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Those that fell by the wayside

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President Mithripala Sirisena President Mithripala Sirisena (Pic by Ravindra Dharmathilake)

Hundred tasks for hundred days

Then Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena arrived in New Town Hall, Colombo flanked by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranathunga, MPs Rajiva Wijesinha, Arjuna Ranathunga, MDKS Gunawardene and Duminda Dissanayake on December pledged that he is ready to take the challenge of being the common candidate of the Opposition at the Presidential Election against then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The campaign began and main highlight was the ‘Good Governance. The topic includes a lot such as curtailing the powers of the executive presidential system. He also had a novel concept for the new regime which was that it had been drafted for 100 days (literally for 103 days). They had a calendar for 103 days and also presented 100 tasks to perform during that period.

The common candidate was supported by diverse stakeholders such as Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera’s National Movement for Social Justice, Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera’s ‘Pivithuru Hetak’, and a number of political parties such as Jathika Hela Urumaya, former Army Commander Field Martial Sarath Fonseka’s (designation given later) Democratic Party as well as JVP, TNA and SLMC. Most believed that the pledges and policies presented by him ‘a combination of all these individuals, organizations and parties. However, the ‘100 Day Program’ has been drafted by a professor who worked very closely with the present Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during last one and half decades.

The office which has been assigned to monitor the implementation of ‘100 Day Program’ in a statement last Wednesday announced that 85 percent of the proposals embodied in the have been fulfilled and the balance 15 percent of proposals are now in the implementation stage and nearing the completion.

Among the proposals already implemented are the salary increase for public servants, Rs 3,500 allowance to pensioners, increasing Samurdhi Allowance by 200 percent, reduction of prices of 16 essential items including fuel and gas, enhancing the Mahapola scholarship to Rs 5,000 and granting of a nutrition package to expectant mothers. The other proposals already implemented, according to the statement are the increase of interest paid on deposits made by senior citizens in state banks to 15 percent for the first Rs 1 million, Rs 50 guaranteed price per kilo for paddy, Rs 80 guaranteed price per kilo of green leaf, Rs 350 floating price for rubber and writing off 50 percent of all farmer loans, launching a special family security scheme for Sri Lankans employed abroad, writing off interest payments and fines on mortgaged gold jewellery and other items to the value of Rs 200,000, creation of free Wi-Fi zones for the benefit of youth, simplified loan scheme for small and medium scale industrialists, increasing the free health vote from 1.8 percent to 3 percent of the budget, provision of essential drugs to state hospitals to prevent any shortage and keeping open OPDs in state hospitals till 10 pm daily.

Apart from this, steps have been taken to eliminate heroin, ganja, tube and other hard drugs, setting up of a special task force to apprehend drug dealers, increasing the health warning pictorial advertisement to 80 percent of the pack of cigarettes, making the teaching of religion in all schools mandatory and appointing an all religious committee to monitor the scheme, exempting war heroes from engaging in menial duties below their dignity like sweeping roads and cutting and cleaning drains, disontinuing the practice of using a large number of back up vehicles to escort Ministers and MPs inconveniencing other road users, establishing civil administration in the North and South, implementing a program to provide shelter to needy people without houses of their own, establishing a diplomatic service free of politicization, enhancing the protection of state reservations and important environmental zones, resurrection and protection of damaged environmental zones, implementing the National Fauna and Flora protection to the letter, and making environmental assessment reports mandatory for the implementation of development programs.

The government also announced that the following are nearing completion and full benefits will reach the general public soon. Ensuring a consolidated salary scale for public servants and paying increased salaries with arrears, provisions of high quality fertilizer to farmers and tea estate owners, adding another 2.5 percent to interest paid for NRFC accounts, family care program for Sri Lankans employed in the Middle East, formulation of legislation to prevent child and women abuse, a special family protection scheme for women widowed due to the conflict, setting apart Rs 250 million for activities of the Youth Parliament in 2015, expediting surgical operations on patients in waiting lists in state hospitals, banning the import of chemical fertilizer causing kidney disease, taking short term and long term measures to prevent the incidence of kidney disease, introducing a consolidated health service for the people through co-ordination of western, oriental and indigenous medicine schemes, cancellation of permits granted to casinos, curtailing the ethanol racket, freeing universities of politicization by granting full autonomy and powers to universities through the UGC, facilities to study up to diploma or degree level to all students passing three subjects at the GCE Advanced Level Examination, ensuring school admission to all children before the start of each academic year, implementing a transparent scheme of school admissions and providing relief to children who have been subjected to injustice and state supervision of all international schools.

The statement also went on to say that the below proposals are in the implementation stage and will reach their expected results soon. Abolition of excessive tax on fishing boats, nets and fishing gear, preventing poaching by foreign fishing vessels on Sri Lanka’s maritime zone, regaining the European market for Sri Lanka’s fish exports, implementing an efficient weather observation program to provide early warning to Sri Lankan fishermen on high seas about inclement weather conditions, rehabilitation of the damaged irrigation system, dredging reservoirs filled with silt, correcting injustices caused to police personnel and ensuring seniority of personnel in service, redeeming plantation workers of the line room culture and provision of ownership of decent homes for them, opening estate schools to enable children of plantation workers to study science subjects in Tamil up to GCE Advanced Level.

The government also highlighted that the provision of relief to people forcibly evicted from their homes or lands, valuation of properties of people forcibly evicted from the city and reduction of the value of such properties from the housing loan paid by them. Preventing the making of statements leading to communal, religious or social discord, provision of security to all places of religious worship, setting up regional and national boards of leaders of clergy for religious amity, a scheme to conserve and protect archaeological sites, removal of taverns and bars from the vicinity of the Sri Dalada Maligawa and prohibition of car races in and around the Sri Dalada Maligawa sacred areas, amending the Vihara and Dewalagam Act on the advice of the Mahanayaka Theras, training of teachers to improve Pirivena education, setting up an International Buddhist University, creation of a conducive environment for organisations working towards ensuring good governance, creation of a structure to appreciate and safeguard all arts, media and creations of artistes, ensuring media freedom and free expression.

Another 15 percent are in the final stages of implementation, the statement said. The decision to telecast live the parliamentary proceedings was not yet attended to and not much visible effort has been taken to re-establish a respected foreign service. The program also promised a free implementation of the Wild Life Protection Ordinance, but concrete and sincere efforts were not seen during last 100 days. The streamlining of the religious education in all schools, appointment of a committee to monitor its implementation and the monitoring of the international schools by the government are also in the list which was not attended to.
The government statement has also mentioned some of these tasks as “on the implementation process” and progress has been reported “Discussions were held, circular is prepared, a workshop was held or awaiting instructions from the Attorney General.” However, the benefits of such proceedings have not received so far by any. 

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