1/15/2010

The most important speech delivered by Sri Lanka opposition presidential candidate



(January 14, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The most politically important speech made by Sri Lanka's opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka in his campaign is the speech he delivered to the business community. As a candidate vying for a better capitalist governance, he expllains his positions clearly to the capitalist class of Sri Lanka. The full text of the speech is as follows:

Dear Friends, I come before you today, not as a politician with years of experience, but as someone with a lifelong commitment to safeguarding the country. It was this commitment that saw me leading the security forces to a decisive military victory over the LTTE, which many said was not possible.

Of course the victory would not have been possible without the commitment of the three forces, the police and the civil defence force, many of who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

The victory we secured for all Sri Lankans was not an end in itself. It was the decisive beginning towards restoring peace that would enable us to re-build the country and put it firmly on the path to economic recovery and development. We owed this to the general public who gave us the moral support and patiently endured many economic hardships. We owed this to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives and those who suffered permanent disabilities. We even owed the international community that supported the war against terrorism.

Sadly, this hasn’t happened.

Corruption and Mismanagement
Nearly eight months after victory was declared, the incumbent regime is continuing to glorify the military triumph as a personal achievement at the expense of the follow-up needs - that of reconciliation, peace building, infrastructure development and economic resuscitation. It has effectively managed to place the nation in a time warp of victory euphoria, disguising the rampant corruption and one family rule, while sidelining the urgent need for progress on numerous fronts, the least of which is good governance that ensures transparency and accountability.

The nation’s wealth is being squandered on self- perpetuating projects that are both wasteful and meaningless. Billions have been lost due to corruption, nepotism, mismanagement and waste. Public funds are being used to sustain and nurture a single family. The goodwill of the international community has been destroyed, so much so the US and the European Union have become our harshest critics. The economy is in ruins and we are on the verge of losing the GSP+ trade concessions that are of immense benefit to our export sector and the hundreds of thousands employed in the apparel, ceramics and many other sectors.

Under the guise of security, our citizens are increasingly being denied their democratic freedoms. Dissent has been suppressed, sometimes violently, with the independent media and its journalists coming under frequent threats and attack. A significant segment of the Tamil population from the north continues to languish in IDP shelter and in transit camps with uncertain futures. The rule of law has morphed into the rule of political might, depriving the common man the right to equal justice. Even powerful groups such as the formal business sector, professional bodies, academics, the judiciary and those maintaining law and order have not been spared
The nation is gradually drifting towards a dictatorship, with fear replacing freedom and discontent replacing hope.

My Vision
Was this the post war developments we envisaged? Certainly not. This is why I consented to contest the Presidential Election as the common candidate of the opposition. Sri Lanka at this juncture needs a leader, who is disciplined, committed, honest, forthright and not afraid to make tough decisions. Just as my decisions of the past, my decision of the future will always be in the interest of the nation. I have delivered on my promise to rid the country of terrorism. Now I promise to restore democracy and good governance, eliminating corruption, waste and all other evils that have blighted the promising prospects secured with our hard fought victory over terrorism.

I have a vision of a free Sri Lankan, where decent and functional democracy prevails and the rights of all citizens are upheld. A Sri Lanka free of discrimination and with equal opportunity for all. A Sri Lanka not weighed down by the tyranny of an Executive Presidency, but where the best men and women run for Parliament and those elected have the highest standards of ethics. A Sri Lanka where every family enjoys three square meals a day and every Sri Lankan is ensured access to a safe health service, quality education and gainful employment.

Believable Change
To do this, Sri Lanka needs change, believable change.

As a man who keeps his promises, I have pledged that my first act upon assuming office will be to reactivate the 17th Amendment to the Constitution by appointing the Constitutional Council for the re-establishment of the Independent Commissions. I will then dismantle the jumbo cabinet and invite all parties representing Parliament to nominate members to a caretaker cabinet. I will then dissolve Parliament. Within a month cabinet papers will be presented for the approval of a Constitution Amendment Bill to abolish the Executive Presidency and take necessary step to ensure that the most free and fair elections in Sri Lanka is held.

