24th September 2000

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Why vote for us ?

Continuing our series on what each political party is offering, on this page
representatives of five parties tell us what they have to offer.

North-East crisis, our priority

Lakshman KiriellaThe President will govern for another five to six years and we need a strong Parliament to pursue President Kumaratunga's goals to bring in the new Constitution, with the support of Tamil groups.

If you vote for the UNP, there will be chaos. A vote given to the UNP would be a vote wasted. Right now the country needs a strong parliament to back the president.

If the PA is re-elected to office our top priority would be to find a solution to the North-East problem. This problem has to be solved if the country is to develop.

As regards the Kandy District, the development of the Colombo Kandy Highway would be given priority. Plans have already been drawn up for this development

When President Kumara-tunga went to Malaysia, she signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for this Highway. However, due to the south East Asian financial crisis, plans had to be shelved. Subsequently, another country has come forward to undertake the work. Even if we do not find a foreign collaborator we will go ahead with the task with our own resources.

We also plan to provide drinking water to the entire district.

Lakshman Kiriella - PA
Kandy District

We will work towards Thimpu principles

Joseph PararajasinghamThe TULF has been at the forefront of the Tamil struggle for the past 45 years. We believe any resolution to the Tamil question should fulfill the aspirations of the Tamil people. The LTTE should also be a participant to any resolution.

If elected to Parliament, the TULF will continue its policy for a negotiated settlement of the Tamil problem.

It will never become a supporter of any major political party to form a government but will sit in the opposition and continue to search for a peaceful solution to the Tamil question.

We find that the Constitution now in existence and the new one proposed do not fulfill the aspirations of the Tamil people. The Tamil question can only be addressed on the basis of the Thimpu Principle- the recognition of the Tamil people as a nation, the merger of the North and East and its recognition as the homeland of the Tamil people and the self-determination of the Tamil people. These three principles should be embodied in the Constitution. It does not mean that we are asking for a separate state.

Batticaloa is a very underdeveloped area and if I am elected to Parliament, I will try to develop the area but my priority would be to solve the Tamil question.

Joseph Pararajasingham - TULF
Batticaloa District

We have policies, they have empty promises

Tilak KarunaratneWe believe that terrorism has to be dealt with militarily. All the main parties gain power with the help of the majority Sinhala vote.

But once they come to office they ignore the Sinhalese and cater to the unreasonable demands of the minority extremist parties.

If we allow this to continue, the country will be destroyed and the very existence of the Sinhala nation will be under threat.

None of these parties have a well thought out, well-planned, development programme. All they do at election time is give promises, which they never keep.

On the other hand we have a well-planned programme. We believe there are far too many members of Parliament and we propose to reduce the number to 125 from 225 and also cut down the perks.

We also want to abolish the Provincial Councils because it is a white elephant.

We will also maintain the unitary status of the country.

We believe in preserving our forests and wild life for future generations.

We will also ensure an independent judiciary, free and fair elections and a society free of corruption and waste.

Tilak Karunaratne - Sihala Urumaya
Kalutara District

Big plans from UNP, says Tyronne

Tyronne FernandoIn 1994, the people gave Chandrika Kumaratunga a chance to bring about peace and a corrupt-free society but she has failed to deliver any of her promises. Therefore, the UNP, which has a track record of sound achievements, should be voted in to office.

Some of these achievements include the irrigation systems of Galoya and Mahaweli, the Laxapana and Mahaweli hydro electric systems, the introduction of the open economy, free education, massive housing schemes, the free trade zone, development of telecommunication facilities and above all good governance.

The UNP made a sincere attempt at solving the problems of the minorities. For instance, Tamil was made the official language and Provincial Councils were introduced. In our manifesto, 'Your Future' we have proposed a solution to the ethnic crisis, which includes talking to all parties to reach a consensus. "We will provide employment for youth and encourage foreign investment. Foreign investors have confidence in our government. We have plans to exploit around 500,000 square miles of sea, not merely for fishing but for mineral resources such as oil, gas and gold. Only a UNP government can handle a project of this magnitude.

Tyronne Fernando - UNP
Colombo District

Peace our priority, unity our vision

Our main objective is to bring peace to the country. Unlike the TULF for example, which works for one community alone, the NUA has members from all communities. We use all three languages at our meetings too. Our vision is unity.

