Make Party Manifestos Legally Binding on Political Parties/Individuals

Prior to elections, political parties prepare party manifestos laying out what they propose to do once in power. It is in presenting their proposals before the people, that they appeal for votes. The people who align with the proposals outlined give their votes. Therefore, the unwritten understanding is that people vote for a party to implement what they propose to do when canvassing for votes. However, the reality is the opposite.

Political parties do spend time & money preparing manifestos but is it really sincere? Do they actually intend on fulfilling what they propose to do? Are these promises meant to simply fool the masses into believing them & secure their vote?

Article 3 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution clearly establishes that sovereignty is in the People & is inalienable where the Executive – Legislative & Judiciary are only DELEGATORY roles. Which means the People have delegated their executive powers to the President, the legislative powers to the Parliament & Legal powers to the Judiciary.

A President contests elections also promising his vision for the Nation & assuring the People what he intends to do upon being elected the President. It is the belief in his/her vision & his/her objectives that People cast their vote. Therefore, the President-elect cannot relegate on what he has promised he would do once elected. He cannot do a volte-force & do the opposite. He sits on the pedestal of President based on people believing he would fulfill what he has promised in his manifesto. There is little point spending time or money on manifestos if they are only to become cosmetic showpieces to fool the masses and meant for panel discussions and political debates.

Similarly, people elect members to Parliament, be they Govt or Opposition based on what they propose to do once elected to power. There is little need for any party to prepare manifestos if they do not intend to follow them.

How many of the voting masses actually read manifestos and base their vote on the manifesto?

How many of the voting masses simply vote because of their personal preferences or biases based on listening to propaganda?

Do politicians take people for granted thinking that manifestos are simply part of an election and people don’t expect politicians or political parties to follow through on what they assure to do.

What ails Sri Lanka is the lack of policy, the inability to prepare policies and stick to policy is a key reason for foreign counterparts to lose faith in Sri Lanka. Countries that have progressed & developed prepare vision plans and policies and stick to them. They ensure what they decide does not get changed with every elected government. In Sri Lanka, every new government ends up changing the education, the entire admin structure & whatever they can derive benefit from.

This ugly practice must stop. The first place to usher discipline is to legalize the party manifesto. If sovereignty is inalienable and in the hands of the People, the people’s representatives are those they elect as President & Parliament. These politicians get elected to office not because of their party, the colour, their gender, their ethnicity or their religion. They should get elected because of their vision, their policy & their plans for a better Sri Lanka.

This is enshrined in what is called the Manifesto. This is a sacred document and one that should not be taken lightly.

It is not a piece of decorated printed matter to be idling in party offices and taken out simply to present at conferences or events.

Manifestos need to regain its lost stature. It must be made into legally binding document where a voter has every right to file FR in the event the politician has relegated on what he/she assured to do.

Ex: a person vying for President promises to not allow state entities to be privateized. People are happy with this pledge & decide to vote for him because of his assurance not to allow privatization of state entities.

However, what if the President-elect completely ignores his pledge not to privatize and goes ahead with orders to privatize. This is relegating on what he promised he would not do & based on which he was voted to power. This act nullifies Article 3 that gives sovereignty to the People & People delegates that power to their elected politicians based on what they present to the people in the form of their manifestos.

Therefore, for some discipline to prevail where people too, vote for politicians based on their vision & policies, the politicians should also get used to entering politics with a genuine vision to develop the nation and have a policy outlined for this endeavor.

Can the lawyers elucidate the rights people have vis a vis the current violation of election manifestos & the rights of the people & advise the people what legal action can be take for any elected politician relegating on what they promised to do.

If there is no legal provision currently for voters to file FR action, what are the legal amendments that can be added to make it possible for voters to file FR against a politician/political party for going back on their word as assured on their manifestos. People vote for candidates based on their manifestos, the importance of this document needs to be given a legally binding position.

Shenali D Waduge

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