Manifestoes are much more than sound bites
Candidates are gearing to be at their fittest resourcefully slicing,
dicing and maximizing the preference voter pool. Manifestoes help them
reach wider interest groups and have to be put to good use. They are not
mere sound bites. They generate policy debates enhanced by
vote-clinching oratory. Mammoth rallies begin to highlight clash of the
Titans in many districts.
The manifestoes devoid of dynamic policy contents may become
pestilent platitudes instead of being flesh and blood of any campaign
strategy. They could derail even the best planned political strategy if
found to exhibit a rampant disregard for public interest. Political
resilience is often the outcome of well-stated policy goals embodied in
a party manifesto with a view to seek a mandate. Leadership should be
known for its thinking prowess as presented in a manifesto.
It is the challenger who has to bear the brunt of demarcating issues
through a manifesto to be able to oust an incumbent with the presidency
carrying an enhanced approval rating behind him or her.
For starters, one would expect the Opposition leaders to state their
policy on national security unequivocally and thus nail the myth of the
latent Eelam provisional government apparatus trying to negate the newly
won victory over terror.
A failure in that regard would present an insurmountable climb in
establishing their credentials in the vital national security arena.
There is no escape from making that denouncement whatsoever. The very
bona fides of the Opposition hinge on how they treat any threats to the
Vivid reminder of 2002
The danger of leaving national security to be defined in a blurred
manner is still vividly etched in our memories when the President and
the Prime Minister came from two different parties in 2002. How the LTTE
enticed a pact to be sealed and delivered covertly bypassing
presidential perusal was abhorrent and still caused tremors in many of
Ominous attempts to bypass or usurp presidential authority are a
threat that needs to be eliminated. The Opposition has a rare
opportunity to exhibit its philosophical, ethical, and political will to
endorse a common national security policy against Tiger resurgence.
That paradigm shift the Opposition never ventured to take
dillydallying for some inexplicable reason. They should come clean and
wipe out any residuary tags of the past links to CFAs and the like.
The Tiger Diaspora’s links to international forces trying to
destabilize Sri Lanka are real and should raise alarms all-round. Even
within the confines of the United Nations there seemed to be
conspiratorial intrigue with sinister moves to tarnish the heroic
victory won against terror.
The core economic issues also need proper flushing out as the
manifestoes are within the reach of everyone. Mahinda Chintanaya has
been the flagship policy document and is the obvious focal point of the
The UNP’s avowed assertion of its core free market philosophy as an
alternative has so far not been asserted in fuller detail. Manifestoes
must reveal and openly disclose what parties stand for. Generalized
platitudes do not cut muster or win votes. It is the nuanced debate that
would attract the maximum attention of the electorate. The Opposition
went lock, stock and barrel against Executive Presidency during the
January election. That debate has lost its relevance and the Opposition
does not seem gun ho about it now.
The electorate should not be cheated to less than a full debate of
what governance should be. There should not be any glossing over of that
issue so crucially important to the voters.
There cannot be any complacency with regard to the electoral process
in Sri Lanka. The Government has announced its intentions to bring about
changes to the system. It is time that this matter got the fullest
attention it deserves.
The Opposition has been riding its hobby horse of waste and
corruption almost non-stop for months.
Corruption and waste
They seem to think that the country would be a veritable paradise
once the twin evils were eliminated almost with a magic wand.
Constructive proposals to elucidate what is behind such jazzified
rhetoric must be brought to the surface. The instances of unmitigated
tax concessions to party adherents that surfaced during the 2002 era and
were declared to be illegal by the Supreme Court are not forgotten yet
by the electorate.
The debate on waste and corruption should be taken seriously by
delineating the areas in which legal and moral constraints on those
allegedly trying to amass wealth illegally should be systematically
tightened so that a culture of corrupt-free culture emerges in society.
This is a non-partisan issue.
The institutions charged with overseeing corruption must be
Fine-tuning the system
There is also indignation gone rampant as speakers harp on
wrong-doings relative to elections citing known instances like the
Wayamba Provincial Council election of the late nineties and the
appalling example of the Referendum of 1982. The intra-party rivalry
that had caused baneful impacts on the electoral system due to the
preferential voting system is often ignored in that debate. Those must
be given the maximum attention they deserve as proposals come up to
change the system.
The laws relating to election practices are at times vague and many
of the ills of the system are often laid at the feet of the incumbent
The present electoral system also causes immense pressure on those in
charge of making elections work better. These must be looked into
seriously. The Commissioner and his staff deserve all the help they