The Ex-Keeper Of The Sacred Tooth Vs The UPFA
By Maryam Azwer in Kandy - Photos by Asoka Fernando
Kandy looks like any other town when elections are around the corner. Posters of future Municipal Councilor hopefuls smile (or sometimes glare) down at you from almost everywhere: walls, gates, shop-fronts, vehicles and trees.
Somewhere in the town, even a garbage dumpster was not spared.
The good news is that the area surrounding the Kandy lake was untouched, allowing one the usual scenic view of the lake, with occasional glimpses of the Dalada Maligawa. The town was of course a different story, with its patchwork of faces looking down at the people hurrying along with their morning activities.
While the citizens of this heritage city displayed varying levels of optimism (or pessimism) towards the upcoming Municipal Council elections, there was one thing that almost all of them echoed when asked what they wanted from a future mayor: they wanted a cleaner city.
The Sunday Leader met with the mayoral candidates from the two main political parties (the UPFA and the UNP) eyeing the Kandy mayor’s seat . One of them the former Diyawadana Nilame, who says he is in a good position to give Kandy what it needs, the other a former Municipal Council opposition leader, who claims the people are ready to accept the UPFA for their future plans and vision that previous mayors lacked.
Both of them are confident of victory.
Below is what the UNP’s Neranjan Wijeyeratne and UPFA’s Sena Dissanayake had to say about their plans for the country’s hill capital.
What The People Say
L. R. A. Rankothge, Lottery Ticket Seller, “What people want is a cleaner city. We need a solution to the garbage problem. People make promises, but they do not always keep their promises.”
Anura Rajapaksa, Store Manager
“There are so many shortcomings. Facilities are at a minimum. There is no proper bus stand in the town and garbage disposal is a problem. With the experiences we have had so far we cannot really foresee any big changes. But we do hope the new (Municipal Council) members will do something good for the city.”
T. G. Sirisena, Fruit Seller
“The city should develop. If we can have a good environment to do our business, that is more than enough.”
Manjula Hemantha, Trishaw Driver
“What we need is good parking spaces. The Municipal Council can do this for us, but we do not know if they will.”
Manel Athauda, Shop Employee
“There is a lot that can be done. Look at the state of the bus stand near the clock tower. During rainy days, there is so much water clogging the area. There is no proper bus stand. It is very congested and dirty there.”
Madduma Bandara Abeysinghe, Retired Teacher
“One problem is that proposals made are not always practical. They say that they will collect garbage at a particular time, but the lorry does not come on time. The politicians use politics as a ladder to climb to the top, and there is this trend of crossing over. They contest under one party, and when they cross over they betray their voters.”
Nirmala Daswani, Shop Owner
“The streets are not all that clean. It is the people who are dirtying the streets, so I think they need to be educated.”
UNP – Neranjan Wijeyeratne
The Diyawadana Nilame (1985 to 2005), Neranjan Wijeyeratne has taken a significant step from being the lay custodian of the sacred tooth relic, to contesting for post of mayor. When asked what he felt about this move, he said, “Our family is a political family. After I left the Maligawa in 2005, I joined the UNP because my grandfather was with the people who started the party in 1946,” he said.
A day before the nominations, Wijeyeratne was requested by the nomination board to take up mayoral candidacy. “I could not refuse. This is a very prestigious post, and I thought we can do a lot for the city. Kandy is a historical city. I know the Kandy crowds and the background, and I have connections with other religions also,” he said.
During his 20 year tenure as Diyawadana Nilame however, several incidents took place, some of which were of a controversial nature. The bombing of the Dalada Maligawa by the LTTE, and Wijeyeratne’s handling of the aftermath was one such issue. Wijeyeratne had also come under criticism for allegedly speaking out in defence of politician and former Cricket Board president Thilanga Sumathipala, when he was accused of passport fraud in 2003.
Responding to questions as to whether all this may have an impact on his political future, Wijeyeratne said that he was never involved in the Sumathipala controversy. “I do not have any connections with him. I only objected to cricket matches being played on Poya days,” he said.
He added that, “There were no controversies, everyone supported me. After the bombing of the Maligawa, I started a restoration fund. We got advice from the Mahanayake Theros and renovated the entire temple,” he said.
