Arrogance of power

There are complaints that questions MPs raise in Parliament, more often than not, go unanswered or ministers give yanne koheda malle pol (irrelevant) answers which leave the Opposition and the public none the wiser. Self-righteous leaders of the present dispensation were the bitterest critics of their predecessors, whom they raked over the coals for the criminal waste of public funds and the callous disregard for democracy and the rights of the Opposition.

The last administration deserved the barbs it received—every one of them. Its ministers used to ride roughshod over the Opposition MPs, who raised questions, in Parliament, on vital issues. Those MPs were considered a nuisance; they were ridiculed and even insulted. But, the situation has not changed, at all, though nearly five years have elapsed since the 2015 regime change, which was made out to be a panacea for all ills of the country. The present-day leaders, too, have succumbed to the arrogance of power if the way they conduct themselves in Parliament is any indication.

The government, on Thursday, asked for six months to answer a very simple question. The Opposition wanted to know the number of vehicles the government ministers had acquired. Having come to power, promising to manage public funds frugally, the government must be finding it too embarrassing to reveal the number of luxury vehicles at the disposal of its ministers who have never had it so good. But that is no reason for delaying the answer to the aforesaid question. Parliament exercises the legislative powers of the people, who have a right to know how their money is being spent.

The government’s absurd response reminded us of its leaders’ much-advertised commitment to good governance or yahapalanaya, which, they said before being elected, would help put the country right and usher in national progress. What the government practises is the very antithesis of good governance. It has failed to be different from its predecessors accused of bad governance.

What is good governance? It is a fluid term, being bandied about, without being defined properly. Why it means different things to different people is understandable. There has been no general consensus on the definition of the term, but one can get an idea about it with the help of the key attributes thereof, identified by the UN, which says it is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

The government’s above-mentioned response to the Opposition’s attempt to ascertain the number of ministerial vehicles runs counter to four of the main characteristics of good governance, to wit, accountability, transparency, responsiveness and efficiency.

If it is true that the government needs six months to count the number of vehicles its ministers have been using, the yahapalana leaders will have a hard time, convincing the public that it is capable of far more complex tasks such as preparing the national budget efficiently and accurately?

If the purchase of vehicles for ministers has been done in a transparent and proper manner, the government should have all information about them at its fingertips.

Meanwhile, the Opposition MPs would have the public believe that they are paragons of virtue without a history of feathering their nests with public funds while they were in power. Will they reveal how many vehicles they used while they were ministers?


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