Within three weeks my multi-party Caretaker Cabinet will bring new regulations to combat fraud and corruption in conformity with the UN Convention against Corruption. A powerful agency to combat fraud and corruption will be established along with an independent commission to audit all public finances. I will also ask the new Parliament to pass Parliamentary Code on Ethics, similar to that of developed democracies and appoint an independent Parliamentary Ethics Commission to uphold Parliamentary ethics on finances.

Fiscal Responsibility
These mechanisms will ensure that government acts in a fiscally responsible manner and cuts waste and losses due to corruption. Prof Indraratne; the President of the Sri Lanka Economic Association has estimated that corruption in government causes a loss of 9 % of GDP. This is a staggering Rs 400 billion a year at present. In addition the wasteful government expenditure including expenditure incurred by 108 ministers is phenomenal. Elimination of corruption and waste will help the immediate reduction of heavy and unwarranted taxes and help bring the budget deficit to a manageable level, leading to freeing up of resources for the private sector, lower interest rates and sustained lower inflation.

Economic Growth
The time has come for Sri Lanka to unleash its true potential and boost economic growth. We need to have an economy where the private sector and the public sector work in partnership to serve the people in a corruption-free environment.

We must ensure there is the right amount of regulations and the rights and obligations of workers as well as employers are protected.

We also need to learn from the economic policies of our previous governments, so future mistakes are avoided. We must undertake necessary reforms and adopt pragmatic approaches.

We need to create wealth in Sri Lanka by encouraging not only big business but equally importantly village level entrepreneurship. We need to ensure the distribution of this new wealth equitably to all people, not just for a selected few.

The Ease of Doing Business ranking for Sri Lanka has dropped from 97 to 105 from 2009 to 2010. Under my watch, I will ensure Sri Lanka is brought to the top 50 by streamlining and simplifying the process of starting a business, making tax payment, obtaining construction permits, registering property, obtain credit and carrying out cross border trading. I assure you that the current kappam regime will be demolished. We will also look into impediments to accessing finance, especially leasing, for the Small and Medium Enterprise sector, which has become very expensive because of wrong tax policies.

The streamlining process will also see the reintroduction of the one-stop-shop concept that was practiced by the BOI in the old days, to help improve investor facilitation. Today, the BOI only gives licences and the investor has to deal with various government departments to get other approvals. The National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) which was set up mainly to assist Small and Medium Enterprise has proved to be ineffective. Both the BOI and NEDA have to be refocused on business facilitation throughout the country, with special provisions for the development of North and East.

Another area we will focus on is the construction industry, which at present has no work as most government projects are carried out by foreign contractors including labour at very high cost. Foreign contractors must be made to subcontract a part of their work to local contractors.

I will also urgently address the problems faced by the tourist industry to make sure the infrastructure is ready to receive the expected large inflow of tourists.

Better Salaries
I have pledged to increase the salaries of the public sector employees. As I have explained, this can be done by eliminating waste, mismanagement and ridding the country of corruption that continues to gobble up billions of rupees in state revenue. By negotiating with the private sector stakeholders and by assisting in eliminating unwarranted taxes and payments that increase the cost of doing business as well as by having a realistic exchange rate, low interest rates and low inflation I hope the salaries of private sector employees can be increased. By adjusting the income tax threshold I hope to help these employees take home more of their hard earned salaries.

I will also take steps to correct the tax anomalies that see the private sector retirement benefits being taxed 3 times; employees contribute to the EPF from their after tax salaries (only Rs 25,000 per year is allowed as qualifying payment); the fund itself pays tax; the benefits are again taxed when the employee receives it. This creates hardship to the retirees and needs to be set right.

Employment opportunities for the Youth
Youth unemployment is an area that needs to be addressed urgently. Accordingly, within three months, I will take steps to initiate a ‘Youth Challenge Programme’ which will provide vocational training for young people between the ages of 17 and 25 and will establish a ‘Youth at Work Programme’ under which the government and the private sector will find jobs for youth who complete the youth challenge programme.

