A Mayor With An Enviable Record

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Kanthi Kodikara

”We must create a patriotic generation. I invite all our mothers to join this noble cause.” Kanthi Kodikara made this request to all women in Sri Lanka as a mother and a leader; she wants all women to contribute to a bright future for the country.

She is normal and pleasant. However, when she engages in social work activities, she shows immense courage and strength that even her male counterparts envy.

Kanthi hails from Madewela and she is the 3rd of a family of seven children. Her mother is no more and her father has now retired from the government service. She received her education from Madiwela Sri RahulaVidyalaya and Christian College. Since her schooldays, Kanthi enjoys much popularity both in school and society as she has been very much active in social work.

A born orator, Kanthi raised her voice against injustice. She began her social career when he was 17 of age under the Women’s Initiative in Maharagama. As a member of the women’s committee, she began a voyage which neither she nor her parents expected would take her to the highest echelons of politics. With her marriage, her foundation became even stronger. After a long love affair, they tied the knot in 1978. Now she is a mother of three children, two of them have already married. She has seasoned herself in social service since the beginning and it helped her sharing the burden of her husband’s political career as well after the marriage.

Kanthi held the office of mayor in Maharagama for over nine and half years. She has been the opposition leader of the Maharagama Municipal Council for over five years. Moreover, she holds the record for being the first female candidate in Sri Lanka who secured the highest number of preferences at a local government election. She had to overcome countless challenges and barriers to become the Mayor of Maharagama. It was among the most daring tasks of her life.

“Many people requested me to compete in the election. But the party leaders refused to offer me the ticket. I challenged them that I would be the first in the race. I was able to do it,” she recalls her past glories. She has never backed away from the task and has pushed forwards with courage and dedication. She bore up the blows and faced the oppression. Being true to her policies, she never offered herself to others for privileges or money. On numerous occasions, she has proved herself that she would not betray her policies for personal gains.

Kanthi represents the true Sri Lankan woman. Almost everything she says inspires. “At present how many war heroes have been put on trial? If they lose their jobs then it is going to affect their families. The rising poverty has crippled our society. But I will do everything I could to wipe off the tears of the mothers in our society,” she says. Being a leader for the women in Colombo District, she has been able to carry out many a women’s empowerment programme. Her family background has laid a solid foundation for her to engage in such social work. A perfect combination of beauty and personality, she has not backed down before threats and accusations.

“My family helps me in all my work. I consider it a true blessing for me. Challenges and hardships are common and more will be in the future. But I will carry out my work somehow. With or without power, I will do the needful for the betterment of society,” she says. Her mayoral work in Maharagama testify to her political legacy.

She carried out a high number of road constructions, built cemeteries, shopping complexes, kindergartens and libraries and also carried out various religious activities. Despite countless allegations against her, she pushes forward with her social service activities.

Along with “Lakmawa” Organizatio, Kanthi supported many female entrepreneurs by giving out them concessionary loans and knowledge. Her organization provided vocational training for many young people in the area. The Public Market in Maharagama marks a milestone in her political career.

“I have no remorse. I am happy of my achievements. But I feel sorry when I see the state of our country at present. Our unitary status has now been shaken.”

Should a woman have a husband to secure a future in the present society? Kanthi claims that her husband and family is her real strength. “Mutual corporation and understanding between husband and wife brings in success for them. Numerous families shatter because of domestic conflicts. So it is important to select a suitable partner, and respect each other. Without the backing of a husband, a wife cannot go forward. It is the same for the husband. Women should understand their social and family roles properly.”

“The saddest day of my life was the day my mother passed away. Other than that, I have been happy all through my life so far. I am very happy about my children’s success.” She accepts whatever the life gives her without any complaint. She feels very free now. I have more time for social welfare work now, she said.

“Whatever I did, I did it passionately. My family always supported me. So it helped me a lot in the past and will do in the future as well,” Kanthi said. “We must not get discouraged when we face challenges and accusations. One day the truth always comes out. If we behave well, then no one can hurt us,” she stressed.

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