Election promises to lift a struggling nation are good, but the vision of lawmakers must go beyond polls day (AFP)
This is a time when people with a franchise to vote must question politicians about not implementing what they boasted about in past manifestos.
Last week representatives of two of the three main parties spoke about their election manifestos. Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa spoke about addressing certain shortcomings in the 19th Amendment highlighted by critics. He also said that through the 13th Amendment maximum power will be devolved within a unitary state. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that if the green party comes to power it would revive a struggling economy and restore all what the present regime has destroyed. Among other promises are generating more jobs, ensuring both democracy and an independent identity to the country and offering strength to those affected by COVID-19.
However when past presidential candidates made the promise that they’ll abolish the Executive Presidency people had much hope that it would do wonders for the country and strengthen parliament. Starting from Chandrika Kumaratunga and then both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena used the powers of the presidency to the maximum, despite saying that they’ll do way with the powers of the Executive. Sirisena even went to the extent of sabotaging the work of the Yahapalana regime and eventually sacked his prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. A person exercising the power of the Executive can so such terrible things!
Sri Lankans have short memories. That’s why we forget about the promises made by lawmakers during elections in their manifestos. When the representatives of these parliamentary hopefuls come to our doorsteps we should ask what happened to their past election promises?
A statement made by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman Prof.G.L Peiris at one of the party’s recent weekly meetings is of interest to this writer. Peiris has said that the new government to be elected needs a two thirds majority to accomplish three things; one is to strengthen the defence apparatus of the country, the second to rid the country of extremism and the third to strengthen foreign relations. The latter is sensitive from a political perspective and would sure attract the attention of critics. Now we all know that at one time the majority of European nations were ganged up against Sri Lanka due to the accusations levelled against the Rajapaksa regimes (2005-2015) for committing war crimes and and not conducting worthwhile independent inquiries into the same. Sri Lanka during this Rajapaksa regime opted to deal with the less affluent nations and preferred to be isolated from the rest of the world. UNP Leader Wickremesinghe has stressed on this fact in his media campaign for the upcoming elections that in 2015 the country that the UNP led Government took over was one that had isolated itself form the world. When the SLPP is not truly committed to working closely with or having friendly ties with world powers, which are European nations, it’s strange that a Pohottuwa Party higher-up is making such statements regarding foreign relations. Politicians from all parties talk about an independent identity for Sri Lanka, but they haven’t spelled out the method as to how they can do that without being under obligation to countries like China, USA and India.
We are seeing many new faces in politics. Thus augers well for the future because the country needs new ideas. But what’s alarming is when some of the new entrants to politics can only talk about what their ancestors have achieved in politics. A pamphlet thrown in with a leading English weekend newspaper recently shows an election candidate boasting about the contributions made by some members of his clan in the fields of education and politics, but this piece of political literature doesn’t contain the qualifications of the candidate.
Another sensitive area that election candidates use for propaganda is the Bond Scam. Ranjith Madduma Bandara of SJB has said that if there is a regime headed by the party using the telephone symbol those found guilty of being involved in the Bond Scam would be brought to book. This promise was also made by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who now heads the caretaker government, in his election manifesto at the last presidential elections. However at least two lawmakers who were summoned for questioning by the Commission handling the bond scam are roaming free and even contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections.
This upcoming elections would be crucial for two seasoned lawmakers: Udaya Gammanpila and Wimal Weerawansa who are contesting from the Pohottuwa Party. The latter knows that it would be tough for him to earn a slot from Colombo because he hasn’t achieved much. This probably is because he was used by party higher-ups for vocal campaigns; especially to voice disapproval against foreign forces which have vested interest in Sri Lanka.
This is why Weerawansa has begun work even before the election and before forming a new Cabinet. Weerawansa has worked hard to get the production machines at Valaichchenai Paper Mill in working condition and production is expected to commence by July 30. His efforts show how desperate he is to be in the next Cabinet.
Another politician who needs to work hard to be counted in future politics is SJB candidate from Kandy district Lakshman Kiriella. According to a leading Sinhala weekend newspaper Kiriella has taken the initiative to build 1000 temples in the Kandy precinct and has raised Rs 1000 million for that purpose. But religious matters are sensitive and building additional temples must be done with care because when someone does this it can deprive offerings to existing temples in the area. In Buddhism records reveal that there is a temple jargon called ‘laba seemawa’ (an area where its people have made a commitment to bring alms to an existing temple) hence efforts must be made to stop or discourage the building of a second temple within such an area.
All these just show how desperate lawmakers are during present times with an election around the corner.
There are those who say that Weerawansa’s efforts are linked with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election promise to revive the nation’s struggling industries. Election promises like these are good, but we must also remember a valuable message that’s given to the public in Sunil Perera’s song ‘Koththamalli’. There are two lines in the song and when translated into English reads ‘Romania produces the best Coriander ....and it’s brought to Sri Lanka by own brother Amal’.
Election promises to lift the struggling enterprises of the nation are good, but the vision of lawmakers must go beyond that so as to make these products worthy of the price people pay to acquire them. The sad part of all this is that we don’t use the same yardstick as with checking the quality of the goods we buy when we go to the polling booth and cast our votes for election candidates!