GSP +
I have stated time and again that this government is pilfering a golden opportunity to reap the economic benefits of defeating the LTTE. However it bears repeating, because today, when we have a unique opportunity to put our country on the right path, the prospect is being wasted because of the government’s arrogance and political expedience. This fact is nowhere better illustrated than by the foolhardy manner in which the GSP+ issue is being mishandled. The President, Ministers and even the Governor of the Central Bank have gone on record stating that the European Union need not bother granting the GSP+ trade concessions to Sri Lanka.

The government’s sole purpose is to portray the GSP+ issue as an international conspiracy, to stoke up anti-west fervour and hoodwink the people into believing the west is all out to undermine the country’s economic progress. Playing politics with the lives of the innocent people has now become a pastime for those who put us in this dismal situation in the first place.

The GSP+ concessions were not a gift granted to the Rajapaksa administration. It was the result of hard work done by previous administrations and our Foreign Service, which ensured Sri Lanka was among the 15 countries the EU saw fit for the trade concessions, based on adherence to certain accepted standards of democracy. The benefits of these concessions are now obvious. Today the EU has overtaken the United States as Sri Lanka’s main export market for garments.

These trade concessions are not applicable purely to the apparel sector. Thousands of other products also benefit from it. The fact that Sri Lanka is a GSP + recipient nation has attracted the attention of many investors, who see our country as a gateway to the European Market. Furthermore, the potential of utilising the concessions to promote other products remain enormous, while it also give the apparel industry the additional fillip - to explore new and better options for market penetration in Europe.

Yet all this is now at risk due to the actions of a few. The EU is now threatening to discontinue the GSP + citing our poor human rights record.

I am not willing to gamble with the lives of the people of my country, especially the poorer segments who should not be punished for the grave mistakes of power hungry politicians. Given the opportunity, I promise I will make a determined effort to safeguard the GSP+ concessions, because losing it would mean wide scale livelihood loss for hundreds of thousands of Sri Lanka and a marked step backward for the apparel industry as a whole.

I am confident that with the return of good governance, democracy and due process to Sri Lanka, we will be in a position to obtain these concessions for a longer period. The lives of 800,000 people directly depend on this.

Political Partnership
Many political parties, forces, organisations and individuals have gathered around me in the hope that we can usher a better tomorrow for our country. The political parties that invited me to run for President reflect the great diversity among us. This is our strength. You may wonder how the JVP which professes a socialist, welfare oriented economy can be in the same league as the UNP which is known for its open economic policies. This is a valid question. I would like to ask a question which I initially asked myself. Why are such politically, ideologically and communally diverse parties rallying behind one candidate at this point?

The answer is a testament of our current predicament. All those who are now rallying behind me believe that there should be a country left for us to have ideologies and differences in opinion. It is no longer a matter about open or closed economy. It is now a matter of preserving democracy, re-establishing law and order and delivering on a functional state. After the Presidential elections the JVP and the UNP will go before the people and present their respective cases on their own if they wish to do so. Yet at this moment we are united in the cause to save our mother land. For, that necessity far outweighs any other difference we may have. It is in this spirit that so many others have thronged around us.

Conclusion
It is this spirit that will pave the way for a realistic and believable change on January 26, when the country votes for a new era of unity, vibrant democracy and development that will provide an equal opportunity for every Sri Lankan to enjoy the benefits of an economically strong and free country.



12 comments:

  1. well, well, we believe your believable change Sir, but don't forget that one of the main pillars behind you hasn't had exemplary history interms of corruption and transparency

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  2. we are with you generlyou are an honest man

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  3. You havey given a fairy tale account of what atheoritical posibility for any presidential candidate. However you donot have a good track record for people to believe in what you say is what you will do but far from the truth. Your track record shows that you are not to be trusted and you are a danger to SriLanka and in my view you will take the country to disaster and unrest. Prove that you are clean by answering the questions put forward by various UPFA parliamentarians. Come clean before you suggest you will clean SriLanka.

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  4. This is not a fairly tale! It can be done if you are honest, determined and if you the integrity. Mahinda is all for personal glory and for his family! Now he is shedding crocodile tears and promises to stop corruption! In this case he has first to start from Temple Trees! MR tried to woo TNA with lots of promises! Now MR accuses SF of a secret fact with TNA! Anybody who support MR approves corruption, nepotism, and waste! We can do better as a country-- for that we need change and steel determination of SF Go General go! We are behind you!!!

