12 November, 2019


Sajith Premadasa Manifesto: Strengths & Weaknesses  

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

At last Sajith Premadasa Manifesto (SPM) is out on behalf of the United Democratic Front (UDF), in all three languages at the same time. The English version is reviewed here. The SPM appears ‘people friendly’ addressing the voters simply as ‘My Dear Friends’ in his personal message and saluting them with ‘Ayubowan! Vanakkam! Assalamu Alaikum! It is also futuristic, titling the Manifesto as “There is No Limit to What Sri Lanka Can Achieve” subtitling it “Let us Prove It Together.” But how is the question?  

Right in the second paragraph of the personal message of the presidential candidate, there is a genuine admission that people have concerns and unfulfilled expectations. Premadasa is assuring that he is committed with his political team, advisors and professionals to address each and every of them. This may be too optimistic given the Sri Lanka’s present conditions and the role and record of the government he was serving for the last almost five years. However it could be appreciated that he has come forward, out of those ambivalent conditions, to ‘promise’ a better deal and better service in the future, as the leader of the government and hopefully of the party and the alliance, if he is finally elected by the voters. 

Another natural question at this juncture is whether he is too late? His nomination was too late within the party, of course beyond his control, and now the Manifesto is rather late, three weeks after the formal nominations. There is barely two weeks left for further campaigning before the election day, and the SPM came at the brink of the two day postal voting with over 650,000 eligible voters. The TNA or the main Tamil parties have not yet taken a clear decision pending his Manifesto. While these may be some disadvantages, he has also gained a clear advantage by countering the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Manifesto (GRM) through what he has now produced to the voters. Premadasa has already conducted many multilevel campaign rallies, meetings and consultations, and if he, his supporters and the UDF manage to distribute the Manifesto far and wide, it might prove to be an effective tool in the campaign trail. 

Let me offer a quick SWOT analysis but only focusing on the first two aspects, strengths and weaknesses. 

Some Strengths 

The general direction of the Manifesto is towards ‘a strong nation and a fair society.’ Twenty operational areas are clearly identified in the introduction, followed in respective sections, not only for the voters but perhaps subsequently for policy implementers as well. This is double the 10 points in the Gotabaya Manifesto. These include affordable cost of living, housing, education, health care, drug control, dealing with extremism, e-governance, women’s empowerment, business promotion, renewable energy, environment, empowerment of farmers, youth, migrant workers and public transport. Therefore, the first strength of the documents as a Manifesto is its scope and delineation of clear policy areas. 

Three national scourges are correctly identified: (1) Drugs (2) Corruption and (3) Religious Extremism. It is also smart to declare that there can be one or interrelated solution for these three problems. That is the swift and firm implementation of the laws. However, there can be delays because of present unclear laws and hesitation on the part of implementors even if we discount the possible political interferences. This is not taken into proper account. 

The National Security is correctly perceived within creating a united and a strong nation. This is not there in the GRM. This encompasses strong democratic institutions including a New Constitution. Although not mentioned, the Easter Carnage particularly came about within the context of a constitutional crisis not limiting to October events. When different institutions compete for power or simply do not cooperate, that affects the security, security institutions and security personnel. The State apparatuses obviously collapse or become weakened. The following two pronouncements for a new constitution may be for the interest of the Tamil and Muslim communities but the term ‘multireligious’ is however missing! The declared policies are also scattered. There are other sings of a hurriedly written document.  

Our constitution must reflect the multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual and pluralistic nature of our country and must unite us not only in law, but also in our hearts.” (p. 14).

Maximum devolution of power within an undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka, will be implemented.” (p. 18).  

A new people’s constitution is the promise. Unlike the inbuilt hesitation which was characteristic of the UNF manifesto in 2015, going before the people for a referendum is declared and determined. Nevertheless the new constitution is promised as an extension of the 19th Amendment particularly in respect of reduced presidential powers and independent commissions. A Senate is promised not as a decoration of the institutional structure, but hopefully as a proper representative council of the Provincial Councils, ensuring power sharing at the Center. This could be considered  structurally a most far reaching proposal in the constitutional reform agenda.  

