18 May, 2024


What Is Fundamentally ‘Right’ About The SLPP Candidate’s Manifesto

By Chamindry Saparamadu

Chamindry Saparamadu

SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa officially launched his election manifesto at a colorful event held at the Nelum Pouna, Mahinda Rajapakse theatre last Friday in the presence of the religious clergy, political allies, the diplomatic corps, professionals and other party loyalists. Soon thereafter, I observed various references made to the manifesto by various individuals / groups in both media and social media platforms. One such reference that captured my fancy was a comment made to the effect that ‘the manifesto only confirms your worst fears. Not a single word on human rights’. The fallacies of this observation become evident when looking at both the process of the manifesto formulation and its content.

A people centered process

One of the most ‘humanly’ right facts about the manifesto is the process through which it was formulated.

In the formulation process, people’s views and ideas were first obtained through a series of inclusive and interactive dialogues conducted in 25,000 villages through which problems of the villages were identified and matters pertaining to future development were discussed. The dialogues took the form of consultations and included two elements: a comprehensive assessment of the geographical settings, historical factors, demographic information, and socio- economic and educational status of the village as well as the households and the individuals Thereafter, proposals were obtained from the participants to augment the village conditions, by increasing the revenue sources and bases, economic activity in various sectors , social networks as well as the human resource and skills base, environment conservation, common amenities’ and public service delivery as well as to enable and promote collective decision making.

Thereafter, people’s proposals were analyzed and considered by committees constituted of people’s representatives, technical experts and subject specialists in various sectors , along with other proposals submitted by religious leaders, political parties, experts, professional and community based organizations. The above provided the foundation and the substance of the national policy formulation process culminating in the manifesto.

The Manifesto sets the framework for development policies and programmes of a future SLPP government and it is appreciable that the average citizen had an opportunity to inform such policies and programmes. Significantly, this process is in line with the contemporary global approaches to development. With the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986, the world encountered a paradigm shift in the way in which development is understood and approached in the global world. Development is no longer conceived as a charitable or humanitarian end to be achieved but rather a human rights objective to be realized. As the Declaration spells out development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural, and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of the individual on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting there from’

This puts people at the center stage of development giving them an opportunity to define and design their development trajectory and become the owners of their development. No longer are people considered passive recipients of the benefits of development interventions formulated by few others.

Similar trends have been observed with regard to approaches and strategies to poverty reduction as well. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued Guidelines for a Human Rights Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategies aiming at assisting countries, international agencies and development practitioners in translating human rights norms, standards and principles into pro-poor policies and strategies. The Guidelines set out how the processes of formulating, implementing and monitoring a poverty reduction strategy need to be informed by human rights principles. This means not only a convergence of the ends that both human rights and poverty reduction seek to achieve but also the policies and programmes for poverty reduction are formulated based on human rights standards with the active and full participation of the people.

In this sense, the broader process followed by the SLPP in formulating its first ever election manifesto is an exemplary beginning from a human rights perspective.

The Content

‘Human Rights’ are often spoken of in abstraction and approached as legal/ institutional problems. Whilst laws and institutions are important, in human rights discourse, rarely do we find the analytical focus shifting to society, the people as the holders of such rights, or their empowerment. In most international agency backed human rights interventions, reference or engagement of people have been to the extent of beneficiary awareness raising exercises. Needless to say that the empowerment of claimants go beyond that of awareness; knowing but not being able to claim rights due to lack of economic, social and human capital leads to frustration and disillusionment. Additionally, as we have witnessed in the past, laws and institutions have generated their own forms of marginalization and exclusion of various categories of persons. On the other hand, various technological and other advancements, rarely seen and discussed as human rights interventions, have enabled the realization of human rights. A classic example is the social media revolution which has democratized freedom of expression to a great extent.

