‘A candidate needs Rs. 50 mn to enter Parliament’

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

Under the current electoral system, a candidate needed at least Rs. 50 million to successfully contest parliamentary elections, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama said.

Minister Welgama was speaking at a function held to hand over letters of appointment to 110 graduates at the Dodangoda Divisional Secretariat auditorium recently.

He said people should not judge others by their appearance as all politicians were not paragons of virtue. A person elected to Parliament for six years was entitled to a duty free vehicle permit but only a few politicians made use of that facility as others sold it for as much as Rs. 10.5 million to settle their debts. That was true of many politicians, the Minister said.

Minister Welgama pointed out that as a result of the late J. R. Jayewardene’s electoral system, a politician would have spend a great deal of money to enter Parliament, because he or she would need TV, radio and newspaper advertisements to grab the attention of the voters. That was why the late president had issued duty free vehicle permits to parliamentarians, he added.

Changing the present electoral system was a timely move, the Minister said. "Even those who have only passed Grade 5 want to obtain public sector jobs," he said.

Minister Welgama added that some people were under the impression that all politicians were leading luxury lives with pension benefits. But, that was not so. Although they had privileges due to the burning issues of the people some politicians spent sleepless nights.

Many people were interested in securing jobs as bus conductors, because they wanted to become rich by defrauding the SLTB. They would issue a Rs. 17 ticket for a Rs.70 ticket and deprive the government of large sums of money daily.

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