Getting Maithri’s goat: Namal Suvendra
COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – President Mahinda Rajapakse was the last to release an election manifesto, but the delay may have been deliberately designed to get his main rival Maithripala Sirisena’s goat.
What ever the stories about Maithripala stealing a march on the manifesto by pinching key elements from the president’s policy document, the latest edition of the "Mahinda Chintana", or Mahinda’s philosophy, has an unbeatable offer.
The president is offering goats to every family in the north and east of the island in a proposal similar to the offer of a cow for each citizen made by a former presidential candidate and Siddhalepa boss Victor Hettigoda in 2005.
Unlike Hettigoda’s liberal cow distribution plan, the president’s manifesto restricts the goat growth to the northern and eastern regions which could be decisive in deciding his political future after the January 8 elections.
The ruling party is already bleating that despite huge reconstruction in war-ravaged areas, the Tamils there voted for the opposition Tamil National Alliance at 2013 provincial polls.
The question is whether goats can turn the tide, but in many places they are already contributing to the election campaign by tearing up posters and eating them off walls.
If that is not enough, the Rajapakse manifesto has understood that a good way to get a man’s vote is through his dog.
"I will invite animal welfare organizations to set up centres to take care of stray dogs and their pups left on the high streets," the manifesto said on page 26 of the English edition released this week.
"I will provide government assistance to set up such centres," the manifesto said.
ODEL founder Otara Gunawardene could be voting with both hands. Her project to care for stray dogs, Embark, could embark on a government-backed growth trajectory that has eluded ODEL.
She may even qualify for a prestigious national animal care award.
"I will implement a programme that rewards individuals who continuously show love and kindness to animals," the president said.
However, public servants could be miffed because the chapter on them — "A loyal public service serving the country" — came as number four and just after the section on stray dogs.
But there is spiritual solace for all. The president is offering a state-of-the-art transport system linking all key Hindu temples where hundreds of thousands visit annually to seek favours and redeem vows.
"I will extend the railroad from Kataragama to Trincomalee, thus enabling the convenient worship of the four devalas in four areas, Nallur Kandasamy Kovil, Trincomalee Koneshwaran Kovil, Chilaw Munneshwaram Kovil, and the Devundara Upulwan Devalaya," the presidentsaid on page 85.
But with both parties offering free wifi Internet connectivity across the country, it might be cheaper to visit holy web sites and use the Central Bank’s proposed ‘pray pal’ scheme to give thanks for favours.
Jehan Perera - Executive Director National Peace Council