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  5. President Rajapakse did not agree any thing to TNA, thus TNA supports the General.

    Why didn't president talk to TNA? It's because he thinks TNA do not represent tamils.

    What has TNA archived?

    President did not talk of any political solution since, he well knows his opposition will use it against him. As to over come this he wanted to wait to win his second term before initiating the reconcile process.

    The current situation has forced him to revel some of them. Jaffna as IT hub & English medium city.

    Don't the tamils want this? my best bet is, that is some thing they love to have it upon them. This kind of long term projects are already in the mind of President.

    President is the right person to solve Tamils problem. We tamils should give him a chance to prove it in an sans LTTE scenario.

    as to the general, he told already what he thinks of minorities in Sri Lanka. "They can exist but do not demand anything"

    Any one of you arguing that the president is evil? Still I say your best bet the President Mahinda as a know evil is better than unknown God.

    nSathees

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  6. Very well done General,I hope Sri Lankan people vote with intelligences not with feelings.We need some one like SF not a typical mamma pappa politics.

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  7. PIE IN THE SKY by a NAZI SIN-HELLa terrorist Sarth Fonseka blamed for GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS and WAR CRIMIES against Minorites.
    Chnadrika -CBK- said more than this terrorist and becoem COLD BLOODED Killer for Tamils by even preventing BABY food to Tamil babies,
    After all, he declared several times that SRILANKA BELONG TO ONLY SINHALESE and never ever withdrawn or aopolgise for SIN-HELLa NAZI statements.
    He is contesting elections to GET IMMUNITY from WAR CRIMES trials. THATS ALL,
    NO SIN-HELLa TERRORISM NO NEED OF LTTE.
    THE CAUSE OF LTTE IS THE SINHELLA RACISTS LIKE NAZI SARATH FONSEKA

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  8. http://www.lankatruth.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4297:tharunyata-hetak-exposed--namal-meets-emil-kanth-in-london-&catid=34:lead-news&Itemid=50

    MR is the biggest crook in Sri Lanka.

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  9. Hello...... forgotten something? He is in the to contest take a revenge and he never wanted to become a politician before. He just appeared because losers using him. Why don't you keep your respect as a hero commander and enjoy the retirement. If anyone think that it is simple to govern a country in front of all pressures including foriegn powers, goodluck for civilians and the country. Is that a true talk anyway, I am sure that this must have written by someone else. Once he realizes the responsibility of this speach, he would do the same like before saying "It is not me". What a joke... who he is with.. will they let him to dance on his own like this... Understand. If SF is up by him self, that is a different story. At this point SF is not in the trusted boat and be sorry for a huge mistake if you cast SF.

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  10. Dear Sir,
    How can you say you are going to achieve good fiscal management.. the first thing you have promised is completly the opposite.. increasing salaries by Rs 10k for govt employees is irresponsible fisal policy .. you clearly demonstrate that you will do anything for cheap popularity. May be you are not telling something there.. are you going to give the payrise in stages over 10 years period..

    GSP+ is a concession.. and you are prepare to satisfy the EU just to get that. the correct way is to strengthen the local industry to compete wihout that concession in the open market an increase the competitiveness.. then you will gain much more ..

    So how can you say you or people behind you have any understanding about fiscal management..

    You should have retired gracefully and kept your respected profile intact..

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  11. Well Done General, Your plan to develop the north and the east is well received by the educated communities of the world. This is the only way we can get rid of future terrorism. Remember 1976 JVP? all due to unemployment, So if people want to play politics that's a different game. Your victory is guaranteed 100%

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  12. fOOLS CA NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT GENERAL fONSEKA IS SPEAKING THEY GET HOD OF A PETTY SLANDER THROWN OUT BY GOVERNMENT AND MAKING COMMENTS.IT IS A VICTORY FOR THE PEOPPLE THAT GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN FORCED TO REITERATE THAT THEY BRING AN ACT TO STOP CORRUPTION SHICH THEY HAVE FAILED TO DO DURING 6 YEARS OF THEIR POOR ADMINISTRATION

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