Participatory citizenship is important - Rosy

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By 2018-01-21

By Shaahidah Riza

UNP Mayoral candidate for the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), Rosy Senanayake, in an interview with Ceylon Today said that she does not consider being an international beauty queen as helping or hampering her bid to be Colombo's first woman Mayor.

Excerpts:

Colombo is home to many underserviced areas including slums. How will you deal with issues such as insufficient schooling facilities, rampant sex and drug trades, malnutrition, and mosquito and water borne diseases?

A: My team and I have drawn up a comprehensive 10-year plan to address issues faced by the residents of Colombo. We will obtain assistance from the Central Government to execute some of the projects. We will ensure that all children have equal opportunity by working with the Education Ministry to upgrade some schools and build at least two more national schools in Colombo North and Colombo Central.

The prevalence of illegal drugs is affecting many families. Many families, especially in Colombo North, Colombo Central and Borella areas have been badly affected. We will work closely with the Ministry of Law and Order to arrest this trend. We will also be setting up Rehabilitation Centres to help addicts.

In my capacity as State Minister for Children's Affairs during the 100-day programme, I introduced a Rs 20,000 nutritional package for all pregnant mothers. I also obtained $50 million to develop early childhood education. I will introduce similar projects within CMC areas and ensure both children and mothers get the nourishment they need.

Water borne and mosquito related diseases affect us all. We will be carrying out campaigns together with the Health Ministry, Provincial Council and voluntary associations to eradicate dengue. Our aim is to reduce dengue deaths by half this year, and have zero deaths by 2020.

Social media platforms and mobile phones will be used to alert residents if there is an outbreak in a particular area, so they could take necessary precautions. We will promote the use of the new App 'Epihack' to involve more public participation in eradicating dengue.

What are the development plans you envision for the city?

A: Our vision is for a smart, safe, empowered and green Colombo that will be achieved through sustainable development projects that take into account the environment and the wellbeing of the community.

I will appoint a steering committee made up of Councillors, staff, residents, stakeholders and subject expertto implement, monitor and evaluate all the projects we have planned.

We will be setting up multi-faceted community centres in every electorate, to provide a variety of services to constituents. These would include recreational activities, programmes for the disabled and the elderly, career guidance and job ready training, vocational training, child-care and preschools and modernized library services.

There is an urgent need to resolve traffic congestion in the city. Colombo is the financial hub of the country, and fast and easy movement within the city is extremely important. The 10-year development plan includes more flyovers, and one will run from the Kelani Bridge through Fort to Colombo Port. We will also be developing the canal network as an alternative form of transport.

Electric buses will soon be on our roads. Passengers will use re-loadable cards instead of tickets. The buses will also be disabled friendly. We have identified land for separate parking for three-wheelers, school buses etc.

An efficient and effective plan will be put in place to deal with the garbage issue. A new dumping site has been identified in the Puttalam district.

Providing clean drinking water, sanitation and fully functional toilet facilities for all residents is included in our plans.

In what capacity will you work with the Minister for Megapolis and Urban Development?

A: In my meetings with our constituents, I have found that many are confused as to which Agency provides what service. I will work with the Minister to clearly identify which Agency that residents should approach, and share that information with the public.

We will be setting up a separate unit at the CMC to direct constituents to the correct Agency or department, depending on the need or situation.

There is a major population growth in the city and also increased migration to the city for education and employment purposes. Is Colombo prepared to deal with the influx of population?

A: We will be introducing a housing policy and a construction policy to deal with these issues. We will be working with Line Ministries to assist 50,000 lower income families whose homes require improvement, to become owners of storeyed houses, while middle income families will be able to obtain low interest rate loans from State banks. The Government has allocated Rs 75 million towards this.

The unemployment rate in Colombo is 2.9%. Although it is relatively low compared to other regions how will you address this issue?

A: We will work with banks and the Chamber of Commerce to launch a self-employment assistance programme. A separate unit will be set up to identify available jobs in the private and State sector, and notify those seeking employment and give them the training they need. There will be three NYSCO centres and career guidance units within the City to assist youth.

Beggars have now been banned from the city limits. However, they pose a socio-economic crisis, what are your solutions to this issue?

A: This brings to mind the Mawathe Api programme launched by President Premadasa, where street artistes were given the opportunity to perform on stage. I don't think it will be possible to ban begging entirely. Wherever in the world you go, you will find beggars and homeless people. But, through programmes such as Mawathe Api we will be able to encourage such people to engage in income generating work.

One of the units in the Multi-faceted centres I mentioned earlier will be dedicated for street kids. The self-employment and career guidance programmes that will be conducted at these centres will be open to all, and I sincerely hope that the beggar community too, would avail themselves of the opportunities provided.

Corruption and bribery are rampant in the CMC. How will you cleanse the system?

A: We consider digitalization as the answer to that. Even though some systems have been digitalized at the CMC, they are not utilized fully. Under our administration, constituents will have the ability to obtain licences, applications, pay bills, access reports and budgets, make complaints and suggestions etc. via their mobile phones or the internet.

We will be computerizing the issue of land certificates and ensuring that those are accepted by all Government agencies.

Also, we will be introducing the Citizens Charter identified in the Local Government Act. We believe that participatory citizenship is important to eliminate bribery and corruption because constituents will have the opportunity to take ownership of the programmes.

They will be able to actively engage with Councillors and CMC staff. Participatory citizenship creates the space for constituents to contribute their ideas for budgetary allocations, review budgets and uphold good governance. They will be able to communicate with me, the other Councillors and staff via an App and Chat rooms. Each Councillor will have a website through which constituents will be able to contact them on any matter.

We will be introducing 'Town Hall' meetings at different locations. These will be held every three months. CMC staff, the Councillors and I will attend them. CMC staff will also receive regular training in communication skills and best practices used in Municipalities world-wide to ensure they serve constituents to the best of their abilities. The CMC will also be the first municipality to introduce the three-language policy of the government.

The city experiences instances of public indecency (eg: urinating in public) and sexual harassment on the streets and in public transport. How will you address these issues?

A: The CMC will work with the Police Department to address these issues. While we will be vigilant in maintaining well-lit roads and safety in public areas such as parks, we will encourage citizens to communicate any safety issues to the relevant authorities via an App that is being developed for that purpose.

Our development plan includes the building of more public toilets, and we will have education campaigns to discourage indecent behaviour in public.

Does being a woman - and an internationally recognized Beauty Queen - help or hamper your bid to become the city's first woman Mayor?

A: I do not consider my being a beauty queen, nor being a woman, as helping or hampering my bid to be Colombo's first woman Mayor. What I bring to this position is the vast experience and insights I have gathered throughout my career.

I have been a Member of Parliament, and also the Leader of the Opposition of the Western Provincial Council, and a State Minister. My most recent position was as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister. I have been a long-time member of the UNP.

Throughout my career, I have displayed leadership qualities and shown initiative. That is why the UNP has nominated me as their Mayoral candidate.

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