MPs corrupt but call for closing down parliament unjustifiable – civil society



by Shamindra Ferdinando 

Parliamentary system couldn't be abolished though the vast majority of elected and appointed members were in politics for their personal benefit, the media was told on Thursday (Dec 29) at a press conference called by civil society grouping at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), Maradana.

Addressing the media, Chameera Perera of Left Centre highlighted the mega duty free car vehicle permit scam perpetrated by members of political parties in parliament.

The civil society activist was referring to attorney-at-law Nagananda Kodituwakku moving Supreme Court against the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) for turning a blind eye to members selling their duty free car permits. The SC has been told that members had received tax exemptions ranging from Rs 30 mn to 44 mn.

Castigating those who had sold their permits, Perera said that they were also seeking licenses to engage in sand mining. "Members are there to earn money."

Although, the entire country knew what was going on in the Parliament, we couldn't do away with that system, Perera said, underscoring the urgent need to take remedial action. "We'll have to get them back into track," Perera said.

Commenting on the Joint Opposition (JO) and Provincial Councils (PCs) rejecting the Development (Special Provisions) Draft Bill, Perera recalled the circumstances under which the previous government secured parliamentary approval for Divineguma Bill in the wake of all SLFP-run PCs approving it. The parliament endorsed the amended Divineguma Bill with 160 MPs voting for and 53 voting against. The then opposition UNP, TNA and DNA voted against the Bill, while 11 members abstained.

Rajapaksas had sent the then Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake home as they felt she intervened in their project, Perera alleged.

Obviously, the government resented having to introduce ten amendments to the Bill based on the recommendations made by the Supreme Court to avert a referendum.

President of Government Nursing Officers' Association President Saman Ratnapriya alleged that those who hadn't seen any evil in Divineguma Bill were today protesting against the Development (Special Provisions) Draft Bill.

Claiming the Bill was meant to accelerate the development process, Ratnapriya faulted the government for not discussing it with PCs. Had the government acted prudently, the Bill wouldn't have run into such a storm, the trade unionist said, alleging that the PCs never implemented major projects on their own. "The truth is PCs lacked capacity to undertake major projects. They always, implemented projects under the leadership of the government. Funds allocated for PCs were meant to run them and certainly not for major infrastructure projects."

Ratnapriya alleged that much of the funds allocated for PCs had been squandered on foreign jaunts over the years, though they now acted as if their only interest was the well being of the public. The civil society activist condemned the SLFP-led Uva PC for rejecting the controversial Bill. Calling Uva the least developed region in the country, Ratnapriya said that Uva PC should work closely with the government without causing unnecessary friction.

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