The rainbow coalition of 8 January came together yesterday in its new avatar as the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) to unveil its 60-month plan to change the socioeconomic and political landscape.
The UNFGG, which comprises dissident sections of the UPFA, the Jathika Hela Urumaya, the Tamil Progressive Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the All Ceylon Muslim Congress and several other political parties and civil society movements, pledged to usher in change within five years, with focus on five key areas.
Entitled ‘A new country in 60 months’, the UNFGG manifesto pledges that if it is elected to office on 17 August, the coalition will focus on strengthening the economy, implementing strong anti-corruption mechanisms and ensuring freedom and justice, infrastructure development and education reform.
“This is not an election manifesto. This is a development plan. It is to implement this plan that we are seeking a mandate from the people,” UNP Leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe told the gathering at the Vihara Maha Devi open air auditorium yesterday.
Wickremesinghe said the coalition would seek to govern consultatively, including by using input from civil society through a special civil society council.
The UNFGG economic policy will favour both competitive markets and social justice, the Prime Minister explained.
“To go forward, we need a competitive market economy on the one hand. On the other, we must ensure social justice. The UNFGG wants to create a social market economy, to create jobs, to raise incomes, to root out corruption and foster reconciliation,” the Prime Minister asserted.
“This is where we will begin our revolution. We will defeat the counterrevolution that is now being threatened. Let’s say goodbye to the past, and start on a new road,” Wickremesinghe urged.
In clear broadsides at former President Rajapaksa who is contesting the poll as a candidate in the Kurunegala District, the Prime Minister criticised family rule established by the previous administration.
“I have no interest in building palaces. I want to make your home, your paddy field, your business a kingdom for you. I don’t want to create royal families. I want to make your family kings,” Wickremesinghe said in a charged stump speech at the manifesto launch.
JHU General Secretary Champika Ranawaka mocked the former President for making promises about a fresh start. “To start afresh, you need new people. You need new policies. Who are his people? Namal baby is contesting, Chamal Rajapaksa is contesting, Basil Rajapaksa is running his campaign, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is involved in the campaign – so where are the new faces?” Ranawaka charged.
The JHU strongman said new policies and new people stood on their side of the political divide.
“This is where we will start afresh. The new era begins here, with this alliance,” Ranawaka said.
Also addressing the gathering, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the ‘yahapalanaya’ journey would not end until every plunderer in the previous administration was brought to justice in the courts.
“The majority of those surrounding the former President are corrupt forces. People involved in ethanol smuggling and heroin smuggling and casino mafias,” Senaratne charged.
Senaratne said that on 8 January, they had become the Government, but the state sector had been filled with Rajapaksa loyalists.
“All we had with us were the people. What the people ask us today is not whether we will reduce the cost of living – we have done that. They don’t ask us if we managed the reforms. We did that. They ask us what action we took against crooks and murderers, because they gave us the mandate for good governance,” Senaratne charged.
The Minister said that the Government was not willing to effect political witch-hunts the way the Rajapaksas did to Sarath Fonseka.
An emotional Senaratne said the people were wide awake. “Everywhere you look, there are green flags. By the town, by the village, the people have risen. We will win. Before we die, we will turn our motherland into a golden country,” he said.
Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, who was the spiritual leader and architect of the common candidacy movement that brought change in January, said it was time to shed party differences and focus on policies that would change the country.
“I’m asking the people to forget about blue blood, red blood and green blood. It’s time to band together around a common policy. Don’t put ethanol crooks and drug dealers into the new Parliament,” the monk urged.