The Combined Organization to Protect the Samurdhi Movement yesterday invited UNP presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesighe or parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa for an open debate to prove whether the UNP-proposed ?Siya Shakthi? or the ?Samurdhi Movement? was more suited to eliminate poverty.
General Secretary Jagath Kumara addressing a news conference said the organization support for Premier Mahinda Rajapakse, at the upcoming presidential election, was not based on politics, but that the Samurdhi Movement would be continued.
Mr. Kumara said the Samurdhi Movement was one of the better programmes in recent times set up with the aim of reducing or eliminating poverty.
He said it was the disastrous ?Regaining Sri Lanka? policy of the UNP 2002 that brought about a six-lakh reduction in samurdhi recipients. Responding to UNP parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa`s remarks that the Samurdhi was a ?paupers Movement? and that the subsidy was only Rs. 140, the organization`s president Somasiri Liyanage said this reduction came about when UNP was in office.
?During UNP regime the Treasury allocation for the Samurdhi subsidy was reduced from Rs.97 million to Rs. 53 million?, Mr. Liyanage charged.
Mr. Liyanage alleged that under the ?Siya Saviya? programme the UNP manifesto pledged a subsidy of between Rs.1,000 and Rs. 4,000 to Samurdhi recipients thus making them more dependable and ultimately driving them towards poverty.
?The UNP manifesto failed to mention any plans for improving the earning power of Samurdhi recipients?, he said. Mr. Liyanage alleged the UNP which gave no thought to low income earners had suddenly begun to speak about them at election time.
He claimed that the promises made in the UNP manifesto were only a ruse to deceive the low income group.