The history of the word ‘manifesto’ begins in Italy and the accepted belief is that the word was derived from the Latin ‘manifestum,’ which means ‘clear’ or ‘conspicuous.’ Dictionaries define the word as “a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.” In another place, it says “A published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.”

We Sri Lankans are mostly familiar with election manifestos.  Regardless of whether the promises highlighted in the manifestoes were delivered or not, political parties keep presenting manifestoes once an election is announced. Personal pledges being made by politicians is common in Sri Lanka. It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who personalized an election manifesto.  The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) manifesto in previous elections was named as Mahinda Chinthana. This means the content reflects his own thoughts. Following this, a few individuals like Minister Champika Ranawaka (Colombo) and former Media Ministry Secretary Karu Paranawithana (Ratnapura) have also presented their personal manifestos for the upcoming election.

However, we can see several aspects when presenting election manifestos. Politicians mainly need to attract voters with a clear vision to serve the area, not forgetting to have a plan that helps reach targets. Most of the time politicians fall short of achieving targets because they make unrealistic pledges.

If a political party or a politician can summarize its vision and plan for development and maintain an action plan to achieve targets that would be very much appreciated. Instead of cutouts, banners and placards, the use of speakers and conducting rallies that create traffic jams, presenting a manifesto should be the ideal alternative to chaos creating election campaigns. People must be presented with an opportunity to decide who they are going to vote for. The presentation of a manifesto is the best contribution when it comes to helping the voter make a choice.

However, politicians possess the license to behave as if made it alone forgetting the promises given to the public. The turn comes for the public when the next election is around the corner, to find out from the old manifesto whether candidates had delivered in the past. The public has a great responsibility of curing ‘an illness’ associated with politicians which is to forget.

President Maithripala Sirisena came into the power with a manifesto named as “compassionate governance and a stable country” and the 100 days work plan which were presented in the manifesto. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the powers of the Executive Presidency, was a major pledge. This pledge was made by other former presidents, but none of them lived up to it. We have in the past voted for politicians who promised to bring rice from the moon, but our votes should never be cast again to bring such politicians into power.

General election 2015 is scheduled for August 17. Almost all the parties have launched their manifestoes with impressive and praiseworthy promises. The ruling party which comes into the election fray as the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) released its manifesto “A New Country in 60 Months: Five Point Plan” on July 23 at Vihara Maha Devi Park. It pledges to create a new country in five years and also says that it will defeat the counter revolution planed by those who defeated on January 08. The manifesto highlights five points to develop the country and those are; strengthening the economy, fighting corruption, enshrining freedom for all, investing in infrastructure and improving the education system.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe handed over copies of the manifesto to the dignitaries and the representatives of the civil organizations, trade unions and political parties. The event was attended by personalities like Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera. Groups representing Tamil speaking communities such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and All Ceylon People’s Congress (ACPC) were also present.

The UPFA election manifesto titled “A Guarantee for The Future” was officially released on July 28 at Henry Pedris Stadium in Colombo. The manifesto, which comprises of a 12 point program focusing on areas such as national integrity, anti-corruption policy, economy, education, foreign policy, and health and infrastructure development had been handed over to President Sirisena by party high rankers, making it a photo session.

The public event at the Henry Pedris Stadium was presided over by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The event drew the participation of UPFA’s affiliated parties like Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and Jathika Nidahas Peramuna along with other parties.
People’s Liberation Front, known as the JVP, launched its manifesto which has been named as ‘The Accord of Conscience’, the national program at a function at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, Colombo. The national program of the JVP consists of five basic factors which are to create ‘a people friendly administration,’ focus on the greater management of human resource, create ‘A modernized and industrialized country, ‘a just society and also a ‘independent human being.’

The document which almost runs up to 90 pages has highlighted a lot issues such as fundamental rights, national security, national unity and foreign policy among several other topics. They have suggested abolishing the Executive Presidency, cancellation of the pension of the Parliamentarians, limiting duty free vehicle permits only for vehicles which are used for public duties, reducing the number of Cabinet of Ministers to 25, introducing a flawless and scientific election system, cancellation of the MP posts of MPs who change the parties and several other vital issues.

What  they promise

United National Front

  • Creating of 100,000 job opportunities
  • Setting 45 technical and industrial zones
  • 23 Agricultural Development Zones
  • Adding the increased salary amount to the basic salary of public sector employees
  • Increase the private sector salaries in two terms by Rs; 1500 and another by Rs; 1000
  • Increase the daily wage to Rs; 1,000 for estate workers.
  • Commencing the production of essential drugs in the country
  • Increase the budget allocation up to 3% from 1.8% to Health sector
  • Establishing an international ayurvedic center
  • Making compulsory the 13 years school education for children
  • Number of students in a class room will be limited to 35
  • Setting up of a National E library
  • Allocation of 6% from the budget for education

United People’s Freedom Alliance 

  • Creation of 150,000 employment opportunities
  • Minimum salary of the public sector will be brought to Rs 25,000
  • Private sector salary will be increased by Rs 3,000
  • Daily wage for plantation sector will be made Rs 1,000
  • Measures will be taken to reduce the price of rice, dhal, chicken, fish, coconut, chili, sugar, milk powder expanding the services at Sathosa and Cope city outlets
  • Water bill in the Urban council areas will be reduced by 25% and in Pradeshiya sabha areas by 50%
  • An allowance of Rs 5,000 for pre-school teachers
  • Loans for university and GCE A/L students to buy laptops with no interest.
  • Mahapola allowance will be increased to Rs 6,000

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

  • A new Constitution which looks solutions for the national issue.
  • Abolishment of the Executive Presidency.
  • Cancellation of the pension of the Parliamentarians.
  • Limiting duty free vehicle permits only for state related duties and not for personal use of MPs.
  • Reducing the number of Cabinet of Ministers to 25.
  • Introducing a flawless and scientific election system.
  • Cancellation of the MP posts of MPs who change the parties.
  • Setting up of a Commission Against Discrimination.
  • Setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
  • A payment Rs.0.5 million for each family lost houses by the war
  • Expansion of the university system allowing all who passed GCE A/L to enter
  • The initial salary of permanent lecturer will be made Rs. 100,000

Tamil National Alliance

  • 13th A to the Constitution is flawed
  • Power should not be concentrated at the Centre in Colombo
  • The Tamil people are entitled to the right to self-determination
  • Power sharing arrangements must continue to be established as it existed earlier in a unit of a merged Northern and Eastern Provinces based on a Federal structure.
  • The Tamil speaking Muslim historical inhabitants shall be entitled to be beneficiaries of all power-sharing arrangements in the North-East.
  • Direct foreign investment in the North-East should be facilitated resulting in new industries and employment opportunities being created for youth
  • All that has been stated above shall be enacted and implemented within the framework of a united and undivided Sri Lanka.
  • There must be meaningful de-militarization resulting in the return to the pre-war situation
  • Speed resettlement plan
  • Abrogation of the PTA

Compiled by Charith Udana Silva