Election promises that took people for a ride
Posted on February 19th, 2018

By Bandula Guneratne Courtesy Ceylon Today

Throughout the history of this country giving promises to the electorate on the guarantee that they will be fulfilled has almost become a tradition in party politics. Though some of those promises tend to get fulfilled after elections, the majority tend to be intentionally overlooked by the politicians.

The public knowing well that those promises will never see the light of day still tend to listen to them at political rallies ever so intently.
Given below are some of the most well known promises given to the people at elections. By 1977 the price of a bushel of paddy was 40 rupees. The price of a measure of rice was Rs 2.90. With the rice price as it was a General Election was held, back in 1952.
Ahead of that election, the UNP gave a promise not to increase the price of rice as it was the staple diet of the public.

The public having been deceived by that promise gave their vote to the United National Party (UNP). The UNP-published paper ‘Siyarata’ carried the following headline after the poll.

“Till this government lasts, the quarter of rice will be 25 cents.”
However, even before the lapse of one year after the UNP came to power, the price of a measure of rice shot up to 75 cents. Afterwards there were riots and several people even had to pay the price with their lives as well.
On a leaflet printed by Lanka Sama Samaja Party ahead of the 1960 general election they had promised to bring down the price of a quarter of rice back to 25 cents after the election.

When a proposal was submitted to the State Council in 1944 that Sinhala should be the official language, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was still in the UNP.

Back then SWRD gave his vote against it. By the time of the 1956 General Election, SWRD was in the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP).

At that election SWRD promised to the nation that he will ensure that Sinhala will be made the official language within 24 hours. The UNP also campaigned under the slogan that they too will give top priority to the Sinhala language.
After the assassination of SWRD in 1959, and during the 1960 election, the MEP led by Philip Gunawardena said that only the MEP can punish rogues and criminals if it is elected to office.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) then led by SWRDs widow Sirimavo Bandaranaike claimed that only the SLFP could punish those behind her spouse’s murder if it is elected to power.

The UNP then under Dudley Senanayake claimed that the nation could only be saved if the UNP is voted into office. One of the most popular election promises to the electorate was given by former PM Sirimavo back in 1970.
That was that she would bring down rice to the country even from the moon.
But, in the wake of her election win due to the scarcity of rice here the people were forced to reduce the consumption of rice.
The transportation of rice and chilly was drastically reduced. It was only at the cooperative stores that rice was able to be purchased at concessionary prices.

There were endless queues from dawn in front of trade stalls by the public to purchase rice and bread and it was a common sight then.
Due to this, former President J.R .Jayewardene promised ahead of the 1977 election that he will do away with the system of people having to queue up in front of boutiques to purchase essentials. He also promised that all citizens will be provided with eight kilos of grain every month. Back in 1989 former President R. Premadasa gave the promise that those who are unable will be turned into able people (those who are poor will be made rich).

By 1994 the price of a pound of bread was Rs 5. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga gave the promise that she will provide bread at Rs 3.50.

She also promised to root out corruption and terror from the society. Before the December 2001 General Election, Ranil Wickremesinghe promised that all youths will be given bracelets and those who are into chewing betel will be given chewing gum.

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