Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that the government had decided to add Rs. 100,000 to the monthly allowances for MPs so as to enable them to help people in their constituencies.
"This is not meant to be a take home allowance. The MPs have to attend wedding ceremonies and funerals where they are expected to give gifts and cash donations. The salary drawn by an MP is not enough to meet all such expenses.So they obtain money from others. I ask you which is better; enabling these MPs to help their constituents or to let them obtain money from others? Do not go back to the old system. My opinion is that the salaries of MPs too should be increased. Some journalists draw higher salaries than MPs. Editors of newspapers get higher salaries than MPs.
An English daily has published the story about the Rs 100,000 payment to the MPs. Its editor and others requested for a pay hike last year. There is no issue when their salaries are increased, but when salaries of MPs are increased it is wrong," the Prime minister said.
"These newspapers encouraged extremism and hit me as I am not an extremist," he said.
The Prime Minister also responded to a comment made by Chief Opposition Whip Anura Dissanayake, who said the PM had threatened English newspapers several times.
He said he would not hesitate to hit back at the media if they hit him. "I cannot attack Wijeya Newspapers or burn the press. These are properties of my uncle. Sirasa belonging to my one time friend Kili Maharajah attacked me several times and did I burn it?" he queried.
"I will only hit out verbally if the media hit me and will never go beyond that," he said.