Presidential Candidate for the People’s National Movement (PNM) and former Army Commander Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Mahesh Senanayake yesterday rejected allegations levelled against him by activist Nagananda Kodituwakku and said that the was dedicated to creating an alternative political culture. Senanayaka told reporters that he had not influenced any one to nominate him and that it was a collective decision. However, he claimed that he was not fully aware of allegations made against him. Nevertheless, Senanayaka said he respected Nagananda’s policies.
The former Army Commander said that the policy statement of the NPM and civil society collective he represented will be released next week. Foremost among the policies is to do away with grouping citizens based on their ethnicity or religion, Senanayake explained. “Our policy is to treat all the people as Sri Lankans and to have one law for them all,” he said pointing out that such a policy approach was essential to bring about change to a ‘divisive, corrupt and inefficient political culture’. The NPM will contest the upcoming elections under the light bulb symbol.
NPM leader and former Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe said that the civil movement’s policy was to restrict loan-taking by the Government in the future. He argued that Sri Lanka was in a debt crisis and said that under NPM’s policies some of the current loans will have to be renegotiated.
Wijesinghe pointed out that revenue raising institutions such as the Customs, Inland Revenue Department and the Excise Departments need to be streamlined, better equipped and enabled with improved facilities to increase Government income. Wijesinghe was confident that with better debt management, revenue and a focus on reducing corruption and waste, a future NPM-led Government can balance the budget.
Responding to a query on the 13th Amendment and devolution of power, Senanayake said that there was a need for a broad public dialogue on the issue and that the intelligentsia needed to be consulted prior to any decision been taken. He called for greater empowerment of the people, especially in policy-making.
He further stated that if elected as President, he will work with the Government until a new government is appointed by vote or after General Elections next year. The former commander acknowledged that national security was the top priority and said he was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the national security architecture, especially in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday Bombings. He also pointed out that for national security to be secure economic security, food security and human security needs to be addressed.
Senanayake claimed that the policy framework to be launched next week will include a revolution in the education sector, with a focus on harnessing human resource to promote entrepreneurship, develop skilled labour and boost the services sector.
Responding to a question who funds NPM’s activities and the candidacy Gen. (Rtd.) Senanayake stated that the movement was funded by the members and public.