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Presidential appointments: A way of accommodating ‘rejected’ politicos

Many retired politicians are among a group of politically influential persons employed as consultants/advisors to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the taxpayers' expense.

The waste of public funds on so called consultants to the President is continuing despite the UNP criticism. Although the UNP had attacked the government over this in Parliament early last year there had been no sustained campaign against it.

Ravi Karunanayake yesterday said there were much bigger issues. The sky rocketing cost of living, squandering of public funds on grandiose projects, economic mismanagement and absolute negligence on the part of the government would cause the collapse of the economy, he warned.

Tyronne Fernando, who switched allegiance to the SLFP-led coalition after the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe denied him a National List slot to enter the sixth Parliament, had held the post of consultant at the time of his death recently. He had received a Rs. 40,000 monthly salary, an official vehicle, 150 litres of petrol and a Rs 3,000 allowance to meet his telephone bill. Fernando, a recipient of full pension benefits enjoyed by retired MPs quit the post of Governor of the then temporarily merged North-East Province to take over a comfortable office in Colombo. He had been 68 years of age at the time the President accommodated him as an advisor on January 21, 2006. All allowances, (telephone and fuel) are on a monthly basis

Former Minister Ronnie de Mel is another beneficiary of this scheme. While receiving full pension rights as a retired MP, de Mel had been 80 when the President had accommodated him in the growing group of consultants at a monthly salary of Rs. 60,000 plus an official car, 150 litres of petrol and a Rs 3,000 allowance to meet his telephone bill. De Mel had been among the first few to receive the appointment as senior presidential advisor on financial and economic affairs with effect from December 1, 2005.

Veteran SLFP politician Lakshman Jayakody is another recipient of an MP's pension. He had received an appointment as an advisor to the President immediately after the last presidential election on November 17th, 2005. Interestingly his appointment had been dated November 19, 2005, two days before Premier Rajapaksa took office. He is paid Rs 60,000 monthly salary plus an official vehicle and 309 litres of diesel. He had received his appointment at the age of 75.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who receives a salary as the Leader of Opposition of the Colombo Municipal Council, while being a recipient of MPs pension, too, had been appointed a presidential advisor with a monthly salary of Rs. 60,000 and Rs. 7,500 allowance to meet his telephone bill. He had received the advisor's appointment at the age of 66 with effect from December 1, 2005.

Another UNP National List reject A.H.M. Azwer receives a Rs 40,000 monthly salary. Appointed as the advisor to the President on parliamentary affairs, Azwer has been given an official car, 150 litres of petrol and Rs 5,000 to meet his telephone bill. The politician who had received the appointment at the age of 69 two years ago also receives a pension from Parliament.

Four other politicians, Richard Pathirana, Prasanna Gunawardena, S. Sathasivam and Ravindra Randeniya had also been accommodated in the jumbo-sized team of consultants. Pathirana receives a monthly payment of Rs 30,000 while Gunawardena and Sathasivam receive Rs 40,000 each.

Among the other advisors are Sunimal Fernando, Dhammika Amarasinghe, Professor G. W. Epasinghe, Rohana Weerasinghe and Daya Upali Hewapathirana. All of them receive Rs 60,000 each and are given an official car. L. S. Wanigathunga, former IGP Chandra Fernando and Dr. B. A. Jagath Balasuriya receive Rs 40,000 each. Of them, only Wanigathunga had been given an official vehicle according to an answer tabled in Parliament in response to a question raised in Parliament last year.

Another presidential appointee D. S. de Silva receives a staggering Rs 300,000 monthly salary plus a vehicle, unlimited fuel and the unrestricted use of mobile phone. But the advisor to Sri Lanka Cricket would be paid by the SLC. Despite the former national cricketer’s appointment being criticized in some quarters, no one resisted the presidential order.

The President also has appointed former UNP Colombo Municipal Councillor T. M. Sangadasa as a consultant to the National Film Corporation. He receives a Rs 25,000 monthly salary plus transport.

 


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