The UNP`s hastily drawn up Presidential election manifesto was only a piece of paper containing a policy framework rejected by the people 11 times out of 12. But more importantly, it left out the main thrust of the Regaining Sri Lanka programme`s privatization of national ventures and assets, Minister Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday (29).
Addressing a media conference, as the Chief Coordinator of the Premier Mahinda Rajapakse`s election campaign, Samaraweera pointed out that the price reductions promised by Ranil Wickremesinghe in his manifesto, were away from reality as these were already available for lower prices in the country`s retail market. He said 500 grams of dhal was available for 32.50 to 34 rupees, while 400 grams of Highland milk powder was available for 115 rupees while another brand of freely available milk powder was 138 rupees. Sprats were also available at 70 rupees per 500 grams and Ranil Wickremesinghe who had probably never tasted any sprats in his life is promising the people only to increase it by 20 rupees,
The UNP manifesto, released a few days back, had shamelessly borrowed a slogan Mahinda Rajapakse used when he was the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training `Jeevithayata Hekiyawak, Hekiyawata Rekiyawak` (skills for a livelihood and employment for the skilled) as the UNP has become so bankrupt under Ranil Wickremesinghe that it has run short of ideas and slogans of its own.
He said Wickremesinghe was also promising farmers the fertilizer subsidy when during the short period of two years of his premiership, from 2001, he abolished the fertilizer subsidy. `Now he also promises to waive agricultural loans of the farmers but he has nothing left to waive or nothing to subsidize as the present government has already waived the agricultural loans and has given the fertilizer subsidy to farmers`.
Samaraweera said the people of the country would demand to know how Wickremesinghe would disband the child soldier brigades and free the children forcibly conscripted by the LTTE, when he had not even mentioned that the LTTE was forcibly taking children away from their parents. `It was no wonder that he could not name the LTTE in his manifesto but from whom he is going to free these children?`
He said Ranil Wickremesinghe is the only political leader who had been defeated 11 times out of 12 and at the coming Presidential Election and he is going to create a world record when he is defeated for the twelfth time. `His manifesto at the last moment had a slip of paper pasted on it about protecting children. This was probably an afterthought, as it was not Wickremesinghe who created the Child Protection Authority but the PA government of Chandrika Kumaratunga, who as a mother had the conviction that children have to be protected, he said.