I will continue Gota’s legacy - Milinda Rajapaksha
By Methmalie Dissanayake
A candidate from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Milinda Rajapaksha in an interview with Ceylon Today promised to continue what the former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa did with the support of the defence forces to control the drug menace and underworld in Colombo, after winning the Local Government (LG) Election on 10 February.
Following are excerpts:
Why do you think that the people in Colombo should elect you as their Mayor?
A: Today, the political culture of the entire world is rapidly changing. The new trend is electing young, professional and unfamiliar faces into the legislations. You can see such examples from countries like France and Austria. Technology is changing. Needs and wants along with the thinking patterns of the people are also changing with the technology, so does the political needs of them.
That is why we produced a nomination list of young professionals. That is also why
I wanted to contest in the LG polls.
The biggest problem Colombo faces is the garbage issue. How exactly are you going to tackle this menace?
A: Actually, the garbage problem is a by-product of not managing the city according to an effective town plan during past years. As you can see, there was no proper plan as to how we tackle this problem. On the other hand, we do not have a colossal budget to implement solutions proposed by Western countries.
Therefore, I think we should find a solution for this menace with the collaboration of the people in Colombo. First, we should educate them about how to recycle garbage in their homes and how to reduce the usage of polythene. After that, we can implement measures to recycle garbage collected from households and discard non recyclable garbage according to proper standards.
We have produced a 10-step plan to tackle such issues in Colombo as a part of our election campaign.
Beggars within Colombo city limits pose a socio-economic crisis, what are your solutions to this issue?
A: Beggars can be seen even in developed cities like London and New York. In my view, rather than for beggars in Colombo needs a solution for slums. The former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the first person who took steps to tackle this issue.
Several flats were constructed under his instructions for thousands of people who used to live in slums to settle down.
Following his path, we hope to make another 50,000 people settle down in proper flats by 2020.
How do you hope to solve the traffic congestion in Colombo?
A: To find a solution for this problem we have to consider three factors. The first one is as a developing country; everyone loves to drive their own vehicle. The other thing is we do not have a proper public transportation sector. The last thing is Colombo has very limited space. Everyone tries to reduce traffic congestion by constructing flyovers because they do not have a clear idea about these three elements.
My plan to reduce the traffic congestion needs the collaboration of nearby Local Governments such as Maharagama and Kottawa. With the support of LG bodies, the number of vehicles which enter Colombo should be reduced. Also, we should implement necessary parking facilities for such vehicles. Public transportation within city limits should be improved along with it. Actually, Gotabaya Rajapaksa also presented these ideas. What we have to do is follow them.
Recreation is one of the needs for people living in a city. What are your plans for them?
A: You are correct. People who live in a city have three basic needs. They have to live within the city and they have to carry out their occupations within city limits. Then, they also need recreation for the balance of their mental health. Recreation facilities are absolutely necessary not only for them, but also for outsiders who visit the city daily. At least half a million people visit Colombo per day. For a developed city, there should be recreation facilities for children, young people and adults. There also should be a proper mechanism to maintain them, ensuring their protection, especially protection for women.
Colombo is the heart of the country. We showed the whole country how to establish and maintain such facilities in Colombo when we had power back then, but this government showed the people how to destroy them within three years. I hope to continue the former government's programmes regarding establishing and improving recreation facilities in the city.
The drug menace and underworld activities are becoming a headache for Colombo. Do you have any plans to control this situation?
A: Everyone saw how the former government swept the underworld out of Colombo, but after 8 January 2015, many underworld leaders who fled to foreign countries returned and we have information that some of them are engaging in election campaigns of other parties as well. Now, every day, we hear about clashes between underworld gangs and criminal activities.
By 2014, Colombo was the fastest developing city in Asia. Unfortunately, we lost that grip because this government did not show any interest in tackling issues like the underworld.
If I win, I will continue what the former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa did with the support of the defence forces to control the drug menace and the underworld in Colombo. By doing so, I hope to make Colombo the fastest developing city in Asia by 2025 and the fastest developing city in the world by 2030.
(Milinda Rajapaksha is a visiting lecturer at the University of Kelaniya. He acted as the National Director of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) during the period of the former Government.)
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