Our 'promising' politicos
JVP Trade Union Chief K. D. Lal Kantha is known for his brilliant Utopian ideas. He says a pay hike of Rs. 10,000 for the public sector employees, which Opposition common presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka promised the other day, is possible, though he (Lal Kantha) has, so far, failed on two occasions to win his party's demand for a 5,000-rupee salary increase for government workers. He says funds for this purpose could be raised by eliminating waste and corruption and reducing the size of the Cabinet.
Workers unarguably deserve better salaries. The Cabinet must be reduced to about 20 ministers. Waste and corruption must be eradicated. No one could disagree with Lal Kantha on this score. But, even if we achieved all this, would the country still be in a position to grant the promised pay hike which requires at least Rs. 132,000 million annually, according to the government.
First of all, how does Lal Kantha propose to eliminate waste and corruption and downsize the Cabinet? The JVP says it has nothing to do with the UNP and their co-operation will end come Jan. 26, 2010, when it expects the common candidate of the Opposition to win the executive presidency. If the Opposition combine could win the presidential election, the UNF would stand a better chance of winning the parliamentary polls to be held in a few months and of forming the next government. And the JVP with a drastically reduced strength would find itself in the Opposition without any say in the government affairs!
How could the JVP expect a future UNF government to be different from the past UNF regime (2001-2004), which it was instrumental in dislodging with the help of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's executive powers? The JVP was bitterly critical of the UNF government because of the way the latter appeased the LTTE, treated workers and handled the divestiture of public ventures. Its privatisation deals reeked of irregularities, which were highlighted in two COPE reports. Some of those deals were cancelled by the Supreme Court. Above all, the JVP inveighed against the UNF government for denying State workers pay hikes and a move to deprive new recruits to the State service of their pension rights.
We peddle no argument that the present government is better than the previous one or it should be re-elected. The people are the best judges and let them decide what to do with the government in power. If they want to kick it out, so be it!
Our politicians are very 'promising'; they make a great deal of promises. It is said that promises are like babies––easy to make but hard to deliver. In 2004, when the present government was formed, the JVP and the SLFP together made various promises, most of which have not been honoured.
In 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga promised, inter alia, bread at Rs. 3.50 and when asked how she could slash the bread prices, she said she would eliminate waste and corruption, which she blamed on the UNP, and use the funds so saved to bring relief to the masses including a substantial bread subsidy. Chandrika won but we never got her cheap bread, did we? Instead bread prices went through the roof! Her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike had famously promised rice from the moon (handen haal) earlier on! In 1977, J. R. Jayewardene undertook to provide us, the hungry public, with eight pounds of grains or eta ata. We waited for his eta for over twelve long years until his retirement. Ranil Wickremesinghe promised gold necklaces to girls and gold bracelets to boys. President Mahinda Rajapaksa tells us, even before the first oil well is sunk in this country, our vehicles will be running on Sri Lankan oil in the near future! (It is hoped that a massive oil price hike is not in the pipeline!)
So much for political promises!
Finally, as for corruption, the holier-than-thou JVP is also responsible for its exponential growth over the years. Rathu Sahodarayas became party to an unholy scheme to clip the wings of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). They shamelessly joined forces with the SLFP-led PA and the UNP in Parliament in 1994 to remove the CIABOC's power to initiate investigations on its own without waiting for complaints. That was one of the first few things that President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government did after having campaigned against corruption and won the 1994 parliamentary polls. Integrity of politicians, in our book, is nothing but lack of opportunity!