There is a clear promise in revising the electoral system. This includes the abolition of the present preferential voting, hopefully which would stop not only interparty but also intraparty conflicts that allows unsuitable, uneducated and even criminal personnel to move forward. The national list system is not abolished, but it says, “an increase in the participation of women in Parliament will be legislated by stipulating that at least 25% of the National List is women.” Is this sufficient is the question? 

There are few more progressive pronouncements. The Manifesto under ‘Accountable Leadership’ says, “We will withdraw luxury duty-free vehicles for all 225 parliamentarians while ensuring they have the necessary facilities to carry out their duties in service of the public.” This is a welcome initiative saving considerable amounts of money for the public service. There is no doubt about Sajith Premadasa’s personal determination in implementing them. A major weakness of 2015 manifestos, both at the presidential and parliamentary elections, was the lack of much concrete proposals although a general promise of curtailing corruption and waste was given.   

There is nothing much ambiguous or wrong in the tax policy declared, unlike in the GRM.  

Some Weaknesses 

Although twenty policy areas are clearly identified, there are no cost estimates or appraisal of financial implications, except in some areas. For example, for encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, Rs. 20 billion is indicated. But for free seed paddy and free fertilizer for farmers, there are no estimates given, and independent sources believe that free fertilizer alone would cost Rs. 45 billion for the government. Where would you find money? This is not explained.    

Although the proclamation on eradication of drug menace, corruption and religious extremism are praiseworthy, no clear road map is given for curtailing particularly religious extremism. There is no acknowledgement that this is more prevalent in the majority community than in minority communities. Sajith Premadasa’s determination alone would not be sufficient in curtailing any of the menaces, judging by the past five year experience.    

Although there are appreciative declarations on national unity and a new constitution, those may be insufficient to convince the affected minority communities because of still intermittent violence, threats and xenophobia in the country most explicit during the present election campaigns.      

As I see it, the incompatibility between the pronounced socio-political policies and economic policies appears to be the main weakness. As the candidate, Sajith Premadasa has pronounced, there is a need for a Social Revolution. The reason? There is obviously a fundamental defect or flaw in the existing socio-economic system that he has admitted. Simply said, the poor and the needy are neglected. His advocated policies verbally are mostly of welfarist or social democratic orientation. However, the written economic perspectives particularly on page 26 are incompatible with the pronounced welfare measures or social democracy, giving emphasis primarily only on the private sector. It says, 

The private sector is the engine of growth. For a strong and a prosperous nation to share its wealth with its citizens, the private sector must operate efficiently. However the private sector is shackled by archaic regulations, logistical bottlenecks, and government red tape; it is unable to achieve its true potential.” (p. 26).  

There is no question that deregulations are necessary to remove bottlenecks etc. However that is not the only reason for the inability to achieve the ‘true potential’ of the private sector. In a developing country, there are serious problems of capital accumulation and also entrepreneurship. The State in certain areas is in a better position to invest and gear development, if corruption, waste and mismanagement are eliminated. Simply said, Sri Lanka is in a better position to gear development through private and public partnership and having ‘two engines’ for growth. This does not mean nationalizations or restrictions on the private sector, but a proper and clear division of labor between private and public partnership. Both sectors can thrive and contribute. As the title of the Manifesto says, ‘there is no limit to what Sri Lanka can achieve,’ but in the right direction and combination.  

It is because of this incompatibility or lacunae particularly in the economic policy, among other things, some right thinking people might consider first voting for Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the NPP/JVP and then giving the second preference to Sajith Premadasa.     

A Merit in Implementation Plan  

As we all know, as a result of the 19th Amendment, supported also by all the present SLPP/SLFP MPs who were in Parliament at that time, there are many limitations to power of a new President after the forthcoming election. Even the new President, whoever is elected, cannot hold the Ministry of Defense directly. Premadasa has already indicated, right or wrong, Sarath Fonseka for that position. 

A clear merit of Premadasa Manifesto is that there is a practical road map or plan that he has outlined how he is going to implement his declared policies. This is completely absent in Gotabaya Manifesto. GRM abruptly ends in page 80 after promising 10 goodies to the ‘estate connected communities’ (Wathu Arsritha Prjawa). In this GRM, the next two pages are blank, at least in the online (Sinhala only) copy, apparently left for Notes. But there are notes! 

