Moragoda’s new party spurns election campaign extravagance

Minister Milinda Moragoda’s new Sri Lanka National Congress, expected to run three candidates (including Moragoda) under the ruling UPFA banner in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, has in a letter to "fellow citizen’’ has criticized wastefull expensive election campaigns and pledged to curtail its own expenditure and spend the money saved in useful social work.

"I am sure you will agree that election campaigns have become increasingly expensive, wasteful and vulgar. Our society has so many problems to overcome. So much money is squandered on election campaigns which would be better utilized on education and healthcare for the poor,’’ Moragoda said in his letter.

`Therefore, the Sri Lanka National Congress has taken the decision to curtail our campaign expenses and to utilize the money saved for social service projects. We will be announcing these projects to you through the media throughout the election campaign.’’

The SLNC has also published its ``Agenda for influencing the government’’ and Moragoda said it was his party’s intention to pursue that policy platform as a UPFA constituent. It will regularly brief electors on the initiative undertaken to make that agenda a reality.

`` Our first commitment is to help instill a political culture which respects the citizen. You may recall that in my earlier campaigns I did not put up posters or cut-outs. I focused on holding small group discussions rather than mass campaign rallies. I did not engage in vitriolic rhetoric or character assassination, but focused on presenting ideas and policies. The Sri Lankan National Congress represents the same progressive values I have always stood for,’’ he said.

The SLNC’s agenda is as follows:

The Sri Lanka National Congress Agenda for Influencing the Government

1. A Political Culture which Respects the Citizen

* Give a voice to the ‘silent majority’

* End the politics of patronage and break the cycle of hatred and political revenge

* Transform our angry society into a compassionate one

* Work with religious leaders to create a new political culture

* Encourage civil society movements and organizations to become partners in building our nation

* Set up a social and economic council consisting of respected religious leaders and eminent members of civil society to develop and implement a strategy for a national reconciliation and consensus-building process

* Unite people not divide communities

* Conduct campaigns that do not offend and repel citizens

* Present policies not promises

* Engage in debates not brawls

* Build a culture of decency in politics

* Bring about much needed electoral reforms

* Introduce campaign finance laws

2. Pura Neguma & Sahana Sevana - One Ward, One Project

* Initiatives should entail a citizen-led process where everyone has a voice

* Create a clean, environmentally-friendly metropolis

* Create partnerships between civil society, the public and private sectors, and the international community

* Present a vision and be a voice for Metropolitan and Greater Colombo

* Create and empower residents’ associations

* Put in place a concrete development plan for the city and suburbs - first phase: 48 community projects for the urban poor

* Implement a concerted programme to address challenges faced by condominium and apartment dwellers

* Fight crime, drugs and alcoholism

* Under Sahana Sevana, establish a fully equipped gramasevaka office for each ward in the city

* Set up children’s playgrounds, community centres, and sanitation facilities

* Energize our urban youth through the promotion of football

3. Fighting Corruption through Transparency

* Bring about early adoption and implementation of Freedom of Information legislation

* Create space and encourage civil society to actively participate in the "right to know" process with adequate safeguards for national security and legitimate privacy concerns

* Strengthen and streamline existing criminal justice processes and institutions, rather than creating new political gimmicks to fight corruption

* Use information and communication technology as catalysts for transparency and streamlining of government processes

4. Towards a Just Society

* Build a justice system which works for the citizen, not for vested interests

* Foster a society which protects the rights of citizens who in turn recognize their obligations to society

* Make the law work for everyone so that there is respect rather than fear of the law

* Overhaul the administration of justice system through legislation if necessary to speed up the delivery of justice

* Ensure that law enforcement and prosecution work and that criminals are brought to justice

* Place a special emphasis on addressing the problems of child abuse and sexual harassment

* Encourage implementation of laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment

* Rehabilitation programmes for substance abuse and alcoholism

* Develop a new generation of lawyers and jurists who can meet the challenges of the 21st century

* Legislate the Victims and Witness Protection Bill

* Bring into effect a new Equal Opportunities bill with necessary safeguards

5. A Revolution in Education

* Good citizenship should begin from the family, place of religious worship and the school

* Empower parents and communities to determine educational priorities and supervise schools

* Foster the setting up of non-profit community schools linked to our major religions

* Consult religious leaders and encourage them to set up non-profit institutions for higher education in keeping with guidelines and standards

* Reintroduce government and civics into schools to ensure that our future citizens understand and practice their rights and responsibilities

* Support public-private partnerships for demand-driven training in Information Technology, English and vocational skills

* Set up a special programme to retrain our war veterans and war widows to work in the private sector

6. Prosperity for all through Economic Growth

* Aim to make our economy grow at between 8-10% per annum – to make a concrete impact on our unemployment and income level

* Make our economy more competitive internationally

* Build self-confidence so that we can be open to the world and strong enough to safeguard our identity

* See India as an opportunity not a threat and engage to create Sri Lankan jobs

* Enter into a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)

* Facilitate public and private sectors to work together in a win-win partnership

* Rationalize archaic rules and regulations and bureaucratic red tape that obstruct and hinder progress and economic development

* Place a special focus on small and medium enterprises

* Diversify our economy to include technology-driven industries as well as value-added agriculture and ocean resources

* Seek to make Sri Lanka an international economic hub and gateway region

7. Correcting the Gender Imbalance

* End discriminatory laws against women

* Ensure that 25% of the representatives in all elected bodies (local and national) are women and to set a fixed timeline for this purpose

* Set up the post of Ombudswoman to address women’s issues

8. Sri Lankans abroad

* All Sri Lankan citizens abroad to be given the opportunity to vote at national elections

9. Sri Lanka belongs to all of us: Diversity is our Strength

* Establish a credible reconciliation and healing process for the post-conflict phase

* An effective and speedy reconstruction, transitional justice and rehabilitation process which enjoys the confidence of all communities and stakeholders

* Create a society in which all religious and ethnic groups can coexist in peace and dignity, with mutual respect for each other’s identities

* Ensure that the Tamil speaking community can conduct their day-to-day affairs in the Tamil language

* Identify and remove obstacles to the Tamil and Muslim communities to engage in their religious and educational activities

* A special Ombudsman to address grievances related to discrimination

10. Empowerment through Devolution

* A credible devolution framework that meets the aspirations and addresses the grievances of all communities particularly those living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

* Empower and provide adequate resources to local government bodies so that they can address community needs

* Empower citizens’ groups at community level.

11. Senior Citizens

* Establish a comprehensive network of Senior Citizens societies with the intention of empowering this important and growing segment of our society

12. The Venerable Maha Sangha

* In consultation with the Venerable Mahanayake Theros, establish the necessary legal framework that would enable them to develop the rules governing the discipline, misconduct and misdemeanours of bhikkhus, and the procedure to resolve disputes pertaining to vinaya rules, and the incumbency of siddasthana property

* As an extension of the Sahana Sevana and Vishwa Gnana programmes which built Gramasevaka offices and ICT kiosks in temples, create a new initiative to empower and link Buddhist temples to local communities.

* Developing Sri Lanka as an international centre for Buddhism in the 21st century and creating a Dhamma Dutta programme to take the Dhamma to the world.

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