Dehiwala – Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council
l by Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne
(November 27, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am now an elected representative of people. Never mind where, which or how. That I believe is irrelevant. In the last period, we were tormented by chauvinists, conservatives, and various reactionaries referring to our mass support. Every time we referred to injustice and lack of fair play, we were shot down as non entities. Famous of all, is that all our support could be accommodated in a three wheeler! Though it is obvious that one need not be a mass leader to raise a question on injustice; human rights, civil rights, labour rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and problems of environment, it is assumed are issues to be discussed exclusively by mass leaders. I wanted to challenge these people. Sans mass meetings, sans posters, we walked with cards in hand. Only 17-4during day time; as darkness could be dangerous.
Dangerous election campaigns
Yes, Bharatha found sacrificing his life, even day time could be dangerous in election campaigns. Fortunately we could avoid clashes. I believe that I walked at least 250 km, meeting people mostly women and old people, as men were out in the field. I am happy that every where we went, we were invited in and serious political questions were raised. Some gave contributions to the election fund. For the first time in my long political life I felt that I was treated very seriously by every body. I joined the Lanka Sama Samaja party in 1962 as a university student, impressed by the discussions within the student council. Though I was serious in my political commitment, except the politically loyal, others thought I was wasting my time.
While my relations and friends thought I could do some thing else, my enemies thought I should be cruelly punished for my beliefs and views.
So, I should be happy now; not only that many have considered our views seriously, a significant section has supported us.
I am surprised to see every body in the Dehiwela Mt.Lavinia Municipal Council accepting me with smiles and kind words. Of course, most of them are shrewd politicians though confined to the locality. Many of them were surprised that I got elected with such an insignificant campaign. They explained the nature and the amount of welfare and propaganda activity involved in their respective campaigns. Some have paid monthly electricity bills, water bills etc of thousands of households to collect a few thousands of preferences. Many of them are rich businessmen and hence I could believe their story. So, welfare either with state money or from one’s own pocket is the basis of populist politics. Does that mean His Worship the Mayor, Danasiri Amaratunge got the highest votes by spending millions for welfare and populist projects? Danasiri is a dynamic man with a large crowd always following him. He appears to be attending to this or that matter of somebody. Obviously he cannot compensate for the disastrous policies of the government. But he is always on the move with his conservative but pleasant adjutant Kesaralal following him. They criticize each other, not openly. But they gang up together beautifully against the opposition. Now Danasiri wants to get rid of all private sector involvements in cleaning and other services.
Municipal services or city services refer to basic services that residents of a city expect the city government to provide in exchange for the taxes which citizens pay. Basic city services in Lanka include sanitation (both sewer and refuse), water, streets, pre schools, food inspection, fire department, ambulance, and other health department issues and internal transportation. City governments were expected to provide these facilities through respective internal departments. But in the recent past with the emergence of neo liberalism it became the fashion to give services to private sector on sub contract. In fact the municipality services failed due to political intervention in management. Work gangs became goons of local politicians. Municipal administrators could not implement any discipline as the workers were protected by corrupt politicians. That is why the private sector could get in so easily. Danasiri and Kesaralal say they will change all that. Whom are they challenging?