- President Rajapaksa woos biz and professionals vote via first and largest synchronised forum for 2,000 people in four hotels in city
- Pledges to tackle corruption and poverty in third term; insists results point to good governance and asks for a mandate to work for next generation
- Asks private sector and professionals to take their “rightful place” in development journey
By Uditha Jayasinghe, Marisa Wikramanayake, Malik Gunatilleke and David Stephens
An upbeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa made his strongest overture yet to the private sector and professionals yesterday by pledging to tackle corruption and push ahead with ambitious development projects.
Attending what was billed as the largest synchronised forum in South Asia bringing together around 2,000 business leaders and top professionals, Rajapaksa’s affable promise won much applause.
“We won the war, we restored stability,” insisted the President,“I did not want to mix up my priorities. I believed the most important thing for this country was to end the war and that is what I dedicated my first term to.”
Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the time had come to tackle corruption and poverty, which he pledged to do if given a third term in power. However, Rajapaksa did not delve into specifics of how the Government would implement reforms or even if specific policies would be given a timeline.
He argued that projects being implemented on the ground and development completed so far was evidence of competence and good governance on the part of the Government.
“Achieving results is good governance. Not achieving results is corruption,” he noted when his comments were received with smiles from the audience.
He said significant post-war development combined with positive economic policies with conducive macroeconomic factors and concessions for critical private investments, both local and foreign, have seen the steady growth of GDP.
“Sri Lanka will soon exceed per capita earnings of $ 4,000 by next year. Yes the election year when we will harvest part of the success in the previous five years. Is this a record that you do not wish to share and be a part of,” President Rajapaksa asked the participants.
The Forum was organised by the Professional for a Stable Sri Lanka and the theme was “MOMENTUM - A Nation Stabilised, Progress Continued.”
“The strategies of the Government have made you partners in this pattern of progress. All of you share in this progress and have a major role in seeing this develop in the future without diversion into uncertain areas of unknown, untried and untested political thinking and practice,” he opined.
Noting that all are asking ‘what of the future?’the President was emphatic. “I am very clear on this. Our future vision is to focus on making the maximum use of the good work done so far through the peace we have achieved, the democracy we have ensured and the infrastructure development we have brought about, all continuing to ensure a macroeconomic environment conducive for further growth.”
“We must further uplift the urban landscape and empower the villages to further improve the quality of life. We must move ahead to create a well-disciplined society with the necessity of addressing issues of good governance which always has room for improvement,” he added.
The President also emphasised Sri Lanka must explore its untapped land and sea resources, expand oil and gas exploration and promote investment in the small and medium sectors while giving the best opportunities for the big entrepreneurs of today and invite more Foreign Direct Investment.
“Our future vision is to focus on making the maximum use of the good work done so far, the peace we have achieved, the democracy we have ensured and the infrastructure development we have brought about all continuing to ensure a macroeconomic environment conducive for further growth,” the President added.
The President also promised a greater role for the private sector and called on them to take their “rightful place in the forward march,” envisioned by him for the country.
“This gives a greater role in the private sector in economic growth. This will make you important facilitators of progress and growth and give you genuine pride in sharing in the progress of our motherland,” he said. “These are the challenges I see ahead and these are the challenges that you can fully cooperate towards facing up to and overcoming. These are the challenges that I am glad to share with you, giving you the rightful place in the forward march of this nation,” the President added.
“Let us achieve this future together. Let us march ahead with this goal of success for today and the generation ahead,” Rajapaksa said.
Bad governance, corruption are “perceptions”: Govt. panel
Three senior officials of the Government yesterday dismissed Opposition allegations that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime was infested with bad governance and corruption as unproven “perceptions” or allegations.
At the synchronised forum Momentum’s concluding panel discussion yesterday, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal countered what they viewed as wrong perceptions when questions were raised on allegations of bad governance and corruption within the Government.
“Governance is all about delivery. Governance is measured by the delivery of results. If the results are not what were expected then that is bad governance,” said Cabraal.
“Governance can mean very different things to different people. People can criticise the decisions made regarding development but they then also need to understand the processes, both practical and legal, behind those decisions,” Weeratunga said, adding that all Government procurement has a transparent process.
Rajapaksa said the defeat of terrorism was a result of good governance as well as good management. He said this was because while other regimes failed, President Rajapaksa delivered peace. He also dismissed allegations regarding the Government has ensured a rise in unsolicited projects. See full coverage on Page 12-13