BATTLE FOR COLOMBO: “We will not allow a single citizen of Colombo to be moved out of the city”-Muzammil

Raisa Wickrematunge | Published on August 31, 2011 at 3:08 am

Muzammil (L) and Milinda go head to head in Colombo. Photo by Thusitha Kumara .Taken from thesundayleader.lk

 Western Provincial Councillor A.J.M Muzammil will be contesting for the post of Mayor of Colombo from the UNP ticket. Muzammil was fielded along with several candidates, but came out on top. What is his strategy for the upcoming election, and what plans does he have for Colombo city, should he win? The Sunday Leader visited Muzammil at his home Thursday evening to find out.

Excerpts:

Q: You have just been nominated as mayoral candidate for the UNP in Colombo. What do you, personally, hope to achieve if you win?

A: Colombo is very balanced in its composition, with Sinhala Buddhists, Tamils, Hindus, Muslims and Christians fairly equally distributed. The Municipality has been a model for national unity in this country. The people of Colombo have been suffering for the last eight years without their representatives in the Council. We have to streamline the administration, and make it people-friendly. That is very important. The people have to be supreme. Their needs have to be met with dignity and honour.

Rates and taxpapers should be respected

Rate and tax payers should be respected. So that is why I say it is the people’s representatives who will be elected. We will support the development of the city. The majority of the community live in very unfavourable conditions. Walking into the shanties, you can see they have problems of drainage and sewerage. There are no lights in their gardens for people to access their houses. You may clean up the Galle Road, Bullers and Gregory’s Road from the taxpayer’s money, but the large sums spent go to serve the ‘haves’ rather than the ‘have-nots’. I’m not saying that they should not be served, but you cannot neglect the poor sector. There has been nobody to look after them. Now, that priority will be given. Our leader has made a plan for a new city.

“We will not allow a single citizen of Colombo to be moved out of the city”

Q: If elected, what do you promise the public to effect change for the better?

A: The Government is making a valiant effort to evict people who have been living in the slum areas. They are Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. We will not allow any of them to be chased away from their rightful places, where they have been living for generations. In the event we would want to relocate them for development purposes, ultimate priority would be given to putting up high-rise flats in their own areas and developing the balance land available. We will not allow a single citizen of Colombo to be moved out of the city.

Q: How confident are you that the UNP will be able to come out on top in the election?

A: If you analyse the last three elections that were held- the Provincial Council, Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the UNP won all the electorates in the Colombo Municipal limit. The government made various attempts to defeat us; during Provincial Council elections it’s a known fact that the underworld was used against us. However, the people of Colombo came out and defeated the government.

Government coming out with a different face

Q: In this election you will be up against a one-time UNPer, Milinda Moragoda. There is speculation, victory in Colombo might go to the UPFA. What do you intend doing to ensure that does not happen?

A: Well, the Government after all their efforts is now coming with a different face. I respect Milinda Moragoda as a gentleman politician. The only thing I don’t agree with him on, is how he deceived the UNP supporters who voted for him in the last Parliamentary election, when he joined the Government. He secured around 110,000 votes when he contested from the UNP.

Contesting from the Government in power, last Parliamentary election he was only able to secure around 20,000 votes. His political culture will not fit with the SLFPers, and people are not going to accept that. The UNP supporters will never defect. I am happy that Milinda is running for this position and I hope he will live up to his charisma and lead to conduct a free and fair election.

Q: There is a lot of ongoing development with the Colombo beautification programme. Would you be willing to contribute to it, if you were mayor?

“First beautify the living of the people”

A: We want to give the people very good living conditions, wherever they are living. They should be able to live in a free environment and atmosphere. That is priority number one. You have to first beautify the living of the people. The moment you do that, the city will be beautified.

Q: Would you be willing to work directly with the UDA, RDA and the Government on this project, if given the chance?

A: I cannot be suppressed by any institution which is controlled by the Government. However, I am prepared to cooperate for the betterment and welfare of the people, to bring them good governance and a friendly administration in the Municipal Council; a people’s administration, not bureaucratic or military administration.

Q: The drainage system in Colombo is such that when it rains hard, most of the city goes underwater. Any plans to improve it?

A: Well that’s another major project we have to look at, because our drainage system is nearly more than 100 years old. So we have to look at external agencies and get foreign assistance to get a complete new drainage system for Colombo. That will be one of our prime projects.

Eradicating dengue

Q: Colombo is one of the cities with the highest recorded dengue cases. What would be your plans to eradicate it?

A: The Municipal Council should provide a good medical service for the people. This is being totally neglected. So, the Municipal medical centres must be upgraded to protect any affected person.

Dengue has been a menace due to not proper cleaning of the city. Mainly I feel if we could have a proper drain system, clean up the water and use various chemicals to destroy the mosquitoes, we would be able to control it.

Garbage dumps

Q: The other problem in Colombo is the dumping of garbage. How do you propose to solve this problem?

A: Well, the garbage cleaning has been privatised. We have to monitor that closely. We’ll also have to consider how we could make use of garbage for generating energy. There are so many projects proposed that are not taking place. We’ll have to look into these projects and get experts to advise us on a proper streamlined system of cleaning the city and taking away garbage.

Eviction of families

Q: Last year, several families were evicted from Slave Island and promised alternative housing. Many of them were Muslims. What is their status now? As a Muslim yourself, what would you do for these people, if you were mayor?

A: Yes, I believe it was about 600 houses and some 1000 families who were evicted. Some of them were provided with houses in the Dematagoda housing complex. Others remain in shanties in Weligoda and Thotugama. We won’t let it happen again. Our policy is clear. We can’t throw out people who have been living there for generations. If we want land for development, we could easily construct high rise flats or houses. The priority is to give good accommodation and then develop the land. We will definitely establish that policy.

Q: Are the present rates enough for the municipality to function or will you raise local rates and taxes?

A: The Municipal Council has enough resources. Their goal should not be to tax the taxpayer but to get maximum use from them to contribute to the development of the city. I’m sure there are sufficient funds for the Council. We need to stop corruption and ensure there is good governance in the Municipal Council administration. That has to end.

Internal conflict in UNP

Q: There has been a lot of internal conflict within the UNP. Do you think this will affect the results this election?

A: The Government is trying to use the conflict and add fuel to it for their survival.

There were five or six competitors for the mayoral position from the party. Everybody was interviewed by the nomination board. I was the unanimous decision as candidate. That is the first victory we have achieved. I thank the nomination board from my heart for having faith and confidence in me to serve the people in Colombo. I hope that as a team we would be able to achieve the objective of the party.

At a time that people talk about a party crisis, we were firmly united in the belief that the UNP should secure the Colombo Municipal Council. In selecting the mayoral candidate itself, conflict never arose. We all believe the UNP can’t go further without capturing the Colombo Municipal Council. Having realised that fact, the party has been unanimous in selecting their nominee. So I think a new beginning is going to start for the UNP by securing the Municipal Council.

Taken from the Sunday Leader

for original article click here

 

 


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BATTLE FOR COLOMBO: “We will not allow a single citizen of Colombo to be moved out of the city”-Muzammil

Muzammil (L) and Milinda go head to head in Colombo. Photo by Thusitha Kumara .Taken from thesundayleader.lk  Western Provincial Councillor A.J.M Muzammil will be contesting for ...