In the Premadasa Manifesto, under the title of ‘Implementation: Strengthening and Monitoring,’ 10 implementing measures are outlined, prefaced by the key mechanism as follows, which I have found appropriate, realistic and implementable under the circumstances. 

A new Presidential Task Force for National Development will be created to overlook the delivery of key performance indicators in all the Ministries. All the Divisional Secretariats in the country will have a subunit of this, so that there would be a direct link between the President and the constituents when it comes to the provisions of public services and national development.” (p. 75).    

On the merit of this practical implementation plan and the road map, one even might give the first preference to Sajith Premadasa, in preventing Gotabaya Rajapaksa coming into power with several unknowns and dubious credentials.   

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Latest comments

  • 3

    lesser evil concept should be applied here .

    compare and contrast..
    see two personalities in character and manners.

    see past history of both .
    see who behind them.
    who are friends of democracy ?
    then decide ?

    • 3

      Tamil people have a difficult choice.
      Gotabaya – Racist, Murderer and Swindler
      Sajith – Racist, Thug (son of a murderer) and Fence (possessor of stolen property)

      • 4

        Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam, not everyone in SL or migrated Lankans can afford the luxury being a racist at the same time anti-racist also like you

        • 1

          Every one in this world is a racist of some sort. It is the degree of racism in each that varies. When one keeps his racism within himself, there will not be any problem. It is when one tries to impose his racism on others, that problem rises. Demanding ones right is not racism, but denying others right is racism. Can you name a country which is not racist. Even in Singapore there is a tinge of racism. After the collapse of apartheid, the worst racists are the Muslim countries. Is not the claim to eastern province by Muslims when historically they had gone there as refugees, the worst racism in Sri Lanka. I firmly believe in equality, justice and application of meritocracy, which will eradicate all forms of racism in the world.

      • 2

        Dear Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam,
        I agree.
        What’s your problem? Give AKD First Preference.

  • 2

    As we had seen during last few decades, manifesto would be gathering dust on a shelf or end up in a bin after the election. You may recall former premier who promised rice from the moon declared a food crisis in latter part of 1973 with University closure and many other restrictions. However it is worth picking up some points in 20 points manifesto.
    1. Cabinet of ministers who are free of curruption. This is a Herculian task!
    Already we know Sri Lanka have an exuberant cabinet, country can ill afford to. Mammoth country like India, I believe 63 times bigger than SL got only 24 cabinet ministers. No doubt whole nation will wish him well achieving this task.
    2. Environment and energy policy.
    This is a breath of fresh air. With abundance of Sunshine in SL, however, there was no mention of solar power although renewable energy was mentioned.
    3. E-governance may be the way forward as this limit the room for commission culture.

    While nation would wish him well with regard to delivery of promises in the manifesto, we know, As Dr Laksiri Fernando pointed out, manifesto is not worth the paper it is written in
    3. Funding of freebees not explained.

  • 6

    It is probably a waste of time attempting to analyse and decipher any political manifesto of the major two parties. If one even superficially scrutinises previous election manifestos of ANY person who became president of SL (or indeed any party that came to power), can one point to any that have been even partially (substantially) delivered on? No.

  • 5

    Looking at the manifesto it is much better than the manifesto of GR. Considering the past and alligences Sajith Premadasa looks like a national figure with none of the criminals and religious extremists. GR looks like a figure of Buddhist Fundamentalists. The alliances of Pilliyan, Karuna, Douglas, Viyalenthiran of Gotabaya and BBS Ganarasa Thero clearly points out that national security means abductions, murders, bribe and racial violence as it happened throughout the MR regime between 2005 and 2015. That is why Gotabaya refused to debate on TV and his failure to answer the questions. Gotabaya in power means no law and order, no freedom of speech, write, no freedom of journalism. In other words more damage to the nation, more damage to the Sinhala people, and peace loving Sinhala people.

  • 1

    Sajith Pemadasa has become a Santa Clause. Mangala says People saying Ynakees are coming to tje over us is a joke, except asking for the MCC -compact signing. Ranil says, A new constiitution is needed, Power need to be given within an Orumiththa country.