We have many parties in this country, but they all think of votes not solutions to burning problems. Our endeavour is to find a way to get all these people on to one platform. We are an individual body and our symbol is the tree. Our main objective if we get elected to Parliament is to bring peace to this country. If the UNP or PA comes in to power, we will find out how they plan to bring peace and then support whoever has the best proposals for peace.

Mohideen Abdul Cader NUA
Batticaloa District

Wayamba: fury over violence

Its image tarnished by 'outside' political thugs, the province clamours for peaceful polls

By Shelani de Silva

Facts sheet

Electoral District - Kurunegala

    Galgamuwa 81,446
    Nikaweratiya 74,822
    Yapahuwa 89.198
    Hiriyala 76,763
    Wariyapola 61,292
    Panduwasnuwara 60,131
    Bingiriya 70,198
    Katugampola 77,549
    Kuliyapitiya 79,777
    Dambadeniya 78.230
    Polgahawela 63,613
    Kurunegala 68,296
    Mawathagama 69,153
    Dodangaslanda 56,942

    Total 1,007,410

1994 Results

No. of registered voters - 876591
No. of valid votes - 707279
PA - 366856 (51.87%} - 8 seats
UNP - 332547 (47,02%} 7 seats

Electoral District - Puttalam

    Puttalam 82,077
    Anamaduwa 85,002
    Chilaw 89,650
    Nattandiya 70,028
    Wennappuwa 85,717

    Total 412,474

1994 Results

No. of registered voters - 380192
No. of valid votes - 280729
PA - 150605 - (53.65%} - 4 seats
UNP - 127671 - (45.48%) - 3 seats

Following the infamous provincial elections in January last year, Wayamba or the North Western Province, has become synonymous with election malpractice and violence to the people outside it.

Newspaper headlines describe the electioneering as precursor to another 'Wayamba polls,' given the increasing number of polls violence throughout the country.

But for the people who live there, the comparison hurts them.

They say they are a peace-loving people who want to see a free and fair election. According to them, it was thugs and party supporters from outside the province who marred the Wayamba polls and tarnished the Wayamba image.

"But now we are carrying the tag 'Wayamba Marayo'. We got the bad name. But this time we are determined to show to the country that we are a peaceful people," said K M Bandara, a villager from Wariyapola.

As though his determination is shared by many others in Kurunegala, we saw only a few flags, banners and posters. Except for a few posters of the PA and the UNP, most of the town walls have been spared from being defaced by such election paraphernalia.

Or is it an indication that there is little interest in the elections?

"All we want is a peaceful election. I think after the provincial elections, the people lost interest in an election. This does not mean that we will not vote, but we will no longer be fooled by politicians," said 70-year-old Appuhamy who owns a boutique in Ibbagamuwa.

At stake at Wayamba consisting of the districts of Kurunegala and Puttalam are 23 seats.

Many people who we spoke to appeared politically matured. They openly criticised politicains of both the PA and the UNP.

"Both parties have equally cheated and robbed the people," one of them said, echoing the sentiments of others as well.

Seventeen political parties and two independent groups have fielded 342 candidates to fight for 15 parliamentary seats in the Kurunegala district.

Chief Minister S B Nawinna leads the campaign along with Deputy Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa.

In the Puttalam district, the PA is led by Deputy Minister of Fisheries Milroy Perera along with D M Dassanayake and Salinda Dissanayake.

The PA list also includes Harendra Corea, a longstanding UNPer who crossed over to the PA during the debate on the draft constitution.

The UNP's campaign in Kurunegala is led by Gamini Jayawickrema Perera.The list also includes Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake, A H M Alavi, Upali Piyasoma, Nimal Fernando and Rohitha Bogollagama who is now in custody over a bomb incident that took place during the presidential elections.

The UNP list in the Puttalam district includes Festus Perera, Harold Herat and Janaka Soysa, to name a few.

While the main fight is between the PA and the UNP, the support for the JVP is also felt in the province, especially in the kurunegala district.

The JVP list is headed by Bimal Ratnayake, an engineer by profession, boasts of having 11 graduates and two trade union leaders on its list.

To a majority of the people, the very name JVP reminds them of terror politics.

Mr. Ratnayake, however, said it was the UNP which precipitated the 1988-89 insurrection.

While the JVP is portraying itself as the only alternative to the UNP and the PA, the real battle is between the latter two.

Apart from these three parties, little interest is shown towards the other parties whose candidates are an unknown lot to a majority of the Wayamba people.

