Gota shuns another public forum | Sunday Observer

Gota shuns another public forum

Pic: Saman Sri Wedage
Pic: Saman Sri Wedage

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s shunning of public forums continued last week as he failed to attend the third consecutive fireside chat hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL). As other Presidential candidates took the stage to answer a number of questions posed by the country’s private sector on topics such as tax concessions and free enterprise, the absence of Rajapaksa, a Presidential front runner or a representative on his behalf was conspicuous.

Avoidance

Rajapaksa has continued to avoid public forums after being named as the SLPP’s choice for the upcoming Presidential election. He was a no show at the country’s first ever Presidential public debate held on October 5 where a majority of the candidates were in attendance.

Neither has he responded to repeated requests for a public debate by his main opponent, Sajith Premadasa,, the candidate of the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Stakeholders of the country’s private sector gathered eagerly last week to listen to the main candidates and their policies for the sector. Undeterred by Rajapaksa’s no show, the event nevertheless went ahead as planned with other candidates Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Dr. Rohan Pallewatta, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Dr. Gamini Nanda Gunawardena who represented Mahesh Senanayake .

Taking the opportunity to take a pot shot at his rival, Premadasa addressing those gathered declared that he will not shy away from debate or challenges. “The mark of leadership is to face up to questions and challenges,” he told the crowd.

Presentation

However Rajapaksa had taken steps to send in a presentation, in which a voice over actor read out a message from the Presidential candidate. He cited prior organised commitments as the reason he was unable to attend but nevertheless promised to work closely with multiple stakeholders to ensure the nation is not left behind by the rest of the world. The presentation however, drew little applause from the crowd.

The moderators appeared to be primarily focused on candidates Sajith Premadasa of the NDF and Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the National People’s Power (NPP) as they directed most of the initial questions to the duo.

Premadasa addressing the gathering promised to create an environment conducive to the growth of small, medium as well as big businesses while encouraging free enterprise. He said the Government is trying to empower the private sector with the necessary fiscal and monetary support.

Tax reduction

“It is important to reduce the tax burden on small, medium and big wealth-generating businesses and free them up to be smart and innovative while the monetary policy had to be balanced with the proper management of interest rates,” he said.

Asked to give an introduction to the economic policies of the NPP, Dissanayake clarified that his movement is focused mainly on reducing waste and corruption in the system. While emphasising the need to simplify the tax structure, he also promised to maintain a consistent structure for at least five years. He also assured that under a NPP government businessman will be able to obtain investment projects based on merit and not based on their political connections. “We will put a stop to that,” he said. His answers laden with statistics drew approval of the attendees.

Other candidates were forced to watch as the two main candidates answered the questions posed to them prior to leaving the event to attend other commitments.

Finally ,given a chance to speak after nearly an hour since the event commenced a disgruntled Dr Ajantha Perera questioned the moderators if there were first class and second class Presidential candidates according to their estimation. Questioned only on the environmental policy she envisions, Perera had to strong arm the moderators to give the crowd more descriptive information on her policies covering all aspects.

The other candidates were also given the opportunity to present their policies in due course,. Having listened to them Premadasa invited them to join him to ensure a bright future for the country.

“I am confident of your capabilities and expertise so I invite all of you to join hands with us to build the nation,” he said.

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