Campaigning for the presidential elections has entered full swing with the main candidates travelling across the length and breadth of the country to address election rallies.
Candidate of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Gotabaya Rajapaksa has launched his election manifesto where National Democratic Front’s candidate Sajith Premadasa is expected to do it today. National People’s Power (NPP) candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake has also unveiled his policy document.
Whatever it may be, the candidates, in their addresses to constituents across the country, spell out what they intend to it. That is, more or less, is reflected in their respective manifestos. Though Mr. Premadasa’s manifesto is not yet put out, it is possible to get a basic idea of it by listening to his speeches made in his campaign trail so far. One thing is clear- that is that the candidates sound similar in their policies on most of the significant issues though they belong to different camps. Variations occur only in the contents of their policies.
- "Mr. Rajapaksa outlined the free distribution of fertilizer for cultivators, and the same has been spoken of by Mr.Premadasa
- The TNA leadership says any decision should be announced only after the candidates put out their manifestos"
Mr. Rajapaksa outlined the free distribution of fertilizer for cultivators, and the same has been spoken of by Mr.Premadasa. The latter even went to the extent of promising free fertilizer not only for rice growers but also for the cultivators of other crops. Mr. Rajapaksa said he would encourage the use of carbonic fertilizer on a gradual basis instead of chemical fertilizer.
In that sense, difference between the two candidates is only in content but not in the policy concept as such. All the candidates talk about the need for simplification of taxation. They compete with each other by making promises to cushion the tax burden faced not only by small and medium entrepreneurs but also by the bigger corporates.
The two main candidates have prioritized national security as their upmost priority upon election to office. Mr. Rajapaksa said he would not alienate national assets no matter what. In his reaction, Mr. Premadasa also vowed he would end the era in which national assets were alienated for a pittance.
Unless policies differ drastically, competence of each candidate to deliver is what matters most to electors. In that sense, it is not only the policies that count but also the competence of each contestant to deliver on them.
People can gauge the competence of the candidates in the fray by looking at their past performances. Also, they will see which candidate has the best team to deliver on promises and plans. Likewise, they will see who is best placed to command in running the future government. Then, in choosing between the two, what matters most is their ability to execute what is in their mind since policy –wise differences are minimal.
"People can gauge the competence of the candidates in the fray by looking at their past performances. Also, they will see which candidate has the best team to deliver on promises and plans. Likewise, they will see who is best placed to command in running the future government"
There is a groundswell of anti-incumbency feelings built up in the country. So, Mr. Premadasa, as a minister serving in the incumbent government, is at pain to detach himself from its policies and actions during the last four and half years. Not only he criticizes these policies but also promises to govern with a new team.
“Friends, some people think I will govern the country with the same old lot and proceed with the same policies. It is not the case. It will be a brand new government with new blood and policies,” Mr. Premadasa told a rally in Hanwella, Colombo recently.
He said this as an attempt to blunt anti-incumbency feelings working against him at the elections. Also, Mr. Premadasa is revisiting the policies of his father the late President R. Premadasa. In fact, he has promised to re-introduce his father’s poverty alleviation programme called ‘Janasaviya’ and the housing policy called ‘Gathata Sevanak, Hithata Niwanak’.
Five Tamil party alliance is split
None of the two main presidential candidates has committed to implement 13 demands put forward by five Tamil parties collectively to ensure Tamil votes in the north and the east. Now, the five party alliance that got together to work out this common document is split. Tamil Makkal Kooteny (TMK) led by former Northern Province chief minister C.V. Wigneswaran has broken ranks. In fact, he asked Tamil people to vote as they wish since there is no response from the main candidates to the demands.
Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) is also slated to take a similar stand. Then, only three parties which already work under the banner of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will be left to take a decision.
The TNA leadership says any decision should be announced only after the candidates put out their manifestos. But, no candidate is likely to agree to demands such as the merger of the north and the east.
However, it is hardly possible that any of these parties will extend support to Mr. Rajapaksa at this election. Mr. Premadasa will be their preferred choice. But, the TNA cannot spell it out openly because it will affect him adversely in the south.
The two main candidates Sajith Premadasa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa have prioritised national security as their upmost priority upon election to office. The picture shows security personnel engaging in duty near the St.Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade after the bomb blast.