  • 0

    When the manifesto came out a day ago, we were interested in reading it. (I will read it, but now quickly browsed it.) We need to remind, as usual, our position first on this election. This is a Sinhala Buddhist election of SinhaLE Lankawe. So our comments on this are only about a reader-analyst or critic nature only.
    Though the manifesto is only for analytical purpose, we are interested in knowing to whom TNA, the five party union and other Tamils in general would deliver their votes.
    Chamindry Saparamadu has already opened a thread to discuss Gotabaya Chitanta. Vaalaiththodam side has been taking time to release their one. So, Tamil parties have not made their opinion yet on how to vote. CV, former CM of NPC has said something close to that the Tamil supporting a candidate would do harm to that one than any benefits. There were news pieces that TNA was considering to leave it to people opinion and their rep, rather than take it to Alliance leadership level. In the last EP election TNA was a partner with the Common Candidate. Then five years the government under the CC has been working on racial harmony and reconciliation. As result of supporting a CC and without failing voting for Yahapalanaya’s 5 Budgets to increase the Rapist Army expenditures and saving the Yahapalanaya government from the NCM and the Coup, now TNA and CV are taking this decision. That is a reminder for Tamils that their participation in the election is not welcomed by the Sinhala Buddhist community.
    Last three constitutions were made without Tamils. Now this election is about to go without Tamil Parties supporting any one side. Interestingly, Yahapalanaya, as well as Tamil leaders are still arguing the contemporary government has achieved some of their expectations. That is strange! But, Mind you, still TNA is discussing on this issue.

  • 2

    Yet it is right or wrong, the Mothers of missing Person are asking to vote for Tamil candidate Sivajilingam. M.K. Sivajilingam is standing for the election, independently, breaking out from TNA. His struggles are recognized by us, but his participation in this not. So, for what he is standing on this election is not for our interest too.
    Beyond that, the Manifesto is too long for people to grasp. 80-90 pages. Victor Ivan, the journalist said something right about this. Earlier, Gotabaya Chitanta was laughed as “dream”. So Ivan said Vaalaiththodam is a better dreamer than Old Brother Prince. Basically, both are dreams. Yet whether NDF’s dream is better of Gotabaya Chitanta is better can be told only after 5 years from now. Already the comments are saying that manifesto is one thing implementing those in the manifesto is another thing. Lankawe politicians are known notorious in braking agreement.
    As we said already that this manifesto is talking about devolution. But it sounded like taking back with right hand that anything given out by left hand. From the start to end, it is talking about the central government’s plans for until 2030 but has not identified a single area where the provincial governments will be asked to fulfill some role.
    We still recognize in this (NDF’s) manifesto the need to resolve the minority problem is brought to light, though UNP out rightly refused to negotiate with the 5 party union. From 1948, one project is being approved for North that is relaunching the Jaffna Airport. If that means anything to Tamils’ feeling on this government, NDF may be standing to receive Northern votes, even if CV or TNA is not in a position to make any recommendations.

  • 2

    There are no strengths only weaknesses in anyone’s manifestos as it only used as a means to cheat the people to vote for them. Once they win nothing of what they said is upheld. Manifestos will become helpful only when it attains legal status and a citizen can file a legal action in courts based on the manifesto when they are not implemented.

  • 1

    I fully agree with “Pethiyagoda”. It is indeed a huge wast of time to analyse the “Merits” and “Demerits” of these “Manifesto Gill Marts” placed before the voters, especially by these two contenders i.e “GR” and “SP”. These have got into such a “HILARIOUS” episodes, when one say: “I will give FREE sanitary towels to women every month”, when another say: “I will give FREE fertilizer to paddy farmers”. All these “FREE ” handouts, at whose contributed “TAXES” (Direct & Indirect)? Do the voters question that aspect of the “FREE HANDOUTS” that are been “Promised”. Why do, they, (the Presidential hopefuls) roam around the country, emptying out these “FALSEHOODS” without any hesitation and shame?, The know the voters can easily be “FOOLED”. All these “Policy & Action Plans” are well and good. But the most important thing to inquire is to find out “WHO” are “THEY” to act on those plans. These “TWO” – (“GR” and “SP” ) had enough of time to act upon what they say even now. But, both FAILED and DECEIVED the people. Added to that, take the “TEAM” assembled with both of them. Seated at the “HEAD” are “MR” from GR’s side and “RW” on “SP” side. Led by these two (MR & RW) are the “ROGUES” and “CRIMINALS” . Can any one of these two contenders, after winning, GET RID or DISTANCE from these clans of rogues and criminals, who already roam around and adorn the public platforms of both these candidates. Some of these noted “Rogues” and “Criminals” who are camping with “GR” & “SP” have already “Assigned” themselves the responsibilities they would handle under respective Governments. Haven’t “MR” and “RW” both pledged to be the “Prime Ministers”? So with other crooks to be “Ministers” and not forgetting all others who have “Jumped” the sides. That is why both, “GR” and “SP” are so “SILENT” on bringing the “Criminals” to answer the crimes , once they come to power.

