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Abolish Superannuation benefits to politicians

The income of Sri Lankan politicians are the highest - in addition to the salaries – which is just a modest indication on paper; but the perks and perquisites they can claim on top of their extremely outrageous earnings are scandalous. 

by Zulkifli Nazim

“To feel these feelings at the right time, on the right occasion, towards the right people, for the right purpose and in the right manner, is to feel the best amount of them, which is the mean amount - and the best amount is of course the mark of virtue.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics.

Kleptocracy is a government with corrupt leaders (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political powers. Typically, this system involves embezzlement of funds at the expense of the wider population. So a government ruled by corrupt politicians who use their political power to receive kickbacks, bribes and special favors at the expense of the populace, or simply direct state resources to themselves, relatives and associates. These Kleptocrats also use political leverage to pass laws that enrich them or their constituents and they usually circumvent the rule of law.

In Britain, parliamentary payments were not adopted until 1911 – and conservative opposition was still so great that the chancellor the exchequer, David Lloyd George, hastened to clarify that the sum being offered was not remuneration, recompense or a salary. “It is just an allowance,” he said, intended to allow a man to “maintain himself comfortably and honourably but not luxuriously during the time he is rendering service to the state”.

Taking a keyhole peep at our country, Sri Lanka, for comparison:

The income of Sri Lankan politicians are the highest - in addition to the salaries – which is just a modest indication on paper; but the perks and perquisites they can claim on top of their extremely outrageous earnings are scandalous. Multimillion-rupee homes, free fuel, First class air travel and travelling allowances Payment of telephone bills both cellphones and landline phones, Stamp allowances and golden handshakes and whatnots – Our politicians are using, or rather abusing, taxpayer funds to the tune of hundreds of millions of rupees each year, with the exception of a very few. Rendering service to the state, indeed!

They have sucked the country dry and we cannot understand why those kleptrocrats have to be provided with state sponsored homes, thumping pensions and security detail, after they have served their term.

Look at their track record – Just to mention a few. Let us see whether they deserve such privileges:

a. In February 2018 The degenerate behaviour of the Members of Parliament within the premises of the august legislature, was no less than a house of ill-fame – and we did not see anyone, president or otherwise, condemning this debauchery or even instituting punishment for that grave offense.

b. Then again in November 14, 15, and 16, 2018, for three days, the august assembly, the Sri Lankan Parliament, has been a hot bed of violent pandemonium and needless commotion, wreaking mayhem by the depraved members of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Wantonly destroying valuable state property. Again, there was no condemnation by any of the so-called “leadership” or even any action taken against them.

c. Politicians who travelled on push bikes are now travelling in luxury and super luxury vehicles and paying hundreds of millions rupees to their divorced wives as alimony and that too in foreign currency.

d. The illegal and obnoxious 26 day government by the incumbent president Maithripala Sirisena on 26th October 2018, where he established Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister illegally and appointed degenerates like Wimal Weerawansa the notorious minister of housing, and the disreputable S. B. Dissanayake who was unceremoniously rejected by his constituency, as cabinet ministers. This is the curse of appointments via the national list.

Sri Lankan politics underlies today’s universal disgust with the ways of our elected politicians and political leaders. Are these the politicians to whom we the citizens have to pay for their multimillion rupee homes, thumping pensions, unlimited privileges and security details in their retirement?

It is urgent and obligatory that special legislations be enacted to stop all such exclusive rights to politicians, when the people of this country have denounced, condemned and disowned them.

What we see lately is that these kinds of special privileges are proliferating. Surely the creation of two classes of citizens, one more equal than the others, isn't the sort of thing that the people accept. They despise and condemn such absurdities openly, as disgraceful. The kinds of privileges described aren't hereditary, the ban on all types of privilege, favours and prerogatives, after they are voted out of office must be strongly implemented - whether elected, appointed, or members of parliament, the preferential treatment afforded to them, must be compared to the treatment of ordinary citizens and treat such discrimination the same way we currently treat racial discrimination.

Serving in Parliament and Assembly is a respect, not an attractive career for looting. Gross mismanagement and blatant abuses of the country’s finances have been repeated year in and year out with no action taken against the perpetrators does not put our country in a very good light and casts a poor image of our political system and the judiciary. Corruption is also Sri Lanka’s biggest threat, and its biggest obstacle to development and one of Sri Lanka’s biggest killers.

Holding individual leaders accountable for corruption crimes committed in office is a revolutionary idea and today we see in the likes of Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has initiated tough action to curb corruption – he had stated that his government was committed to recovering the looted national wealth and hard-earned money of the people.

“Recovery of the looted national wealth is a desire of the people and a mission of the government,” he said while referring to corruption cases of some top politicians. He has denounced the political class for siphoning off money from public sector institutions and contracts and then salting it away overseas.

Mr. Khan said that those convicted of corruption would not be allowed to go away until they gave back the looted money. "They need to return the country's money first then they can go anywhere they want," he said.

We should take a lesson from the Prime Minister of Pakistan and enforce deterrent punishments in a manner consistent with its purpose and design.

Any type of political corruption and corruption in law enforcement is a loss to the nation. IMF in their report, Finance and Development state that “The cost of corruption is greater than the sum of lost money: distortions in spending priorities undermine the ability of the state to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. They drain public resources away from education, health care, and effective infrastructure—the kinds of investments that can improve economic performance and raise living standards for all.”

Because of this unbridled corruption we can see that Sri Lanka is bleeding. Ending corruption will require greater political will and ethical leadership than what we have witnessed to date, as ethical leaders think about long-term consequences, drawbacks and benefits of the decisions they make.

Ethical Leadership

There is no “good leadership” without taking deep responsibility. Ethical leadership is defined as "leadership that is directed by respect for ethical beliefs and values and for the dignity and rights of others."

They are humble, concerned for the greater good, strive for fairness, take responsibility and show respect for each individual. They set high ethical standards and act in accordance with them. They influence ethical values through their behaviour. As Leaders, they serve as role models for their followers and show them the behavioural boundaries set within an organization. They are perceived as honest, trustworthy, courageous and demonstrating integrity. The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers.

Dynamic relationships among ethical political leadership, the public’s confidence in political leaders, commitment to the nation, and the perception of being safe - This is the leadership that good people of a country yearn for.

And the timeless guidance :

“Do not build fifty palaces, your highness. After all, you can only be in one room at a time.” - Nagarjunaa second century CE Buddhist sage, to an Indian king.

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