Appearing at the inaugural session of the ‘Meet the Candidate’ discussion series organised by the American Chamber of Commerce last week, United National Party (UNP) deputy leader Sajith Premadasa called for a rational, meritocratic approach to governance.
The event, held on Friday (11 October) at the Colombo Hilton, saw Premadasa field questions from representatives of the business community on his vision for the country if elected to power.
“I believe I possess the requisite intellectual capacity to fathom the spectrum of issues which any governor of the country faces — issues ranging from social, political, military, security and so on and so forth,” said Premadasa, in his opening remarks.
In terms of decision-making, the presidential hopeful said he subscribes to the “rational actor model, adding that decisions will be made thorough discussion using techniques of cost-benefit analysis.
“There’ll be a wholesale change in the team. A team not grounded on typical aristocratic, friendship or personal ties and not relationship-based but a team selected through a highly advanced meritocratic approach,” he said.
Premadasa further said that individuals who are capable, have performed, who have excelled in their various fields and arenas and those who have succeeded in implementing time-targeted initiatives will be given the utmost priority.
“We will have a transparent and open government with no hidden agendas and certainly no hidden deals,” he said.
Commenting on the private sector, Premadasa said he strongly believes that the private sector is the “catalyst which lubricates and enhances the growth engine of a country.”
The participation of the private sector, he said, is a vital component in formulating sound economic policy.
“I’m a pro-private politician,” he stressed.
Promising that government will not hinder the growth of private enterprise, Premadasa said: “We will embark on an approach that would free up the private sector to use your skills and capabilities to the optimum level and will provide support and incentives that the private sector needs for it to flourish.”
He also pledged that Sri Lanka’s external relations will be purely based on achievement and the national interest as opposed to “family interest” nor personal interest.
“I will adopt a highly realistic approach — a power-politics approach,” he said.
The New Democratic Front (NDF) candidate drew particular attention to relations with Japan, which he said is “very constructive with mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit.”
The relationship between the two countries, he noted, has resulted in a lot of support rendered to Sri Lanka in terms of development aid.
“I will have a very surgical and targeted approach in terms of international relations,” he said.
Premadasa also promised to introduce a children’s charter.
This proposed charter, he said, will ensure that the rights and privileges of all Sri Lankan children will be protected.
Noting that preschool education in Sri Lanka exists outside of the country’s free education system, Premadasa said steps would be taken to make it free and introduce uniformity to the syllabus.
Commenting on the threat of terrorism, the presidential candidate said it was a “very serious problem”, which he said was why he decided to entrust matters of national security to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.
He made this decision, he claimed, to make sure there is perceptual peace and security within Sri Lankan society.
“I think there’s a great need and necessity to enact new legislation which prohibits and prevents hate speech, which prevents ethnic and religious violence and it’s important that we try to educate people in our country regarding the attributes and virtues of harmony, peaceful interaction. We will destroy terrorism and also destroy all forms of extremes,” he said.
Moving on to women’s rights, Premadasa spoke of a “women’s charter” which he said will enter a social contract with women’s groups and representatives.
Along with legal rights, he said, the rights and privileges of women in our society have to be protected from gender-based violence and discrimination.
“I’m super confident that I have the requisite capabilities and talent to govern the country,” he said, concluding his remarks.