The SLPP proposals contain the right balance between legal and institutional reforms, system and process changes and social empowerment and provide a comprehensive framework in which human rights can be realized. It is important to highlight the focus that is placed on the society and the various sub-categories such as the family, the women, the children, the youth, the elderly, the disabled and the holistic and comprehensive menu of interventions proposed for their empowerment. These include removing various barriers, political, economic and social that hinders their advancement as well as specific interventions enabling their access to education, health, public services, social security, formal labor market as well as interventions that enable their composite well-being such as family life, nutritious food and healthy living. These would not only ensure the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of the person but also would be a sine-quo-non for accessing civil and political rights. Proposals for sustainable environment management and policy making would ensure that the rights of the future generations are also safeguarded. Furthermore, the people-centric economic policies place the people at the center of the proposed economic development process.

Much emphasis has also been placed on the communities in the North and East and the Estate sector in consideration of their specific vulnerabilities due to decades of civil war, social neglect and other forms of marginalization. Specific economic, social, administrative and other forms of interventions are required to create a level playing field which would ensure their full access to all types of rights and entitlements. The equality provisions of our Constitutions warrant taking special measures to advance the conditions of specific groups of persons such as women, children etc so that each person is similarly circumstanced to enjoy the right to equality and equal protection of the law.

Alongside these interventions are several proposals to broaden the democratic foundations of the state such as eradicating political and public sector corruption through institutional and legal reforms but also introducing technology for digital -governance and e-procurement systems that would minimize opportunities for bribery and corruption, legal reforms aimed at better and more effective law enforcement, crime control etc. and strengthening democratic governance and rights protection through electoral reforms, judicial reforms etc. In addition, the adherence to human rights and protection of minority rights as the cornerstone of any constitutional and legal reform process further reinforces the commitment to human rights.

In a nutshell, ‘humanism’ permeates through the entire manifesto placing a strong human rights focus in both its formulation and content. While this may not be the hitherto conventional approaches to human rights, to claim that there is ‘no reference to human rights’ in the manifesto is a gross misrepresentation of facts and the reality.

*The author Chamindry Saparamadu is a lawyer, an international development consultant and a political analyst based in Colombo

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Latest comments

  • 14

    Hello, you are back again. First of all I want to say please stop bull shiting and waste our time. Let me follow with the question. If you could come up with such holistic planning and manifesto, what stopped you from formulating and implementing such village level plans, during Mahinda Uncles time. All we saw then was Hambantota port, airport , cricket grounds and Mihind Airways which have destroyed the villages,environment and taken up traditional farm lands. Madam there must be nursery kids around you to tell your fantastic stories and put to sleep, why pick us ???? When village people protested against these injustice , they were shot and murdered. People centered process MY FOOT.

  • 12

    This criminal and barbarian duo (MR/NGR) were in power for more than 10 years. Didn’t we see what they achieved during that time? Wasn’t that time period long enough to implement all these proposals? Whom are they trying to fool? Old wine in new skins?

    A manifesto is a worthless document unless the proposals therein are implemented. In this case, what does this airhead alleged criminal NGR (a petrol station attendant) know about all these issues? (his recent maiden ‘meet the press’ was revealing isn’t it?) To what extent have proposals in manifestos been implemented in the past? I believe, it’s not much. Consequently, most voters do not pay too much attention to them. Same goes for promises made by candidates during the campaign e.g. I will bring rice from the moon!. NGR has absolutely no credibility and he is not a patch on his brother MR.

    Don’t actions speak louder than words? So their past actions and deeds while in Office, will be a better harbinger, precursor & indication of what can be expected from them if the voters decide (God forbid) to elevate them to seats of power again. Especially their criminal deeds during the period 2010 to 2014 may not have been forgotten by the voters. A leopard never changes its spots.

    This entire mafia, criminal family should be behind bars for all their misdeeds (e.g. save Hambantota Fund, MIG Deal, Murders, Assaults, Greek Bonds, Hedging Deal, Siriliya Foundation, etc.) during the period of terror and intimidation.Unfortunately there were influential individuals (e.g. Wijedasa Rajapakse, Sarath Silva) protecting them.