His former role as the Diyawadana Nilame would in fact have a positive impact on his chances of being elected Mayor, he said.
• To prepare a special plan to develop Kandy, which is a world heritage city
• To improve the infrastructure facilities to cater to the daily needs of the people in the town (roads, water, electricity, housing and education)
• To ensure peace and unity amongst communities in all religious groups, through mutual respect. Co-operation, co-existence, understanding and trust among them by organizing and giving support for cultural programmes
• To arrange better and alternative land from the government to officially settle poor families and make those areas environmentally pleasing and safeguard from future encroachments by converting same to nature/ public parks and children’s play areas under public / private management
• Through a well planned multi storied low-cost housing complex, to provide permanent roofing for such families and engage the government, business entrepreneurs in a mutually beneficial manner, philanthropists and foreign aid to make this a reality
• To establish a scholarship fund with necessary tax incentives to encourage further education of the constituents’ children so that they will work for the advancement of the city
• A speedy payment and application gateway to ease the settlements, and handing over of documents via the internet, subject to the originals being sent and also a centralized counter for same at the Kandy Municipal Council and make our service speedy and professional
• To have a selection building of plans readily available along with obligations to upgrade pavements immediately in front of business premises within the central city of Kandy, allowing for expansion of shop space on the first floor and also conforming to the architectural heritage of the city, similar to the form of the Queen’s corridor extensions whereby providing shelter from both sun and rain to pedestrians. To build private sector and KMC partnerships for the mutual benefit of the city by engaging the city’s heritage committees, businessmen and KMC and UDA officials to make our city an example and work in true partnership
• A comprehensive waste management and recycling programme along with alternative energy generation through garbage refuse in order to create a healthy environment and business and job opportunities
UPFA – Sena Dissanayake
Although he has not been named the official UPFA mayoral candidate, former Municipal Council opposition leader, Sena Dissanayake, said he was the UPFA’s ‘team leader,’ and a favourite for the post of mayor, as indicated by voting trends over the last few years.
Kandy has been a UNP stronghold for a long time now, and when asked how strong the UPFA’s chances were of winning over the city, Dissanayake expressed optimism.
“It is true that the UNP used to have a stronghold, but not any more. Ever since the President won the war, the people have a lot more faith in the UPFA,” he said.
Dissanayake also said that previous mayors had not had a proper vision or programme in place to tackle the issues faced by the city, and that he intended to change that trend.
“Since the President took over, the roads have been developed. Many roads have been carpeted,” he said. He also pointed out that garbage was a big problem for which the military had already been deployed to watch out for people who dumped garbage around the town.
“Kandy is a sacred city, where people live together peacefully. It is home to places of worship of all religions. We plan to keep this city clean,” he said.
• All the environmentalists who love this historic city, all the professionals of various fields, the commercial sector of the city: with the help of these sections, to appoint a Think Tank to advise the Mayor and Council
• To seek the support of His Excellency the President and the Chief Minister, Central Province, to obtain funds to finance the development works of the city
• To improve the city bus services, a proper management to be proposed for the functioning of an efficient school bus service
• As Kandy is a recognized world heritage centre, steps to be taken to protect our historical sites in the area
• In the preparation of the Annual Budget, advice to be sought from the Think Tank in order to provide a better service for the ratepayers
• In order to protect the environment of the city, no unauthorized structures would be allowed and steps would be taken to beautify the city
• To develop the D. S. Senanayake Library and the Auditorium to the foremost position in the island in order to protect the resources of the city
• To convert the Municipal Workshop to a full-fledged engineering unit in order to repair all the municipal vehicles so as to save the Council’s money. To appoint a suitable engineer for the purpose
• To eliminate all forms of corruption to enable the rate payers to seek the services they need from the municipality without any hindrance
• To improve the electricity facilities to the satisfaction of the rate payers and to set up a separate electricity services unit for the purpose
• The maintenance of proper health facilities is the primary duty of the Council. Disposal of dirt and refuse, maintenance of clean drains, inspection of all hotels and restaurants to ensure clean and wholesome food for the consumers, prevention of infectious diseases and provision of clean water
• To set up a separate unit for receiving of all complaints regarding water supply