Elections in Galle
Pictures and Text By Gazala Anver
This time for the Municipal Council elections in Galle, we have group leaders Jilith Nishantha for the UNP and Fowz Niyaz for the UPFA making promises so one or the other could be elected Mayor.
Both group leaders have similar promises: the only difference is that the opposition candidate was more open when speaking about internal corruption while the other remained tight-lipped and evasive when these issues were brought up.
Jilith Nishantha of the UNP, in his manifesto claims that if he is elected mayor, there will be:
• A systematic process for removing garbage from the city and recycling it. Currently Galle has an inefficient, ineffective system of garbage disposal.
• Repairing and maintaining roads that are under or belong to the Galle Municipal Council (GMC).
• A special program for the needy who receive people’s funds from the GMC and the doubling of that sum.
• A rain water drainage system for the homes in Galle that get flooded by rain water.
• A trading complex for the street vendors who were removed from the pavements to conduct their business.
• Completion of work in the Dadalla dual crematorium for the public’s use
• Funds for building and development work provided by NGOs will be properly utilized. In the past, the money has been mishandled and misappropriated.
• GMC will have special funds to be used for Sunday school children.
• Create a reign of fair governance in which governors will not have a chance for fraud as was the case previously.
• Make the city of Galle beautiful
The Sunday Leader met with Nishantha at his home in Galle where he went into detail about where the Galle Municipal Council (GMC) currently stood. Nishantha claims that the GMC is heavily politicised. He is of the opinion that it matters little if it is the UNP, UPFA or JVP that gets elected: what he feels is that the GMC needs to be more independent and less politicised.
He claims that things are in such a bad state that instead of working eighthours a day, the workers work four. What the GMC lacks is proper leadership and he is of the opinion that the internal corruption and politicisation will end under his leadership.
A few additional points Nishantha made was that under the UNP, the GMC would take steps to protect the Galle Fort as a heritage site. According to him, building the international cricket stadium right in front of the Fort has damaged it.
Despite protests however, the stadium was put up. In case there is a cricket match, the whole town gets blocked causing terrible traffic jams. In addition, because of the location of the stadium, the Fort can only be seen if you stand right in front of it, whereas in the past it could be seen from any distance. Also, children who are into athletics have no place to practice. He feels that relocating the grounds is essential and that the grounds would then be used for the benefit of the potential athletes.
He added that vehicles entering the Fort would be restricted too as the roads are too narrow to accommodate large vehicles. In addition, the Galle roundabout will be built in a more systematic manner to conduct traffic better.
“These are some of the biggest problems in Galle and this is what we plan to solve,” he said.
Fowz Niyath of UPFA claims that if he is elected Mayor, he will:
• Develop Galle as a tourist city and equip it with the required infrastructure.
• Set up modern business centres.
• Develop Galle’s beach fronts.
• Develop a method of effective garbage disposal by compost generation.
• Since Galle is slightly below sea level, it creates difficulties during heavy rain fall. Several more water pumps will be set up to handle this issue.
• Improve the city’s sports facilities.
• Further develop the roads.
When the accusations of corruption and misuse of funds was brought up, Niyaz said that during the time he served as Mayor (from between August 4, 2011 to September 10, 2011) he didn’t have adequate time to inquire comprehensively into the issues and address them. While he dodged the question, he however did make a statement to the effect of “but by minimising administrative waste I believe we can save up to 5 lakhs a month,” confirming the fact that under the previous administration misappropriation of funds was rife.
Galle, however, has always been a UNP stronghold. Opposition candidate, Nishantha sounded confident about UNP’s chances and said that it was the vote of the Muslims that gave them the edge. Niyaz accepted this. “I accept that the city is traditionally a UNP stronghold, and once the UNP won with 18,000 majority votes. 14 of the 19 seats were for the UNP. This was back when I was with the UNP. But I’m honestly confident that of the 19 seats that the UPFA will get at least 12 or 13. The UPFA has so far improved 111 roads, we’ve provided vocational training for 1600 individuals. We’ve built 130 homes. 216 toilets,” he said, sounding confident that these figures would help UPFA beat UNP from their stronghold.
Voice of the People
The reaction of the people of Galle to the elections is an accharu. There were a few who expressed dismay and mistrust at any candidate likely to be chosen. There are also several who ardently believe that the UPFA will continue on the line of development and others who believe that the UNP will make a positive difference. But while they were quite open with their views and expressed them articulately, it was a different matter when it came to taking pictures. Several people refused to allow their pictures be taken. One gentleman, after allowing his picture to be taken, changed his mind saying that he could get into trouble.
But if the outcome of the elections were to be judged by what the people have said, it is clear that the seas are boiling for the UNP and that with it’s current leadership crisis, people’s faith in them has ebbed away like the tide.
Cafe owner, Jiffrey, simply expressed how he didn’t have faith in any of the candidates or their false promises. Similar views were expressed by Jiffrey’s neighbour, Mrs. Ameen, who spoke of how elections heralded sweet hollow words, after which nothing would be done to keep them.
Fruit shop vendor, Chandrasena however said he believes in the UPFA. “They actually seem to be doing something. There’s so much development going on,” he said.
Clothing shop owner, Karunaweera said that looking at how the country’s current political situation is, it is hard to believe anyone would keep to their promises. He also added that he was unsure if he would cast his vote because he has completely lost faith in the system. “What we want is someone who will do something good for us, not someone corrupt. We all want something good for the town, we all want to see it develop.”
Florist, Chandana Gamage meanwhile was confident about the UNP. He added that while he believed the Government was doing a good job on the whole, the UPFA MC members in Galle are a drawback. “People’s livelihoods were affected when they got rid of the pavement for the pavement hawkers and took away our source of water by closing down the public taps,” he said.
Nimala, a trishaw driver meanwhile said that he wasn’t interested in voting for any particular party. “But looking at the situation impartially, UNP severely lacks leadership, but the government seems to be doing something good,” he said.
“I think the government will do something, because the opposition lacks proper leadership,” said Priyantha, a grocer, jokingly adding that his life would probably be forfeited if he were to say anything else.
Padma, a mother and shop owner, said that she believed the government has helped development. “They built the bus depot here,” she said.
“The Govt. will definitely develop the place,” said Tony, a shop owner.
Law Makers, The Law Breakers