COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s new government has relished shaming the former first family for expropriating two buses for luxury joy rides, but the real complaint should be about their poor taste.
From a distance, the Indian-made vehicles appear similar to the Winnebago Recreational Vehicles (RV) costing in excess of two million dollars a piece, but these behemoths left by the Rajapaksas are anything but.
The dark tinted windows and the black exterior paint work suggests luxury on board, but it does not even have a toilet, unless one is inclined to use the miniature sink with no running water.
Seats are cushioned with synthetic leather, panelling is artificial wood, curtains are cheap polyester made to look like Marie Antoinette’s boudoir and the store space has an empty bottle of local brandy.
The vehicles had been acquired ostensibly to ferry Commonwealth leaders during their summit in Colombo in 2013, but where is the portable loo? Unless of course it is stashed under the tacky mattress at the rear.
Perhaps the manufacturer thought it best to follow deep-rooted local tradition and allow passengers the freedom to choose any tree or wall along the road. Or the passengers had stellar bladder control.
There are no signs that any Commonwealth leader actually used any of the two buses now parked at the Foreign Ministry compound where it has become the latest eye sore.
There is evidence on Facebook that former president’s nephew Sashindra, his family and close friends used at least one of the buses for joy rides. No wonder he did badly at the September 2014 elections and no wonder his constituents did not take him seriously. Even a "baiyya," or a country bumpkin, would have known that this is a fake, wanna-be-recreational-vehicle. The badge was a dead give away: Lanka Ashok Leyland.
While Sri Lanka’s media tried to cling onto blue and pink LED bulbs and a flat screen TV as luxuries, the real scandal lay hidden somewhere in a file that is likely to have gone with the former administration.
There are unconfirmed reports of a monthly instalment of 900,000 rupees being paid for each vehicle and it is not clear how many more payments are due. Assuming no down payment was made because of a sovereign guarantee, still 14 million rupees may have been paid for each since September 2013.
Considering the final outcome, it may be a small price to end an era of extravagance at public expense. Just strip the seats and leave the tacky interior intact and the black bus can easily be used as a Black Maria. There will be plenty of passengers for that.
For mor satirical writing by Namal Suvedra click on the fllowing links below.