By Karu Jayasuriya –
Power at any cost; It is the UPFA’s election strategy which is evident now from their daily change of slogans. The UPFA campaign commenced with the slogan “can’t do without Mahinda” then changed it to “we rise with Mahinda”. They have now abandoned both those slogans and their election campaign has taken a new turn in the eleventh hour. Now they have started using the photograph of President Maithripala Sirisena to boost their campaign. It shows that those who shouted the slogans “can’t do without Mahinda” have now changed the slogan to “can’t do with Mahinda”. The group which tried to convene the SLFP Central Committee and oust the President and his loyalists from the party has now started marketing the image of President Maithripala Sirisena; as their final trump card.
What the UPFA leaders should understand is that President Maithripala Sirisena is not merely an individual, but he is the icon of a program of action. The real representatives of the movement who stand for good governance, guaranteeing the supremacy of law and creating a righteous society are candidates contesting the elections from the United National Front for good governance and not from the UPFA.
The majority of the UPFA candidates are those who are accused of corruption, fraud, thuggery and spreading fear psychosis. They do not represent the thinking of President Maithripala Sirisena. The group that broke away from the UPFA along with President Maithripala has come forward to contest this election as candidates of the United National Front. It is now too late for the UPFA to guarantee their future by taking cover under President Maithripala’s image.
Throughout the whole election campaign, UPFA based their propaganda on slogans connecting the diaspora, division of the country and federal administration. When it was found that these slogans have lost validity they resorted to staging hilarious dramas by exhibiting vials of poison and empty pots. The issue of the UPFA manifesto is another trump card used by them. It was a shower of promises; what Mahinda Rajapaksa did not do when he was in power and what he willfully abandoned are now incorporated into a pack of promises “guaranteeing the future” which itself has boomeranged on them.
He promises to give Rupees 200,000 to the youth at the time of tying the nuptial knot. It reminds the people of the increase of the marriage registration fee from Rs. 500 to 5,000. It also reminds the people about his broken promise to “giving houses and lands at the time of marriage”.
The promise to increase the public servants’ salary reminds the people of the promises not honoured and just laid by. When they talk of increasing the salaries of the private sector employees, people are reminded of how the youth agitating for an increase of wages were shot and killed on the road. The promised report on the incident, which was to be published in two weeks, still awaited.
The UPFA harshly criticised and attacked the Five Point Plan of the UNP. It resulted in disaster for the UPFA. On one occasion they say that there is a move to sell the water resources of the country, then on a later occasion they say that the health services are to be amalgamated into an Authority; stating that it was a move to privatise the health sector.
Establishing an Authority does not mean privatisation, it only serves to expedite the functions and enhance the efficiency. We can cite several examples. The Department of National Housing was converted to the National Housing Authority by President Ranasinghe Premadasa. The subject of Urban Development and functioning agencies were integrated into the Urban Development Authority, the Harbours were incorporated into the Ports Authority, the Mahaweli Scheme as Mahaweli Development Authority; none of these institutions were privatised, but it only helped to expedite the delivery of services to the public.
The proposal to manage the health sector and develop it in a manner to offer better services has been looked at with malice. It was the UNP which started the free education system and the free health services. Therefore, the UNP takes pride for the introduction of these welfare measures to the people and would act committedly to continue with these projects.
The Janasaviya Program started by President Ranasinghe Premadasa as a tool for poverty alleviation was changed as Samurdhi making it an outfit for political gains. Mahinda Rajapaksa who made those innocent people to work as political slaves of this country is no more a victory factor to be reckoned with which fact has to be understood by the UPFA.
The leaders of the UPFA have now realised that people of Athugalpura are ready to send Mahinda Rajapaksa on retirement on the 17th of August repeating the defeat he tasted on the 8th of January.
That is why they have been driven to conduct their election campaign reminding people of the old adage “Koheda Yanne ? Malle Pol” (“where are you bound to – I have nuts in my bag”).
*Karu Jayasuriya – Minister Of Public Administration, Local Government And Democratic Governance