Sri Lanka Presidential Elections 2015: Voters’ Questions for the Candidates to Answer

President Mahinda Rajapaksa Vs Maithripala Sirisena

A very non-partisan set of questions and suggestions is being placed for voters to put a perspective on matters and generate discussion and thinking ahead of casting their vote and before campaigns start. What the people must at all times be concerned about is that 5 years after the armed forces gave us a victory after 30 years of suffering should not be lost due to the scrooge of petty politics and personal revenge agendas. The country, the future of the people, the development of the nation and the security of the nation must be the foremost on the minds of the voter when he/she goes to cast their vote.

Questions for the Common Candidate

  • Is Maithripala Sirisena contesting as Common Candidate to hand over leadership to Ranil Wickremasinghe who is scared to contest?
  • Maithriapala President ONLY for 100 days – Thereafter Ranil takes over! Has the Common Candidate thought of what his future is to be after he abolishes the Presidency and makes Ranil the Prime Minister – what is the role Maithriapala is going to give himself or be given and who will thereafter lead Sri Lanka? Maithripala the elected or Ranil W the unelected or is it a third force altogether? Will President-elect Maithriapala end up ‘discarded’? The voters need to have answers to these key questions before voting.
  • Does this mean that people will be casting their vote for Maithripala but in reality they are enabling Ranil W to come into power without election? Is this democracy?
  • Is it legally and constitutionally possible to abolish the office of the Executive Presidency by just winning a Presidential election (and in 100 days too)? Is it really fair by the voter for the person whom the people elect to hand over power to another unelected person? What is the point of an election as important as the Presidential election then if the people elect a person who transfers his power to an unelected person? We are under the impression that a 2/3 majority and a referendum by the people is needed to abolish the office of the President. If so, are these promises to abolish the executive presidency empty promises meant to fool the masses?
  • Considering the other players supporting the Common Candidate what is the assurance that Maithripala in the first 100 days and Ranil Wickremasinghe thereafter given to them for their support?
    1. LTTE Tamil Diaspora (BTF/GTF spokesman Suren Surendiran has announced that if MR looses the international community will take him to ICJ in hague just like they did Charles Taylor and Milosevic and prosecute him for war crimes – will this be carried out by either?
    2. TNA seeking Tamil Eelam selfdetermination – will Tamil Eelam be given
    3. Muslim Congress seeking Eastern self-determination – will Eastern province also be given
    4. The federalists in the common candidate camp
    5. What role is the former President architect of both common candidates seeking – what is in it for her?
    6. What is the assurance that people who have corrupt records will stop being corrupt just because they join a ‘maithri palanaya’ and how will corruption be stopped, when the moment that happens we know they will defect to the other side and we return to square one again! Is this not a cyclical malady? However, what is the assurance that those forming the Common Candidate bloc who were corrupt under MR they would be uncorrupt under MS?
    7. Who are funding the common candidate’s campaign? What do those funding the common candidate campaign want? Will these assurances be made public because the public needs to know the above before they cast their vote! What are these supporters demanding in lieu of their support and will they be given all that they seek and if they are being falsely promised with the intention of not giving in to their demands will this not lead to further chaos in the country?
  • Are these manoeuvrings and manipulations the planning of RanilW or Chandrika or both or are there other forces at play and people end up falsely giving credit to RanilW when the planning is done elsewhere by people unknown to all of us?
  • The argument on corruption is valid. People do not want a corrupt government. People want competent people and it is when competent people are appointed that a Government and nation can rise. Yet, with no common vision except the common goal of taking power and causing regime change how will these groups holding different ideologies, conflicting agendas get along without upsetting all the good that the country has achieved?
  • Trust. Though there is a saying never to trust a politician the fact is that all those who defected including the common candidate would not have come out with their sob stories if an election had not been called. They would have stayed on in their roles! The argument is if they were fed up with Rajapakse cronyism and corruption why did they all not resign and leave the Government honourably before an election announcement? Why would they need to wait for lobbying, funds, promises for taking part in a coup d’etat? Truth is trust and loyalty have gone to the dogs…and everything ends up being bought for money!
  • The consideration of Maithriapala Sirisena has been solely to take stock of the realization that Ranil Wickremasinghe entering the contest will not garner the Buddhist vote sufficient to sail through to victory. At least the opposition camp has realized the power of the Buddhist vote, which means the Buddhist voters hold the key to who wins the 2015 Presidential election. The minority bloc formed is to give further weight to that victory. The question for the Buddhist voters is how far are they aware that the power of the Buddhists will prevail through Maithripala only for 100 days, because no sooner Maithripala hands over power to Ranil the Buddhists will have no place.
  • In terms of national achievements that the majority of the nation devoid of nationality, ethnicity or religion should ask themselves is what has the common candidate camp achieved throughout their political careers which we can recall as national achievements? Thus what have Chandrika, Ranil, M. Sobitha thero, Rajitha Senaratne, Rajiva Wijesinghe, Duminda Dissanayake or even Maithripala Sirisena achieved nationally?

