Sri Lanka’s New Democratic Front’s (NDF) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa has reiterated that he would appoint a new prime minister who could command a majority in parliament if he was elected to office.
“I will replace the current corrupt administration of this country, I will bring about a new youthful, clean and skilful political culture and I will take firm and direct steps in this direction,” the Daily Financial Times quoted Premadasa as saying in a statement on Thursday.
The presidential aspirant also said there would be no room in his cabinet for those accused of corruption.
Premadasa, also the incumbent minister of housing construction and cultural affairs, added that he would also take steps to hold a parliamentary election and set up a stable government once elected.
Premadasa said his economic policies would encourage free enterprise and measures to avoid unnecessary obstacles to the country’s wealth-creating mechanism and foster an environment in which small, medium and big businesses could grow.
“We are trying to empower the private sector with adequate fiscal and monetary support. This balance is essential if one is to stabilise the economy and encourage growth. Fiscal growth provides businesses and private entrepreneurs with a conducive environment with tax breaks, reduction of the tax burden and simplified tax structures,” he said.
A record 35 candidates have filed their nominations for the island nation’s eighth presidential election. Nearly 16mn of the country’s 21mn people are eligible. 
Sajith is the son of late president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who ruled the country with an iron fist before he was assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber on May 1, 1993.
The six leading candidates participated in the third edition of the popular Fireside Chat series held under the title ‘What Lies Ahead: With the Leading Presidential Candidates’ on Thursday, the daily reported.
The contenders at the event comprised Sajith Premadasa (National Democratic Front), Anura Kumara Dissanayaka (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna), Rohan Pallewatte (National Development Front), Ajantha Perera (Socialist Party of Sri Lanka), and Gamini Nanda Gunawardena who represented Mahesh Senanayake (National People’s Party). 
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not present at the event but sent a voice message.
While Dissanayaka’s economic policies would primarily focus on minimising waste and corruption as well as simplifying the tax structure, Pallewatta, who is contesting from the Jathika Sangwardhena Peramuna, said that he placed his bets on Sri Lanka’s economic growth due to the uniqueness of Sri Lankans.
Perera said that one reason for the economy stagnating was that elected presidents did not give up their political affiliation but worked to strengthen it instead of concentrating on development.
Gunawardena said his party’s policy was to bring more educated people into the fold and use their skills to develop the economy.
In his video message, Rajapaksa said that what Sri Lanka needed was not a traditional politician but a technocrat who could think innovatively and work closely with multiple stakeholders to ensure the nation did not get left behind by the rest of the world.
The former defence minister added that his policy was to empower the private sector to take charge of economic growth and to create an enabling environment.
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