Sri Lanka’s main opposition on Friday pledged to have closer ties with India that would be neither “anti-Indian nor dependent” if they win the January presidential polls against incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena in a policy document promised to establish equal ties with India, China, Pakistan and Japan, while improving friendly relations with emerging Asian nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Korea without distinction.
“Our Indian policy will take into due consideration the diversity of India. I would act to have closer relations with an attitude that would be neither anti-Indian nor dependent,” he said in his 63-page election manifesto.
He said that he “will make Sri Lanka again the centre of distribution of the knowledge and discipline of Indian as well as Asian Buddhists.”
Sirisena, a former health minister who triggered a revolt in Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition, pledged to protect everyone who contributed to the defeat of Tamil Tigers in the country’s civil war from international action.
“I will allow no international power to ill-treat or touch a single citizen of this country on account of the campaign to defeat terrorism,” he said.
According to the manifesto, Sirisena would set up a special domestic court to probe war crimes allegations, a long-standing demand of India and Western nations.
Sirisena, 63, said he would set up a Constitution structure allied to the Parliament in place of the “present autocratic executive presidential system.”
“The new Constitutional structure would be essentially an Executive allied with the Parliament through the Cabinet instead of the present autocratic Executive Presidential System,” he said in the manifesto.
His main rival, 69-year-old Rajapaksa, has called for a snap poll on January 8 to seek an unprecedented third term to
stop what he calls a global attempt to take him and his soldiers to the International Criminal Court.
A UN Human Rights Council is probing allegations of war crimes by the government and Tamil Tiger rebels during the civil war.
According to international rights groups, up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, when the leadership of the Tamil Tiger separatists was wiped out, after decades of ethnic war.
Sirisena said he would restore chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake who was sacked in 2013 after some of her rulings went against the administration’s policies.
UN Human Rights Council has criticised the controversial impeachment of Bandaranayake as an attack on the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.
He pledged to implement a six-year programme after holding a parliamentary election in 100 days of office.
In the manifesto, Sirisena 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. (PTI)