Election gimmicks, manifestos and ‘The Liars of Sri Lanka’

d202The history of the word ‘manifesto’ begins in Italy and the accepted belief is that the word was derived from the Latin ‘manifestum,’ which means ‘clear’ or ‘conspicuous.’ Dictionaries define the word as “a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.” In another place, it says “A published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.”

We Sri Lankans are mostly familiar with election manifestos.  Regardless of whether the promises highlighted in the manifestoes were delivered or not, political parties keep presenting manifestoes once an election is announced. Personal pledges being made by politicians is common in Sri Lanka. It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who personalized an election manifesto.  The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) manifesto in previous elections was named as Mahinda Chinthana. This means the content reflects his own thoughts. Following this, a few individuals like Minister Champika Ranawaka (Colombo) and former Media Ministry Secretary Karu Paranawithana (Ratnapura) have also presented their personal manifestos for the upcoming election.

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However, we can see several aspects when presenting election manifestos. Politicians mainly need to attract voters with a clear vision to serve the area, not forgetting to have a plan that helps reach targets. Most of the time politicians fall short of achieving targets because they make unrealistic pledges.

If a political party or a politician can summarize its vision and plan for development and maintain an action plan to achieve targets that would be very much appreciated. Instead of cutouts, banners and placards, the use of speakers and conducting rallies that create traffic jams, presenting a manifesto should be the ideal alternative to chaos creating election campaigns. People must be presented with an opportunity to decide who they are going to vote for. The presentation of a manifesto is the best contribution when it comes to helping the voter make a choice.

However, politicians possess the license to behave as if made it alone forgetting the promises given to the public. The turn comes for the public when the next election is around the corner, to find out from the old manifesto whether candidates had delivered in the past. The public has a great responsibility of curing ‘an illness’ associated with politicians which is to forget.

liarPresident Maithripala Sirisena came into the power with a manifesto named as “compassionate governance and a stable country” and the 100 days work plan which were presented in the manifesto. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the powers of the Executive Presidency, was a major pledge. This pledge was made by other former presidents, but none of them lived up to it. We have in the past voted for politicians who promised to bring rice from the moon, but our votes should never be cast again to bring such politicians into power.

General election 2015 is scheduled for August 17. Almost all the parties have launched their manifestoes with impressive and praiseworthy promises. The ruling party which comes into the election fray as the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) released its manifesto “A New Country in 60 Months: Five Point Plan” on July 23 at Vihara Maha Devi Park. It pledges to create a new country in five years and also says that it will defeat the counter revolution planed by those who defeated on January 08. The manifesto highlights five points to develop the country and those are; strengthening the economy, fighting corruption, enshrining freedom for all, investing in infrastructure and improving the education system.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe handed over copies of the manifesto to the dignitaries and the representatives of the civil organizations, trade unions and political parties. The event was attended by personalities like Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera. Groups representing Tamil speaking communities such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and All Ceylon People’s Congress (ACPC) were also present.

mahinda-and-singh4The UPFA election manifesto titled “A Guarantee for The Future” was officially released on July 28 at Henry Pedris Stadium in Colombo. The manifesto, which comprises of a 12 point program focusing on areas such as national integrity, anti-corruption policy, economy, education, foreign policy, and health and infrastructure development had been handed over to President Sirisena by party high rankers, making it a photo session.

The public event at the Henry Pedris Stadium was presided over by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The event drew the participation of UPFA’s affiliated parties like Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and Jathika Nidahas Peramuna along with other parties.
People’s Liberation Front, known as the JVP, launched its manifesto which has been named as ‘The Accord of Conscience’, the national program at a function at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, Colombo. The national program of the JVP consists of five basic factors which are to create ‘a people friendly administration,’ focus on the greater management of human resource, create ‘A modernized and industrialized country, ‘a just society and also a ‘independent human being.’

5The document which almost runs up to 90 pages has highlighted a lot issues such as fundamental rights, national security, national unity and foreign policy among several other topics. They have suggested abolishing the Executive Presidency, cancellation of the pension of the Parliamentarians, limiting duty free vehicle permits only for vehicles which are used for public duties, reducing the number of Cabinet of Ministers to 25, introducing a flawless and scientific election system, cancellation of the MP posts of MPs who change the parties and several other vital issues.