Tobacco and 2019 Presidential Election Candidates in Sri Lanka

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This post is based on the findings of investigative research on the media reports related to the candidates of the 2019 Sri Lankan Presidential Election. Reports appeared up to 16th November 2019 (the day prior to the elections) were considered.

Background

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has a population of 20.1 million and is governed by a President with executive powers (Image 1). The 8th Presidential Election of Sri Lanka was held on 17th November 2019 to elect the 7th Executive President. Nominations of 35 candidates were accepted by the Election Commission for the election.[1] Of the approximate total of the 16 million eligible voters, 83.7% cast their vote, of which, the valid vote percentage was 82.9%. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary and the younger brother of the 5th Executive President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, was elected the President with a majority of 1.36 Million votes (a total of 52.25% of valid votes).[2]

Tobacco industry in Sri Lanka is mostly led by the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT) holding monopoly of manufacturing and selling cigarettes in Sri Lanka. Please visit our page Tobacco Industry Country Profile – Sri Lanka for more details.

Image 1: An infographic on the structure of the government of Sri Lanka. Source: ALJAZEERA Website.[3]


The findings of the investigation on each candidate’s affiliations and/or activities related to the tobacco industry are mentioned below. The representing political parties, details of votes obtained and the policy statements on tobacco and other drug prevention mentioned in their presidential election manifestos are also mentioned for those candidates who have obtained more than 25,000 votes to help the reader understand the context.[4][1][5][6][7][8][9]

#1 - Gotabaya Rajapaksa

  • Political Party - Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna
  • Number of votes – 6,924,255
  • Percentage - 52.25%

Tobacco related activities

  • During his tenure as the Secretary Defence and Urban Development, he received sponsorships from Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) to construct a new police station at Weeraketiaya, Army welfare shops and ‘Api Wenuwen Api’ cafeterias. ‘Api Wenuwen Api' is a fund for a housing project for armed forces in Sri Lanka.
  • He was the Guest of Honour at an opening ceremony of a pilgrims rest at Girihandu Seya constructed with CTC’s financial support.

Please visit our page on Gotabaya Rajapaksa for more details.

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention[10]

The Presidential Manifesto promised to adhere to WHO guidelines to reduce smoking and alcohol use and eradicate drugs (Image 2):

Image 2: The excerpt from published manifesto of Gotabaya Rajapakse related to tobacco.[10]

#2 - Sajith Premadasa

  • Political Party - New Democratic Front
  • Number of votes – 5,564,239
  • Percentage – 41.99%

Tobacco related activities

During his election campaign, he promised to improve the living status of the Beedi (a local cigarette-like tobacco product) manufacturers within the current legal framework. Please visit our page on Sajith Premadasa for more details.

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention [11]

Following actions were mentioned for the control of “drugs”, but tobacco was not specifically mentioned in the Manifesto (Image 3):

  • Zero tolerance policy on drugs.
  • Establishing a special Anti-Narcotics courts, a special Anti- Narcotics Prosecutor and strengthening the Anti-Narcotics division of the Police
  • Increasing punishment for related offences
  • Amending the law to distinguish the addicts and traffickers
  • Establishing eight new rehabilitation centres
  • Reviewing ethanol import license by an independent commission
  • Coordination with international intelligence and anti-narcotics agencies to stop smuggling of drugs into the country.
Image 3: The excerpt from published manifesto of Sajith Premadasa in related to tobacco and drug prevention.[11]


#3 - Anura Kumara Dissanayake

  • Political Party - National People's Movement
  • Number of votes – 418,553
  • Percentage – 3.16%

Tobacco related activities

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention[12]

His manifesto specifically mentioned controlling tobacco as a strategy to prevent Non Communicable Diseases (Image 4).

Image 4: The excerpt from published manifesto of Anura Kumara Dissanayake in related to tobacco and drug prevention.[12]

#4 - Mahesh Senanayake

  • Political Party - National People's Party
  • Number of votes – 49,655
  • Percentage – 0.37%

Tobacco related activities

None reported.

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention[13]

His manifesto specifically mentioned tobacco (Image 5).

  • Discouraging use of tobacco products through a state education programme;
  • Strictly prohibiting promotion of tobacco products and smoking in government and private work premises;
  • Protecting youth from drug and alcohol ‘abuse’
  • Rehabilitating addicts effectively in a safe environment and introducing multidimensional task force to socialise them.
Image 5: The excerpt from published manifesto of Mahesh Senanayake in related to tobacco and drug prevention.[13]

#5 - M. L. A. Mohamed Hizbullah

  • Political Party – Independent candidate
  • Number of votes – 38,814
  • Percentage – 0.29%

Tobacco related activities

None reported

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention

Not mentioned specifically

#6 - Ariyawansha Dissanayake

  • Political Party - Democratic United National Front
  • Number of votes – 34,537
  • Percentage – 0.26%

Tobacco related activities

None reported

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention[14]

His manifesto was not published in public information domains. However, there was a statement mentioning cigarettes in his official Facebook page (Image 6):

  • Ban cigarettes
  • Ban drugs and eliminate drug smugglers
Image 6: A post published in the official Facebook page of Ariyawansha Dissanayake in related to tobacco and drug prevention.[14]


#7 - Ajantha Wijesinghe Perera

  • Political Party - Socialist Party of Sri Lanka
  • Number of votes – 27,572
  • Percentage – 0.21%

Tobacco related activities

None reported

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention [15]

Her manifesto did not specifically mention tobacco. However, it was based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which includes tobacco control under section 3.8.