    • 2


      If Gota loses the elections will the future president and prime minister together act on the promises Ranil, Sirisena Mangala, …………… made in 2015 elections, recovering $18 billions, investigating corruption and criminal acts, war crimes, …… ?

      What is your Bakery Mama’s opinion on the elections or any useful forecast from him?

  • 6

    While SPM is available in all 3 languages, GRM is available only in Sinhalese and English? Is this a veiled indication of NGR’s thinking? If NGR is presenting himself as the President for all communities, he should have atleast ensured his manifesto is available in all 3 major languages.

    A Manifesto is a worthless documents unless its pronouncements are implemented. What proportion of past manifestoes ended up being implemented by its proponents? I would think only a small fraction. This is a clear reflection of the moral rectitude of candidates. Is SP of a different mould? Time will tell.

    Having said all this, SPM appears to be stronger, all encompassing, more genuine and acceptable than the GRM. NGR may not be even fully aware of the contents of the GRM (knowing his limited mental capacity and penchant to parrot and recite what others have written, therefore confirming it’s not genuine and coming from the heart) whereas SP has already demonstrated his grasp of the contents of the SPM at public forum Q&A’s. Has NGR even presented himself at Q&A’s to further explain his policies? – not to my knowledge. He appears to be fighting shy to present himself to the public in such forums after his fiasco at the first such attempt. Hence it appears, he is not even prepared to accept SP’s challenge for a Public Debate.

    Voters, there are 2 manifestoes of the two leading candidates available to you (albeit one is not available in Tamil). Take the time to read and understand them, Please use your franchise judiciously and wisely.

  • 1

    We already have a president who went to Philippines and came back with a
    fantastic gift from that country’s president to re-introduce death penalty
    against drug dealers ! The Philippines has a time and money saving election
    system that holds the national , provincial , local and provincial council
    elections all in one go ! We can adopt it too like we did with our constitution
    under J R J . We don’t hear this from Sajith or anyone else . We can at least
    save about 8 billion rupees and a huge amount of time every five years ! And
    also , Green field’s ” The King Maker” yet to be released is , a must-see movie
    to understand how Rajapaksha clan matches the Marcos clan ! Unfortunately
    we go to polls one month before the release of the movie . Yet , reviews are
    already on the net . Bongbong , the son of Marcos lost election for vice-president
    in 2016 . He was lustily booed when he was responding to restitution demands
    with, ” I can not give what I do not have .” One of Imelda’s massive houses that
    was hidden from the authority was placed in the name of an actor George
    Harrison who turned around and sold it to his benefit ! Our Rajapakshas are not
    alone , they just follow some of the great betrayals in history .

  • 0

    There’re things that people don’t want in the country.

    What should have been mentioned in ab’s manifesto is the promise to get rid of them to make people happy.

    Things people don’t want.

    1. 225 MPs. –
    People think just 112 MPs are enough to represent people as it was in early 70s. Unlike those era we have high technology now for fast communication. so why should we have such a large number of MPs?

    2. Big cabinet

    The reason for a big cabinet is that there’re more than enough MPs. To maintain the MPs’ support leadership is compelled to create new ministries to make more ministers.

    JR started it. He created coconut minister 1st & then tea minister. Then Buddhism minister followed by Christian, Hindu & Muslim ministries. It JR was still living we would be having ministries equal to flora & fauna of the country.

