Welcome to an auction of non-existent resources, as Lee Kuan Yew said. This is Sajith Premadasa’s manifesto, released in Kandy today. Below are the highlights. You can read the whole thing in Sinhala, Tamil or English.
What follows below are my highlights.
For me the main issues are, 1) not murdering me 2) climate change 3) the poor 4) public transport. So, on those issues it’s either Sajith or Anura Kumar Dissanayake (JVP) for me and, who are we kidding, it’s Sajith. This election is fundamentally a two-party choice between facism and not, and I choose not. I also think Sajith is young and poor-oriented, which is good.
You can read the whole thing yourself, I won’t attempt to summarize it. I’ll just highlight the parts that were interesting to me.
- The war on corruption will begin at home. We will not protect any corrupt member of my Government or party.
This better mean Ravi.
- We will create a democratic and pluralistic society in which the rights of all people are protected… This is the foundation on which the War on Religious Extremism will be mounted.
I do appreciate defending our society by not destroying its values.
- A National Security Council will be established by law.
This somewhat ad hoc body is what Sirisena and the SLPP let collapse after the coup, a key part of getting us killed, so good that it’s established.
- [A] new constitution will be approved by the people through a referendum, continuing our unwavering journey down the road of evolutionary democracy.
Good I guess, our Constitution is held together by duct tape. They’re proposing a Senate with 25% women representation and that 25% of the National List be reserved for women as well.
- We will withdraw luxury duty-free vehicle permits for all 225 parliamentarians.
Yass. Make those mofos take the bus until they fix public transport.
- Over the next five years we will clear the backlog of over 725,000 cases, and double the speed of the legal system.
I don’t know how, but our courts are completely gummed up and this more than writing laws is a key impediment to anything.
- Taking into account the often difficult and dangerous, all working journalists will be given a Rs. 10 million life insurance possible.
Uhh… how about just making the job less dangerous?
- No one will be forced to travel long distances to Colombo simply to collect a document or hand over a form. Wherever a digital interaction is not possible, services will be offered with one-day option in every District.
This is very important. These simple tasks incinerate people’s time and money.
- The Climate Crisis will be a cornerstone of our foreign policy.
- We will introduce fresh initiatives aimed at conserving coastal mangrove forests as well as protecting the coral reefs off our coast.
This is one of the most important things in the manifesto. We are going to drown and mangroves are what protect us, and coral reefs is a bedrock of our ecosystem.
- We will ensure that urban drainage systems are upgraded and maintained effectively.
- We will being the journey to make Sri Lanka completely energy self-sufficient by 2040. All of our energy will come from renewable sources like solar and wind.
I pulled this from the energy section. I assume they also mean hydro, which is 50% of power now. We have to do this.
- Taxes on renewable energy equipment and electric automotive batteries will be removed.
- National Investment Fund with an initial commitment of Rs. 10 billion.
I mean, OK. The question is how this is disbursed.
- A Chief Digital Office will be added to the structure of every Government Ministry.
Excellent opportunity for many nephews who know TikTok.
- Increasing the VAT threshold from 12m per year to 50m.
VAT nearly murdered our business because we were dumb enough to register. This is good for small businesses.
- All state-owned enterprises will be required to publish audited accounts.
As Advocata has deeply pointed out, only about 5% of SOEs publish regular information.
- We will return border taxes to the level of the early 1990s, making Sri Lankan exports competitive once more in the world’s markets.
- We will continue the process of phasing out those para tariffs that have driven up costs to consumers and industry while enriching a few.
If a Sri Lankan can build a bathroom for less than 2x what it costs anywhere else that would be great.
- They use the word Flexicurity… but I still don’t think that means that company’s can fire anyone.
- A simplified online application for dual citizenship; a status that often remained unclear in the past.
It was certainly unclear for Gota, and takes years for normal people right now.
Being A Human Who Does Stuff
- We will offer spouses dual citizenship after three years of residency in Sri Lanka.
Huge, I know people who’s kids are signing their visa requests after a spouse dies.
- We will modernize the bus and rail transport systems and improve traffic management.
Everyone says this, but please do it. The recently approved MCC addresses some of this.
- Bus Rapid Transit systems… Initial routes will be the 100, 120, 138 and 177.
- We will start construction of the 75km Light Rail Transit’s four lines in metro Colombo.
- Expand the free education system to ensure universal, free pre-school education.
Best education investment you can make.
- We will provide two school uniforms, a pair of shoes and a nutritious, free midday meal to students.
- A truly trilingual Sri Lanka where everyone can engage in their mother tongue with the Government.
- Persons detained for long periods without charge will be released.
- We will criminalize marital rape.
- We will clarify the legal definition of sexual harassment, to prosecute street harassment of women and girls.
- We will establish a dedicated national police unit [for] sexual harassment, including sexual abuse on public transport.
- We will place a 25% quota [for women] for the national list. We will then set forth a 25% quote for women in Provincial Councils, and a 25% quota for women in Parliament.
- We will establish childcare units in government institutions for working mothers, and incentivize the private sector to do the same.
So that all sounds nice and if you go through every past President’s manifesto the country should have been banging by now. Sajith does have a section on implementation which talks about reforms, KPIs, meetings and consultants, but again, how do you implement that. It’s not even clear how much power the current Executive President has.
Sajith has been one of the more active ministers at least in terms of building housing, so perhaps we’ll get that. He is also capable of working within the system, and of connecting to all classes of Sri Lankans. If he gets a mandate it’s possible, and none of the ideas are especially bad. More to the point, the are all ideas within a democratic framework and norms, which matters most.
My general sense is that this is a manifesto for governance rather than authoritarianism. Sajith is running as the NDF candidate, which to me stands for No Damn Facists. For me the election is that choice, and Sajith is the democratic candidate. He’s quite socialist, poor-oriented, and he has good people around him. So for me it’s a clear choice, but read the manifesto (Sinhala, Tamil, English) and see for yourself.