Rajapaksa promises to reform presidency if re-elected

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, facing flak from opposition for being autocratic, on Wednesday promised to reform the powerful presidency within one year to meet people’s aspirations if re-elected for a record third term next month.

The admission by 69-year-old Rajapaksa is being seen as a response to the increasing support to his main challenger Maithripala Sirisena, 63, who is campaigning for democratic reforms and to reduce presidential powers.

“My good governance principals will be based not on neo liberalism but on the Indo-Lanka philosophy heritage based on righteous rule which has been time tested over 5000 years.”

On law and order breakdown, for which Rajapaksa has come under severe criticism, he has pledged to set up a special crime court aimed at ending the drug menace.

At the release of the manifesto, Rajapaksa said: “In 2005, I promised peace for all citizens and I delivered that within four years.

“We developed the country as we promised in 2010. The latest part will make the country a developed one.”

“At this election, people should decide if they should go back to an era of destabilised society or go forward with strength and stability,” Rajapaksa, who has been in power for the last nine years.

Rajapaksa released his manifesto after his main rival Sirisena did last week. Backed by a joint opposition and a breakaway faction of the country’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Sirisena has promised several populist measures, including a 10,000-rupee salary increase to public servants, free Internet wi-fi zones across the country and a host of agricultural subsidies apart from constitutional reforms.

Rajapaksa has called for a snap election two years ahead of the schedule.

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