCs too trots out the excuse that funds are not released by the Centre due to this impasse. We often come across such excuses in Parliament debates. In the end the project is at a standstill and the public made to suffer.

PCs are so shadowy and vague the public is in the dark where to go or whom to contact to attend to their problems that come under the purview of PCs. Even the Chief Minister is an elusive figure and who the Provincial Ministers are known only to a very few. PCs were established under the 13th Amendment with the chief aim of devolving power to the North East but eventually became operative in all provinces other than the North East until the re establishment of the defunct PCs in the North and East after the war.

In the meantime it was carnival time for our own Provincial Councillors here in the South with their perks and privileges second only to their Parliamentary colleagues. They enjoy duty free vehicles the same as their esteemed counterparts in the August Assembly and free jaunts abroad paid for by the taxpayer. And like their erstwhile seniors at the Diyawanna the Government and Opposition who are at each other’s throats most of the time invariably join forces to vote on and protect their perks and privileges.

What they did not have upto now was the pensions given to their Parliamentary counterparts after ‘serving’ a mere five years. Now this too is in the offing with our Provincial Councillors too all but certain to receive pension benefits to match their Parliament colleagues.

The Government should reconsider this clamour by Provincial Councillors for pensions since they have already fattened themselves enough at the taxpayers’ expense. To grant them pensions on top of this would indeed be an abomination. We have said this before and repeat the fact that the Provincial Councils serve only as a stepping stone for its members to enter Parliament and nothing else.

This can be gauged from the identity of those contesting Provincial polls. A good majority of them are the kith and kin of Ministers and sitting MPs - a negation of the concept of devolution of power where the voice of the grass roots politician should be brought to the fore. Instead we have PC members grooming themselves for higher things taking the voters for a jolly good ride. One need not go further than closely study the composition of the present Parliament to bear this out.

Besides, these Provincial Councillors have amassed enough wealth and live a life of luxury and opulence not unlike their Parliament colleagues. Some of them like their erstwhile counterparts at the House by the Diyawanna have become wealthy overnight. If any decision is taken with regard to pensions, the Government is equally duty bound to inquire into the sources of such wealth.

Besides, making them eligible for a pension after such a short span of five years while they continue amassing ill gotten wealth is not only a grave injustice but also an insult to intelligence of the public - especially when one considers the long years of service that has to be put in by a poor Government servant to be eligible for pension rights.

If granted at all only those deserving should be made eligible. The concession should be granted only after a thorough inspection of the income and assets of these PCs. An eligibility criteria should be worked out strictly based on such findings. Pensions should not be granted across the board.

The Government should also keep close tabs on the functioning of these PCs which are synonymous with waste and corruption. Ideally the whole concept of PCs should come under scrutiny. As is well known our PCs duplicate work at the centre. Some time ago it was revealed that the only function performed by a certain Provincial Council was to pay the salaries of teachers in the Provincial schools. Are we paying princely salaries coupled with huge perks and privileges to Provincial Councillors for functions such as this? An amendment should be brought to the Provincial Council Act to streamline the PCs and most importantly make it a truly grass roots edifice justifying its existence and not function as a nursery for the next generation of Parliamentarians.

Anil Moonesinghe’s 84th birthday :

Amiable politician who rejuvenated CTB

It is indeed an opportune moment to remember this pioneer of the modern advancement of the Pasyodun Korale, who also won the hearts of the people of this country through his dedicated work to improve transport as a national necessity.

Full Story

Theraputtabhaya spoke to me this morning

Richard Bach says somewhere in his book ‘Illusions’ that the answer to any question that is in your mind, whether clearly formulated or resident as a vague, query mark without word or formulation, is right before you. He recommends the random opening of any book and assures that the page will contain answer and also give flesh to that which earlier resisted articulation.

Full Story

Third Regional Conference of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association:

Agenda for change

The topic of this plenary focuses on an issue of utmost importance, for our region, namely ‘mother and child’. South Asia, today comprises one-fifth of humanity. With over one billion people to feed, it presents a unique dilemma of wasted or unmanaged resources, rising poverty and renewed conflicts.

Full Story

 

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