Manifestos launched in flurry of campaign activity | Daily News

Manifestos launched in flurry of campaign activity

The Prime Minister’s media heads meeting.
The Prime Minister’s media heads meeting.

The country’s collaborative efforts in the fight against COVID-19 earned unstinting admiration and recognition by World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr. Razia Pendse last week, adding another feather in the Government’s cap.

Her acknowledgement that “Sri Lanka has been able to control the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively, even with modest means, than the other more resourced countries,” was no doubt a well-deserving praise for the sweat and toil of thousands of frontline workers who went beyond the call of duty to save the people from the highly contagious virus.

The launch of the SJB Manifesto. 

Dr. Pendse told the Media last Thursday that the above achievement could be attributed to a well-established public health system and the proactive actions that have been taken by the Government.

“I must say that in the pandemic, the role of other sectors has also been critical, so it was truly a whole of society and a whole of Government approach. Community engagement has been critical because without the involvement of communities, it is difficult to control the spread of the virus,” she explained.

She urged the mainstream media to give correct information to the people, observing that misinformation on social media and rumours hamper the COVID-19 response.

PM meets media heads

Understanding this role of the Media, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held a meeting with the print and electronic media heads last week at Temple Trees to dispel rumours and explain the true picture of the COVID-19 situation in the country, especially in the wake of Kandakadu cluster.

The meeting also attended by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, Health Services Director General Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, who is also the Head of ‘National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak’, and Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya was a perfect opportunity for media personnel to fire their questions straight at the relevant authorities seeking direct answers.

It was emphasised during the discussion that the health authorities were in full control of the situation and that an islandwide lockdown or curfew was not necessary, but travel restrictions were in place in several areas in Rajanganaya in Anuradhapura to contain the spread of the virus.

The Premier observed that the opposition parties, with the General Election round the corner, were hell bent on creating a false impression, that the Government fared badly when it comes to COVID-19 control measures, to get political mileage.

Indeed, COVID-19 has become a main topic at election stages over the past few weeks, and has played a key role in deciding the date and shape of this Election.

Gazette sees light of day

The Gazette of Health Guidelines for the General Election finally came out last Friday ending weeks of procrastination, during which the election authorities became impatient.

The new Regulations have revised the previously said 100 maximum number of participants at election meetings to 300, and this limit is 500 if the leader of that political party is attending. Organisers of election meetings must inform the Medical Officer of Health (MoH) in the area 24 hours in advance, and must maintain a list of participants to such meetings as a precautionary measure. The number of persons allowed in house-to-house canvassing has also been increased from three to five.

National Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya welcomed the Gazette, stating that its issuance helps the smooth operation of election activities. “I was disappointed about its delay, but thank you for issuing it at least now,” he commented.

However, the Gazette has sparked a fresh dispute between Minister Wanniarachchi and the Public Health Inspectors’ Union over non-delegation of power to apprehend those violating the health guidelines.

PHIs’ Union President Upul Rohana announced their withdrawal from field activities to control communicable diseases, including COVID-19, Dengue and Leptospirosis, due to lack of legal cover for their work. He complained that the recent Gazette of Health Guidelines has overlooked the role of PHIs and does not specify what penalties would be enforced on offenders.

Policy declarations

The TNA Manifesto launch.

Political parties and candidates have barely 11 days left before the curtain comes down on election campaigning on August 2. With 7,452 candidates trying to have the edge over the other to secure a seat in 225-membered Parliament, the campaigns have gathered steam also leading to infighting for preferential votes, a not-so-strange phenomenon under the existing electoral system.

In the meantime, the election manifestos of many parties are now in the public domain for the voters to make an informed decision. These manifestos carry creative taglines and attractive policies and proposals to suit the target audiences, but the pertinent questions that have always remained are to what extent those will be delivered and to how far the political representatives will be committed to implement them once elected.

The ‘Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’ (SLPP) goes before the people seeking a resounding mandate to continue President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Saubhagyaye Dekma’ (Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) policy statement for which the spadework has already begun.

The President’s election manifesto aims at the outcomes of “a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation”. It revolves around ten key policies giving due consideration to socio, economic, environmental and political aspects and its first priority is ensuring the national security.

The SLPP’s performance as the ruling party over the last eight months also matters at the upcoming Election. It could be seen that the Government has accelerated operations to crack down on drug peddlers and underworld criminals, and this is a pledge the SLPP has also taken to the election stage. The SLPP has also been clear that it will bring in constitutional reforms to rectify the shortcomings of the 19th Amendment once elected.

Attractive promises

The UNP manifesto was launched by its Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last Thursday at Sirikotha with a stress on “overcoming the Coronavirus challenge and revitalizing the economy”. The 16-page manifesto promises among other things a monthly allowance of Rs. 10,000 for the recently unemployed including the returnees from overseas employment. It promises to carry out 5,000 PCR tests daily to prevent a new COVID-19 wave.

With regard to the Constitution, it says that the UNP will continue to strive for the abolition of executive powers of the Presidency and the introduction of a new electoral system sans preferential votes.

The SJB led by Sajith Premadasa launched its manifesto themed ‘A strong country-a contented people’ on Monday. It promises a monthly allowance of Rs 20,000 for self-employed persons until COVID-19 comes to an end. It presents a 20-point work programme and pledges to give priority to national security. Premadasa also pledges to completely write off the electricity and water bills for March and April.

The ‘Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’ (JVP) led National People’s Power (NPP) put forth its manifesto prepared for the last Presidential Election for the General Election too. In the manifesto themed ‘The Hope of the Nation’, the NPP led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake undertakes to introduce a new Constitution that replaces the Executive presidential system with a Parliamentary administrative system.

It says the Cabinet will be limited 25 ministers and that the tax-free vehicle permit given to Members of Parliament (MPs) will be abolished. It also pledges to abolish the pension given after five years for MPs and ministerial staff.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is contesting in the five electoral districts in the North and the East, launched its manifesto last Thursday in Jaffna. Some points in the TNA’s manifesto such as “self-Government in the Tamil Speaking North-East within a united and undivided Sri Lanka” and “power sharing arrangements in a unit of a merged Northern and Eastern Provinces based on a Federal structure” raised a few eyebrows in the Southern political arena.

The TNA also insists that the UN Human Rights Council Resolutions on Sri Lanka should be fully implemented. It says access to India through the Palaly (Jaffna) International Airport and passenger services through Kankasanthurai Port should be facilitated.

The TNA is contesting against former Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran’s Tamil People’s Alliance, Minister Douglas Devananda’s Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and several other parties in the Northern polity.

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