Boarding the ‘gravy train
Our parliamentarians are adept at boarding the gravy train. Literally, there is no doubt the gravy provided by the parliament canteen, where food is provided to our hard working members at heavily subsidised rates at the tax payers expense, is delicious. Metaphorically the ‘gravy’ is more popular among the government parliamentarians. There is a saying that goes ‘If the ladle is in your hand it will be folly not to make use of it to the full’. Our parliamentarians appear to live up to his dictum.
Almost everyone in the government parliamentary group has ministerial tag and a headline Rs. 100,000 as rent allowance for 49 ministers was a shock wave. The government parliamentary group has never had it so good. This includes the UNP dissidents who crossed over to the government. They have all ended up as frontline ministers and government spokespersons. They see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil in the State governing apparatus. They have been attracted, no doubt, by the many perks and have become the ‘yes men’ of the government because they probably believe in ‘singing hosannas for their supper’. The present day MPs no doubt have never had it so fine with all these perks. In addition, they become immune to probes such as the COPE commission findings where lethargy and foot dragging has been the norm with obvious lack of transparency.
It will not be out of place to recall an incident which I witnessed. It was in the year 1973 when I was travelling in a CTB bus from Pettah to Rajagiriya. The bus stopped at the old parliament halt. In stepped Mr. W. Dahanayke M.P. for Galle and former Prime Minister unobtrusively. He was in identified by many gentlemen in the front seats and they all performed a ‘jack in the box’ act offering their seats to this veteran and venerated politician. His reply in Sinhala Bohoma isthurthi mahathvaruni -(Thank you gentlemen) and pointing at the parliament said ‘Mata ehey arasanayak thiyanawa (I have a seat there). He kept standing all the way holding the top bar and alighted as unobtrusively as when he entered, when the bus reached Sravasthi the MP’s hostel.
This category of MP today is a rare breed. For the one thing they are chauffeur driven in air conditioned comfort with security and back up vehicles to boot publicising their presence and making a nuisance of themselves to the general public. I would like to quote O. W. Holmes’ ‘Give us men’ If it would inspire our parliamentarians.
‘Given us men, a time like this demands
Great hearts, strong minds, true faith and willing hands
Men whom the lust of office does not kill
Men whom the spoils of offices cannot buy
Men who possess opinions and a will
Men who have honour,
Men who will not lie
Men who would rather die than in fear fly.
Would this be much too much to ask of them