    Voters, the manifesto is just an eye wash. Please don’t be fooled, conned and deceived. It’s more prudent to make a judgement based on their past actions & deeds and use your valued franchise judiciously, aptly and wisely.

    • 1

      I have a question for you my friend.. what the F have been achieved for the country for the past 5 years by RW & his clan party form robbing our nation including the CB???.

      • 1

        At least Ranil saved the Old Royals from being picked up by Indian – American forces. Ranil burned all the CFSL TV documents and cleaned all the Temple Tree House Computers he took control. He completely destroyed all the files in the CID had evidence of Chinese Commission payments.

        He washed cleaned the feces eating pigs and placed in glass showcases to stand for election against UNP. Who else in the world would do that kind of self-sacrifice? Show some faith to Ranil man!

        Tell me something please, why did New King refused to release PCoI report which had all names of the people received checks from PTL? Old Royals and New King are the top on the list of CB looting?

        Remember, as soon as Old Royals comes to power, first thing they are going to do is search for all the copies of remaining PCoI reports, (I believe only 50 of them were printed) and destroying, to save Ranil.

  • 11

    Gota? Humanism? What is this lady smoking or snorting?

  • 6

    Have you got the names of villages you selected? If so, the villages selected in Mullaitivu and Jaffna.

  • 4

    Nothing about what happens when you ask for pure water! And while you are washing those dirty clothes look around for the nine billion which has gone missing according to the former Auditor-General, Mr: Gamini Wijesinha.

  • 5

    Did you write this “gedera yana gaman” (“on your way home”) near the Parliament with the advice of a former CJ?

  • 4

    MS Saparamadu
    You say the accusation that there is “not a single word on human rights” in Mr Gotabaya’s manifesto, is a “fallacy”, which you propose to dispel.
    But as I understand the meanings of these terms what you have discussed seem rather to fall into the categories social and economic rights, rather than that of human rights.
    I see nothing about the right to life and liberty, to freedom from torture, inhumane treatment, to a fair trial, to dissent, etc,, etc., which are precisely the rights which have become the concerns of many afflicted persons in this country.
    I really am anxious about the future here and the unwisdom of even giving voice to such sentiments.

  • 2

    Waiting for Gota? Or Waiting for Godot?

    The Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) derives from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1986) and not in isolation. The author does not mention the UDHR at all perhaps because of the emphasis on civil and political rights after a major onslaught on them by fascism/authoritarianism in the world.

    I was involved in some measure in the process of consultations on the right to development declaration in Geneva at that time. What many wanted to prevent was the myth or the excuse that economic and social rights are ‘sine-quo-non’ for civil, political and also cultural rights. The author, perhaps under the influence of Gotabaya thinking, goes beyond in that myth. The author says the following.

    “These would not only ensure the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of the person but also would be a sine-quo-non for accessing civil and political rights.”

    Is it just a mistake or a particular thinking? If we take the above statement seriously, it means two things. (1) Gotabaya policies/actions are sine—quo-non (essential condition or absolute necessity) for accessing civil and political rights. (2) Gotabaya policies/actions are also sine-quo-non for the realization of economic social and cultural rights. Waiting for Gota? Or waiting for Godot?

    The author also must realize that the Right to Development in the Declaration also gives emphasis on ‘the right of people to self-determination’ in the very first Article 1. When people’s participation, contributions or consultations are considered, that also should involve different (ethnic) communities or people as a category. Was it done in the much boasted 25,000 village consultations? Why not? Sinhala chauvinism or what?

  • 0

    Dear PF , it is obvious when comparing to Rajapaksas , just not doing anything, it self , is service to public. We do have an adage in Medical Profession “If you are not able to help it is still ok as long you do not cause more harm”.