Meanwhile, a different type of battle is going on at the Kurunegala Kachcheri. Government officers are working against a deadline to issue tens of thousands of polling cards.

Kurunegala District Secretary T Ranasinghe said 200 people were working round the clock to complete the work.

"This is the first election where we have got the shortest period of time to complete the work. The people work till 2.00 am. There are 800 polling booths and we will deploy 10,000 officers. close to 700 vehicles will also be used" said Mr. Ranasinghe.

But when the politically mature voters go to polls on October 10, they are sure to weigh the progress of the province in the past six years.

Those who engage in agriculture, one of the main sources of income in the Kurunegala district, has been going through hard times with paddy, vegetables and other crops fetching low prices.

"It is difficult to continue paddy cultivation. Last year, we could not sell our harvest because we could not get a good price," said farmer Heenmenike.

But Divisional Secretary T. G. U. Tamugala said the Treasury had allocated Rs. 10 million to improve the agriculture sector.

UNP candidate Jayawickrema Perera, too, charged that the Province had not been developed.

"The PA has not been able to have an impact on the people. The economy has failed. They have not done anything in the agriculture sector. The Government should take full responsibility for the death of the farmers," he said.

But Deputy Minister Milroy Fernando scoffed at Mr. Jaywickrema Perera's comments.

"We have done a lot in terms of development in the province. That is why we can meet villagers and ask for their vote" he said.

If agriculture is the main income generator for many in the Kurunegala district, it is fishing that keeps many occupied in the Puttalam district.

Mr. Fernando said the Government had built several fisheries villages where hundreds of fisher families had been housed.

Besides agriculture and fishing, the province lacks development in infrastructure, especially roads that link to villages.

We saw many roads being repaired. A villager told us that it happens everytime there was an election.

"Developing the roads and installing electricity to the villages are also on the cards. We have received ADB aid to develop the harbour and also to build a new harbour in Chilaw which will benefit the people," Deputy Minister Fernando said.

Boutique owner Appuhamy scoffing at the promises of politicians said: "These politicians would promise the moon and the stars but we have decided on whom to vote. it is the same story."

While the battle hots up, more than 1.4 million voters in the province seem to have taken a backseat.

The Sunday Times spoke to a cross section of people from the Province to feel their pulse.

Vegetable seller K M Kamalawathi, 55, lamented that be it the UNP or the PA, the new government had to solve the cost of living problem.

"It is difficult for us to survive. Politicians will fill their pockets but it is we who have to suffer," she said.

Unemployment is also cited as another burning issue.

Though jobs are available for those who work for politicians, the educated youth, especially those with university degrees find it difficult to get jobs.

Plans to stop the import of AIDS

By Faraza Farook

The Ministry of Health is working out a plan with a series of safety measures and awareness programmes to combat AIDS to ensure that those leaving the country for employment, don't bring the disease on their return.

A suggestion has been made that housemaids, who have been identified as a target group in combating AIDS, be tested both on their departure and return.

"Their blood is tested before they leave but their blood is not screened on their return to Sri Lanka to ensure that they are not bringing the disease with them," Health Ministry Secretary Tilak Ranaviraja said.

The workshop on AIDS held last Thursday at the SLFI was told that while there will be no compulsion for housemaids to test for HIV on their return, a plan should be formulated to encourage them to screen their blood.

With the total cost for the medical tests prior to leaving the country being Rs. 1500 or more for an individual, a refund of that money to a returnee could attract more of them to get their blood screened, Mr. Ranaviraja said.

The suggestion to test only housemaids for HIV, however, was condemned by a participant NGO at the workshop. NEST Honorary Chairperson Mrs. Sally Hulugalle protested that such a step would stigmatise the thousands of women who go to the Middle East, especially from the rural areas.

"How about doctors who leave the country for studies etc. for long periods and businessmen?" she asked.

It was also proposed that foreign sex workers visiting Sri Lanka very often as tourists should be tracked.

The workshop was a mid-term review of 30 Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) activities in conducting STD/AIDS prevention and control programmes.

The programme which is part of the five year national project by the STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP) was funded by UNDP and targeted selected groups according to an approved work plan.

The target groups include three-wheeler drivers, teachers, security forces personnel, estate sector workers and garment factory employees, students, sex workers and priests.

The programme comprised individual demonstration on using a condom, distribution of leaflets, books, condoms, lectures, slide shows and documentaries.

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