Kicking off his political campaign in Anuradhapura today, a fired-up SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa made pledges to deliver upon winning the election, one of which was to free all military men who had been sent to jail after being charged with false accusations.
At the rally which was attended by SLFP MPs and parliamentarian Ven. Rathana Thera, Mr. Rajapaksa said all farmers' loans would be written off and they would be provided fertiliser for free of charge.
"Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa told me, 'Gotabaya, don't charge even Rs.350 from poor farmers'. Hence, we will give free fertiliser for all farmers and write off the loans they have obtained. On the very next day of becoming president, we will exonerate all military men who had been sent to jail after having been charged with false accusations. We will also create a pension fund for all civil defence force personnel who had served over 20 years," he said.
Mr. Rajapaksa said they would introduce the latest technologies to the agricultural field in order to lure back the youth to farming.
"We will set a fixed price for paddy, create storage facilities to reduce waste, ensure farmers get an increased income. Today, we promised to create an agricultural sector to entice the youth. We will also look into the kidney disease which is spreading in the region and provide clean water to each and every household," he said.
The elephant-human conflict should be paid more attention to, and a solution created after looking into scientific studies, he said. 'We also will devise a plan to provide compensation to farmers whose farms were affected and damaged in the human-elephant conflict, drought and flood," he said.
He said he was often accused of being a 'military karaya' or 'hamuda karaya' by his political opponents. "We ended the era where military men were called hamuda karaya. At the same time, I would like to remind that it was this militaray karaya who helped spearhead the war against the LTTE and defeat it. This militaray karaya brought peace to the country,'' he said.
While thanking the SLFP for pledging their support to him, Mr. Rajapaksa said the SLFP had never turned their back on the Rajapaksas. ''With all of your support, we will win the election. We aspire to create a safe, disciplined, worry-free and a prosperous nation," he said. (Lahiru Pothmulla in Anuradhapura)