    3. Provincial councils.

    Nobody asked for PCs but people have been given them.

    4. Government to develop the country.

    People can develop the country but the government is the problem/obstacle.

    5. Only Muslims to have freedom for polygamy. Others also want it unless Muslims must be deprived of it.

    6. Different kinds of schools.

    People don’t want meaningless national schools, National hospitals etc. there must be uniformity in schools.

    If any candidate has bravery, include these things in a fresh manifesto.

    • 4

      Real Baiyek,

      “Only Muslims to have freedom for polygamy” – If you convert to Islam, you too can have multiples. Be happy about being a Buddhist, and allowed to have one. Compare yourself with monks and be happy, rather than trying to look at Muslims and be jealous.

      • 1


        Promote equality before law if you’re a good citizen.

        Religion must be immaterial before law so know that country is marching towards that.

        If you don’t like find another land to migrate.

        Whether there’s jealousy or not in me or anybody isn’t important.

        I referred to dictionary for the word “Baiyek” but it’s not there.

        But a friend of mine told me that people without intellectual depth may use such words.

        • 0

          Real Revolutionist,

          “Promote equality before law if you’re a good citizen.” – If you’re serious about it, you should have mentioned “Kandyan Law” too there. You tried to discriminate based on religion, I was quick to call you a “Baiyek”, sorry.

          “If you don’t like find another land to migrate” – Not yet, I have a mission to rescue mislead “Baiyoos” before that.

  • 2

    No matter what strengths and weaknesses there are in Sajith’s manifesto until the man on the road, the public servants that include mainly doctors, railway workers, public transport workers, police, and average citizen are disciplined in all their activities that manifesto is worthless and good for the garbage dump.
    Sri lanka will never ever come out of its rot until and unless discipline is enforced into society.
    The truth is painful, medicine is bitter but cure is guaranteed.

  • 0

    The writer has correctly identified that the presidency to which we all are voting is one with really clipped wings. Yet he can be a real pain in the neck for the Prime Minister if the President and the Premier are opposing each other. Why take the trouble then, whether it is SP or GR to make a big noise and win the elections? The reality is that a manifesto is a dignified form of a poster. If we go on paper, the Parliament can be dissolved by presidential discretion after mid February 2015. It is assumed by many, rightly or wrongly that the party of the winner of presidency will get a majority in the house after the parliamentary elections. If that is so then the winner’s side will romp for the next 4+ years. The real question is that what would the winner do to consolidate his position. Is he prepared to accept a “NO” from a bureaucrat on grounds that the instructions given are illegal? Is he going to accept a judicial rulings against him? Can he tolerate a persistent criticism, whether from any form of media indirectly to amounting a personal attack? NONE OF THEM CAN PASS THIS TEST. The venom that they spit out is far worse than that of the most poisonous snake in the world. Result? White vans. Can anyone in authority deny that the white van headquarters have been disbanded? NO. I am told that it is in the heart of Baudhdhaloka Mawatha. Don’t forget that we as a country has passed an era where a journalists were dropped from the sky into the sea and still others were murdered using tools that used to slaughter cows for meat.

  • 1

    People working for Sajith Pemadasa are talking their own agendas. IT looks like Ranil, Raajitha and Mangala will be over Sajith. Ranil is talking about a new constitution and power sharing. Mangala is talking about MCC-COmpact. Rajitha is talking about Power sharing.

  • 0

    My friendly Siripala mason baas pora also gave me a good plan before renovating my house. Finally, only thing that happened as per the plan was lunch and tea breaks. Somehow the guy completed the tasks, but the plan? He said, “owwa nethuwa beh neh maaththaya..”

    • 1


      Your mason Siripala has made a mistake by calling you Mahaththaya.

      • 0

        Real Revolutionist – Yea, he should have called me “Baiya”, he..he. Take it easy man, don’t come behind and attack me. These are for fun sometimes :-)

  • 0

    After the nomination sajith not done any good things. what is has even he does not understand.

  • 0

    Is Dr Laksiri Fernando preparing a review of the strength and weaknesses of SLPP?
    Ops…sorry SLPP is not contesting!

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