How far have political parties and in particular Governments thought of providing growth-oriented, employment generating, pro-poor budgets and action plans devoid of the reliance for subsidies without resorting to making the rich richer for which the rich will have no qualms about whatever party they are in – yet how many of them even go to cast their vote!

Chandrika’s downfall was as a result of her own unpopularity as was Ranils and will be President Rajapakse’s own folly if he does not realize where he has erred and what he needs to do to address and solve these faultlines permanently.

Has the President or his team listened to the Patriots – the nationalists who have offered wise counsel without favour or political color? What have their thoughts been over the years?

  • Make changes to the 13th amendment with the 2/3 majority in hand. Adjust provisions to ensure that legally land and police powers are not vested in provincial control or alternately abolish the 13a and do away with the provincial council system replacing it with a district council system taking into consideration and removing all possible future threats.
  • Consider devolving power in a system similar to the grama rajya system India follows where basic needs of the village are decided by them and this reduces the interference of politicians too and also provides reason for not devolving power beyond the district level
  • Consider changes to the voting system to allow capable candidates to run and get elected – this removes avenues for unsuitable and unsavoury characters to enter governance.
  • Do not allow India to interfere in internal affairs of the country. Reduce all avenues of interference by India through effective diplomatic channels.
  • Maintain diplomatic discourse with all nations, keeping them regularly abreast of post-terrorism achievements in Sri Lanka as well as the threats. Transparent engagement leaves little room for subversive elements.
  • Do not compromise the national assets/resources by giving everything to foreign investors who end up taking away the profits – a historically proven fact
  • Have a ceiling on commission as is done in other countries so that investors know the commission involved and low-quality raw materials do not end up being used as a result of having to give exorbitant commissions to win the deal/tender.
  • Revive national corporations/factories etc appointing competent people as these are cash rich investments kept in the hands of locals
  • National programs to continue to acknowledge the services rendered to the nation by those protecting the national security of the country in particular the armed services, police and civil defence
  • Re-think the 18th amendment – a President should leave office historically remembered for all that he/she achieved not to leave with achievements forgotten because of falling prey to desiring limitless power. Most patriots feel that the term of the President should be limited to 2 terms.
  • Revive the key institutes like Foreign Service ensure that selection is devoid political interference and favouritism but propelling people who are tested for their nationalism over above qualifications. There is no point selecting a qualified person having ideological leanings towards functioning as ‘yes’ men to Western agendas to be appointed. Therefore selection process needs to clearly test the quantum of nationalism for Foreign Service roles.
  • Good governance at all state levels and rule of law established to ensure that at private/corporation and other levels corruption is addressed and legally punished without favour.
  • Action against all elements attempting to divide/separate the nation. Calls to take action against Tamil and Muslim separatist elements have fallen on deaf ears post-2009. Had these areas been addressed the same groups now exerting political pressure over Tamil and Muslim vote base would have been solved. Now only a member of the general public has come forward to file cases against the Tamil National Alliance when it should have been the Government to do so.
  • More attention to reduce loan taking and turn national revenues to profit making entities.
  • Get rid of all incompetent officials and replace them with good ones. We recall that the secret to ending the war was the reshuffling of military appointments giving the talented a new role. Similarly, in any selection process if the nation is explained why certain appointments are taken the nation would understand – it is the communication of why a person is being selected that is important instead of doing so behind the scenes and when they do not fulfil their roles the issue of appointments eventually will question those who appointed him/her.
  • Engaging the public sector administration to providing a service to the nation instead of making it a useless and lethargic entity burdening the tax payer.
  • There have been issues confusing the Buddhists too – the undue emphasis on multiculturalism an experiment falling apart in the West and all nations that followed it, the requirement for the President himself to go an invite the Pope when an invitation had already been made, the canonization of a person who had been part of a Church that had repressed and killed scores of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims during colonial rule, the promise for the state to fund Muslim pilgrims when the same has not been offered to Buddhists thus questioning the Government in how far it is following the Constitutional provision via Article 9 to give foremost place to Buddhism while assuring to all religions the rights granted but that ‘it is the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism’. The protection of Buddhist heritage sites and denying incursions to Buddhist space or ethos and ensuring that the Buddhist history of Sri Lanka followed down from ruler to ruler prevails the same way other countries have legal provisions to maintaining the history of their countries.

As a counter measure, it is a good time for the President to form a consultative committee of patriots instead of making everyone and anyone as ‘advisors’ and ‘consultants’ to whom he can regularly seek advice from and who will, devoid of politics provide options and alternatives to pressing national issues which must be tabled at Cabinet level for discussion and deliberations.

These are plenty of thoughts for the voter and questions that the candidates should provide answers for.

Who will become Sri Lanka’s President will be decided by the 10% floating votes plus the Buddhist bloc vote that will look at under whose hands is the country safer and under whose leadership will the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces not be sacrificed.

– by Shenali D Waduge