The presidential election campaign of the two main candidates -- President Mahinda Rajapaksa and opposition’s common candidate Sarath Fonseka -- will enter a decisive phase next week with both parties set to unveil their election policy statements that will prominently figure at discussions in the coming weeks.
General (retired) Fonseka will announce his manifesto on January 7 while the President’s policy statement which is being touted as Mahinda Chinthana – 2 will also be presented in the coming days though no date has been announced.
|President Rajapaksa being mobbed by private bus owners at a function at Temple Trees
Opposition sources say that while abolition of the executive presidency will be a priority item in the manifesto, it will also pledge to fully implement the 17th Amendment. This will include the reactivation of the Constitutional Council and the setting up of the independent police, public service, election and judicial commissions.
They say the manifesto will also give a pledge to lift the state of emergency and focus on curbing waste and corruption with an undertaking to reduce the number of ministers in the Cabinet. There will also be a reference to development work but it will not outline any major projects.
President Rajapaksa’s policy statement, on the other hand, will lay emphasis on development activities while holding out promises to employees in the state sector. It seeks to strengthen the public sector, address unemployment and bring reforms to the health and education sectors, government sources say.
They say there will also be special emphasis on the agriculture sector with more benefits to farmers and more markets for local produce.
|Public rallies by the two chief candidates
President Mahinda Rajapaksa
January 3: Ruwanwella
January 4: Chilaw
January 6: Embilipitiya
January 7: Monaragala
Opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka
January 4: Kegalle
January 5: Batticaloa, Ampara
January 6: Muttur, Trincomalee
January 7: Chilaw, Divulapitiya, Nittambuwa
The two candidates will also address several public rallies in different parts of the country next week with Gen. Fonseka making his maiden appearance as a politician in Jaffna. The President will address rallies in several areas including Embilipitiya and Moneragala.
Gen. Fonseka’s campaign got a major boost this week when two front line members the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) -- R. Yogarajan and M. Sacithanandan who was the Deputy Minister of Education -- extended their support to him after joining the UNP. Mr. Yogarajan said he was confident that Gen. Fonseka would get 80 percent of the estate vote.
It is too early to say if the sudden demise of Minister and Up-Country People’s Front (UPF) leader P. Chandrasekeran, who had extended his support to the President, will bring about a change in the stance of the party. Meanwhile the Fonseka camp is also putting together a group of artistes who will campaign on his behalf and counter the artiste-led campaign of President Rajapaksa. Their first meeting is scheduled for January 8.