  • 0

    Chemistry was my most favorite subject in those days. My class teacher was the organizer of the Chemistry section in the school exhibition. He asked me preside the junior section and I was doing that proudly. During that time, when we were learning of Ammonia, the talk of Haber–Bosch process came to discussion. I was asking lot of questions. We village boys that time did believed all the modern science was invented by America or Britain. I asked him if Haber–Bosch were not Americans. Then he talked about Germans advancement during Hitler time. He talked about their Organic Chemistry, Medical Science, Management theories & even the inventions in space technology. America had landed in moon just a year ago. He said even America was using the German science to develop their moon landing technology. It surprised all us that time. Contemporary Germany’s pride is not the current economic achievement, buts its past history it did in science before the war. Germany fought with entire Europe because it developments and it arrogant superior race theory came out of that development. So, my question is where will it lead if a country develops, disregarding its international obligation? Didn’t Old Brother Prince say the UNHRC’s resolution 30/1 about transitional justice is not binding Lankawe? What happened to all the developments Germany achieved before the war? Where is the Middle East’s richest country Iran has gone? Why did USSR disintegrate? Why North Korea is one of poorest nation in the world. Why couldn’t that dictator do all Lee Kwan Yew did?
    All Tamil media propaganda is claiming that Old Brother Prince is going to follow the Lee’s style. But this article attempts to present that their development policy was formed democratically, consulting 25,000 villages. If it was a public study, why can they put it out in PDF format, so all sectors of experts in the public can comment on that study?

  • 0

    For last 70 years, North East is asking for their right to rule them, but rejected all development offers while oppressing them with 150,000 rapists Army. Fundamental Right is trying to recognize man’s freedom to live without government’s restrictions by its Law and Order process. So, fundamental Right is about legal process than technical or economic developments. That is the reason why, in addition to UNHRC, the governments are requested to form and operate their own HRCs. A local HRC is the opposition party to government’s Law and Order process. It tries to bring in its Law and Order in correction to government’s Law and Order.
    Fundamental right is not stagnant concept. It is a growing one. But there is priority exist. So, in general, anything recognized for longer time weights heavier than recently added one. For example, healthcare is now becoming a fundamental right. But US doesn’t provide healthcare for everyone. US treat it as a market supplied facility.
    Herzberg defined two types of needs for man 1).Physiological -Food water, air shelter sex. 2).Social – Friendship, membership, achievements, self-actualization……… Mallow divided these into 7, based on priorities. The need has nothing to do with the UN’s fundamental rights. As a matter of fact, Hertzberg second category, which is lessor pressing needs one is the most cared fundamental elemental in UN. UN is accepting the competitive economic model as the part of democracy. So it is not must for governments to supply food and water for its citizens, but providing equal opportunity for employment for able bodied persons to seek & do work is fundamental right.
    We can’t say Social Media is fundamental right invention. It is only a new medium to express one’s opinion. Availability of a newspaper is not fundamental right, but the right to open a newspaper is fundamental right. But Braille, sign language, kneeling bus are fundamental right inventions. Those inventions providing fundamental rights for some people, that are equal with others, who are enjoying them already.

  • 3

    This seems to the grand plan put up to deceive some proportion of the innocent people in the villages! They were adequately doped to perceive that they are going to be a part and parcel of the new administration after the elections! Well done all the big crooks, vultures, murderers, thieves, rapists etc to glorify the FAMILIAL POLITICS of Rajapakse administration! Planning to do something is good. However, the implementation of that plan can be put to rest and carry on with a new/old plan of their own and there will be nobody from within the government to raise any /valid concerns,.as we all witnessed prior to 2015. To make it worse the prevailing legal system in the country will not be able to do anything against the breach of trust by politicos! Essentially it is so very hard to have any trust about the most influential gang, who will have the reins to run the country, within the LPP. So what do we do? Vote wisely and that will be the only way to save our lovely paradise from the nasty vultures!

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