#8 - Rohan Pallewatte

  • Political Party - National Development Front
  • Number of votes – 25,173
  • Percentage – 0.19%

Tobacco related activities

None reported

Policy on tobacco and other drug prevention[16]

His manifesto directly mentioned tobacco (Image 7):

  • Strictly implementing policies on drug and tobacco control
  • Destroying drug dealers’ networks
  • Strict punishment for related offences including death penalty
  • Stop drug smuggling with the help of international agencies
  • Intensive programmes for demand reduction
  • Improving economical status of youths by collaboration projects with National Youth Council, Samurdi Authority and community based organisations.
Image 7: The excerpt from published manifesto of Rohan Pallewatte in related to tobacco and drug prevention.[16]

The rest of the candidates who received a total count of votes less than 25,000 are listed below (with number and percentage of the votes obtained). None of them reported affiliations or activities related to tobacco.

9 - Siripala Amarasinghe – Independent candidate (15,285; 0.12%)
10 - Warnakulasuriya Milroy Surgeus Fernando – Independent candidate (13,641; 0.1%)
11 - M.K. Sivajalingam - Independent candidate (12,256; 0.09%)
12 - Ven. Battaramulle Seelaratne Thera – Jana Setha Peramuna (11,879; 0.09%)
13 - Ajantha De Soysa – Ruhunu Janatha Peramuna (11,705; 0.09%)
14 - Polgampala Ralalage Chaminda Anurudda - Independent candidate (10,219; 0.08%)
15 - Namal Rajapaksa – Nationalities Unity Organization (9,497; 0.07%)
16 - Ketagoda Gamage Jayantha Perera - Independent candidate (9,467; 0.07%)
17 - Duminda Nagamuwa – Frontline Socialist Party (8,219; 0.06%)
18 - Ven. Aparekke Punnananda Thera - Independent candidate (7,611; 0.06%)
19 - Subramanium Gunaratnam – Our National Front (7,333; 0.06%)
20 - A.S.P. Liyanage - - Sri Lanka Labour Party (6,447; 0.05%)
21 - Wijenayake Kankanamge Piyasiri Wijenayake - Independent candidate (4,636; 0.03%)
22 - Aruna De Soysa - Democratic National Movement (4,218; 0.03%)
23 - Rajeewa Wijesinghe - Independent candidate (4,146; 0.03%)
24 - Illiyas Idroos Mohamed - Independent candidate (3,987; 0.03%)
25 - Sirithunga Jayasuriya - United Socialist Party (3,944; 0.03%)
26 - Sarath Vijithakumara Keerthiratne - Independent candidate (3,599; 0.03%)
27 - Sarath Manamendra - Nava Sihala Urumaya (3,380; 0.03%)
28 - Vajirapani Wijesiriwardena - Socialist Equality Party (3.014; 0.02%)
29 - Ashoka Wadigamangawa - Independent candidate (2,924; 0.02%)
30 - Ahmed Hassan Mohamed Alavi - Independent candidate (2,903; 0.02%)
31 - Saman Prasanna Perera - Our Power of People Party (2,368; 0.02%)
32 - Priyantha Munihath Edirisinghe - Okkoma Wasiyo Okkoma Rajawaru Sanvidanaya (2,139; 0.02%)
33 - Samaraweera Weerawanni - Independent candidate (2,067; 0.02%)
34 - Badde Gamage Nandimithra - Nava Sama Samaja Party (1,841; 0.01%)
35 - Samansiri Herath - Independent candidate (976; 0.01%)

Tobacco Unmasked Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Election Commission. Media release No 25, 6 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  2. Election Commission. All Island Results, 17 November 2019, accessed December 2019
  3. ALJAZEERA. Sri Lanka Presidential Election 2019, 15 November 2019, Accessed December 2019
  4. Department of Government Information. Presidential Election - 2019, 2019, accessed November 2019
  5. Daily News. Tumultuous send-off for candidates, 7 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  6. The Island. Record number of candidates forces EC to spend more on election, 7 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  7. News 1st. 35 candidates for the 2019 Presidential election, 7 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  8. Colombo Page. A record 35 candidates submit nominations for Sri Lanka presidential elections, 7 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  9. Times Online. Final list of Presidential candidates released ; 35 candidates to contest poll, 2 objections rejected, 7 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  10. 10.0 10.1 Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Election Manifesto of Gotabaya Rajapaksa Published for the Sri Lankan Presidential Election 2019_English, 2019, accessed November 2019
  11. 11.0 11.1 New Democratic Front. There is no limit to what Sri Lanka can achieve, 2019, accessed November 2019
  12. 12.0 12.1 National People’s Power. Health Policy, 2019, accessed November 2019
  13. 13.0 13.1 National People’s Party. Policy framework, undated, accessed November 2019
  14. 14.0 14.1 Facebook. Ariyawansa Dissanayake, November 2019, Accessed November 2019
  15. National People’s Party. Manifesto, undated, accessed November 2019
  16. 16.0 16.1 Social Democratic Party of Sri Lanka. Manifesto, undated, accessed November 2019