Presidential Promises: The Delivered and the Unfulfilled
On January 8, 2015, Sri Lanka voted President Maithripala Sirisena into power. When he first announced his Common Candidacy towards the end of 2014, Sirisena’s campaign promised an end to some of the public’s biggest concerns with the previous regime. Popularly dubbed the ‘100 Day Plan’, this manifesto inspired a majority of people, regardless of class, religion and ethnicity, into electing him as the executive leader of Sri Lanka.
Today marks the first anniversary of President Sirisena’s revolutionary nomination to power. We at Roar decided to take a step back and look at the promises kept, those still underway, and the promises President Sirisena is yet to deliver.
First off, we’ll take a look at…
The Promises Delivered (And To What Extent)
- Among President Sirisena’s pledges was to appoint a Cabinet of no more than 25 members. This cabinet would include members of all parties represented in Parliament, with head of the United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet of the interim government was supposed to be appointed on January 11, 2015.
When it came to the implementation, the plan was delayed and went off the track when 27 members were appointed to the Cabinet on January 12, 2015: two additional members, and one day late. This seemed harmless enough at the time; afterwards, however, on January 21 and March 22 to be precise, another 11 members were included into the Cabinet. Additionally, not all political parties represented in the Parliament were included in the Cabinet.
Following the General Election held August 17, 2015, and with the initiation of the National Government, the number of Cabinet ministers was increased to 47 – including the President and the Prime Minister. This Cabinet included members from the UNP, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, United People’s Freedom Alliance, and Jathika Hela Urumaya.
Unfortunately, what first looked like a solemn attempt to fulfill a promise, took a detour after the Parliamentary elections.
- The National Advisory Council was to be formed on January 12, 2015.
A National Executive Council was instead set up on January 15, 2015. The Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero was appointed Convener of the council. Although the Council was set up to ‘strengthen democracy’, there was speculation as to what would come out of it. In May last year, the JVP announced that they would no longer participate in the Council.
- Salaries of the private and the state sectors were increased as promised through the interim government budget in January, and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s November budget for 2016.
- Commissions to investigate corruption established.
Special Commissions such as the The Committee Against Corruption (CAC) and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) were appointed.
- The National Drugs Policy was tabled and approved.
Alongside the National Drugs Policy, the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board also got a reboot under the new administration.
- Eight independent Commissions appointed.
The eight include the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, the Public Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the National Police Commission, the Elections Commission, the Delimitation Commission and Finance Commission. The commissions were appointed last November.
And the Unfulfilled (Or Dare We Say, the Forgotten)
- The abolishing of the executive presidency, which was initially supposed to commence January 21, 2015, is yet to be fulfilled.
President Sirisena and the interim government were successful in repealing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and introducing the 19th Amendment. While this Amendment to the Constitution reduced several powers held by the executive president and granted them to parliament, the full extent of the powers is yet to be expunged.
Following the demise of the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero on November 8, 2015, the President renewed his pledge to abolish the executive presidency out of respect to the Venerable Thero’s work.
- A Code of Conduct for all politicians and public representatives was promised to be brought into action on January 22, 2015.
Although the proposed Code of Conduct was to be introduced for observation by all representatives of the people, no such code of conduct has been published yet.
- Ethical Code of Conduct that was supposed to be introduced on February 2, 2015 is yet to be published.
- Nepotism begone (?)
Despite pledges made during the presidential campaign, President Sirisena has himself been accused of nepotism since becoming president. A few days after President Sirisena took power, his brother Kumarasinghe Sirisena was appointed chairman of the state-owned Sri Lanka Telecom.
President Sirisena’s son-in-law Thilina Suranjith was appointed public relations officer at the Ministry of Defence in February 2015. Sirisena himself is Minister of Defence.
In September 2015, President Sirisena’s son Daham accompanied his father as he visited New York for the Seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Despite having no official role, Daham sat with the Sri Lankan delegation in the United Nations General Assembly and accompanied his father as he met world leaders such as Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, and President of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga.
Sirisena’s daughter Chathurika, who also has no official role, has been the guest of honour/chief guest at several Ministry of Defence events.
All in all, President Sirisena’s 100 Day Plan had 25 promises and pledges that were introduced during his campaign as the Common Candidate. However, only 10 out of those 25 promises have been fulfilled, according to 100days.lk.
In conclusion, President Sirisena still has a long way to go. Yahapaalanaya is often doing the rounds on media – both social and otherwise (and not just when Enrique comes to town…) – but one year down the line, things haven’t changed as much as we may have hoped.
It has been just one year in office for President Sirisena, however, so he still has time to fulfil the promises that helped bring him to power. As citizens and media, it is up to us to remain vigilant to ensure the wrongs of the previous governments aren’t repeated.
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