The SJB manifesto being presented by SJB Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and former parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne to SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa
– Pic by Ruwan Walpola
- Premadasa focuses on efficient governance at manifesto launch
- Says there will be timelines to achieve manifesto targets
- Proposes COVID investment fund and task force to attract FDI
- Rejects unsolicited proposals, ambiguous on Executive Presidency
- Proposes free visa and PCR tests to boost tourism
- New political economy to be formulated after consultations
- Backs unitary State, 13A, plus pledges to protect 19A and independent institutions
By Asiri Fernando
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday committed to establishing a people-oriented system of governance in their election manifesto that also included focus on national security, a special task force to attract investment, eschewing unsolicited proposals and maintaining a unitary State.
Speaking at the manifesto launch, party leader Sajith Premadasa said that the aim of the SJB was to bring consistency and a people-oriented approach to governance. The SJB manifesto identifies job security, support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and restarting tourism as key factors in the post-COVID-19 period.
“Our main aim is efficiency in governance and to do away with wastage. We must provide for the people and be geared to support them. The difference between our manifesto and what you have seen by other political parties in the past is that we have given timelines to reach targets,” Premadasa said. He also charged that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused significant impact to the economy and the Government has failed to manage the public health crisis effectively.
The former Minister of Housing said that to navigate the complex economic climate, a future Government must have foresight. “There has to be a strategic plan to tackle international and domestic challenges,” he said. The SJB manifesto proposes a new political economy, which the party claims will be drafted on policies formulated by them following consultations with economists, professionals, the private sector and the public.
The SJB said it supports a unitary State where the territorial integrity of the country and sovereignty is secured, while carrying out devolution of power within the State. “We propose a unitary Sri Lanka, a country with the 13th Amendment, not 13 plus nor 13 minus,” Premadasa said, pointing out that leaders before had used the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ selectively to their benefit when talking to diplomats and the public but had never implemented clear policies.
The manifesto calls for de-politicisation of the military and Police and to modernise them with technology to counter modern and emerging threats while maintaining a strong focus on counter-radicalisation and terrorism.
The SJB manifesto calls for a Post-COVID Investment and Development Fund (PCIADF) to revitalise a weakened economy, and Investment Task Force (ITF) to attract new investments to the country, if elected. It also proposes providing free visa and PCR testing to encourage tourists to visit the island.
The manifesto also proposes a Code of Ethics for politicians and calls for strengthening independent institutions established to combat corruption, uphold human rights and manage the judiciary and law enforcement in the country. The United National Party (UNP) had also proposed similar action in their manifesto launched last week.
The SJB manifesto pledges to do away with using ‘unsolicited proposals’ in major infrastructure projects and calls for more transparency and competitive bidding to obtain the best outcomes for the taxpayer.
The policy document also calls for the immediate and safe repatriation of Sri Lankan migrant workers and a Rs. 20,000 monthly stipend to be issued to families affected by the COVID-19 crisis. However, like the UNP and several other parties, the SJB manifesto does not indicate where necessary funds will be drawn from to carry out the promised relief.
The policy document promises to expand support and modernise the Provincial Secretariats, through which a prospective SJB Government plans to broaden the range of public services offered and decentralise some key Government services which are currently only in Colombo. The SJB also promises to roll out more public sector pay increments and incentives for executive grade employees.
The manifesto calls for updating the existing healthcare system and to strengthen preventive medicine and treatment in all hospitals. The SJB also proposes a National Nutrition Program, which was in Premadasa’s presidential manifesto as well.
Premadasa also said he was committed to foster national unity, the manifesto calls for correcting narratives on nationalism and creating a stable environment where all community and religions can coexist in harmony and dignity. It calls for public action to eradicate racism, intolerance and extremism.
Protection of the rule of law and democratic institutions is also highlighted in the SJB manifesto, with it calling for the independent institutions created by the 19th Amendment to be protected and further empowered, if elected.
The manifesto also calls for the eradication of political interference in the Judiciary and the Police Department, but does not specify how a prospective SJB Government will set about the task. In contrast to the UNP, who continue to call for the abolishment of the Executive Presidency, the SJB in their manifesto calls for prevention of the presidency leading to an authoritarian rule.
The SJB also proposes to complete the Kadawatha – Dambulla and Pothuhara – Galagedara sections of the highway within three years if elected in to office.