The man behind the specs

The Sunday Times interviews the kingmaker in Colombo’s Mayoral stakes

Annapillai K.M.S. Rajendran, 55, has what it takes to be Colombo’s next Mayor after his independent group backed by the UNP won last Saturday’s elections for the Colombo Municipal Council.

But he says he wants to play a limited role in politics while keeping to his original intention of serving the people to the best of his ability.

Independent group leader Annapillai K.M.S. Rajendran.
Pic. by Gemunu Wellage

For Mr. Rajendran, a businessman from Modera, it was sweet revenge from the UNP when he consented to the controversial arrangement with the UNP whereby the Independent group agreed to withdraw its winning list and substitute it with that of the UNP.

“In 1997 when I decided to contest under an independent group it was because I was not happy about the way the UNP was serving the people. At that time I thought to myself that one day the UNP will have to come back to me. But I did not expect the party to come back to me in this manner”, Mr. Rajendran explained.

Though a legal battle over the issue of substituting the names is likely to emerge, Mr. Rajendran believes it is the UNP members who should be allowed to run the CMC as it is their supporters who voted for the Independent group 3.

“I have entrusted the matter to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to decide as to who should come into the council as it is the will of the people that the UNP should control the CMC,” Mr. Rajendran, who has been avoiding the press and some of his supporters, told The Sunday Times in an interview.

Mr. Rajendran said his links with the UNP goes way back to the 1940’s when one of his relatives Veeraiya Kulandavel contested the Colombo Central ward and he himself has backed and campaigned for former Mayors the late V.A. Sugathadasa and the late Vincent Perera and was also closely associated with the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Christy Perera.

Mr. Rajendran said he had been a busy man since the nomination list of his independent group made up mostly of UNPers was handed in and accepted while the UNP list was rejected.

He said his group members have been having several rounds of discussions with senior UNP members and claims the UPFA approached him asking him not to back the UNP.

Mr. Rajendran said he was even offered cash incentives.

“If I thought only of the money I would have taken the money and got away,” he said.

The pressure on Mr. Rajendran appears to be continuing. He said the pressure was so intense that even two different lists were sent to the Assistant Commissioner of Elections nominating Colombo’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

“On Wednesday we had sent the names of Uvais Mohamed Imithiaz and Udawatte Chandrasena for the post of Mayor and Deputy Mayor, but later on I sent the names of Ramanathan Ganesh and Jayasinghe Arachchige Sepala Wasantha for Mayor and Deputy Mayor. I had forgotten the names had already been submitted,” he claimed. Mr. Rajendran denied that the two sets of names were sent because of two varying instructions that were received from two UNP groups. Eventually the names of Messrs. Imithiaz and Chandrasena were accepted by the Elections Commissioner and gazetted.

But Mr. Rajendran as the leader of the Independent group had the authority of naming himself as the Mayor or at least demanding that he be named a council member.

“I am not interested in getting into the council. If that was the case when our Independent group won the elections in 1997 as the leader I could have easily got myself into the CMC, but I sent in another person. Again in 2002 when our group won one seat another person was nominated”, he said.

In 1997 his group received 2,162 votes and in 2002 it received 4,629 votes. Mr. Rajendran said his main ambition was to serve the people of Modera, as he had been doing in the past and would continue doing it though he opted to remain out of the CMC.

“Whenever persons have been arrested I have intervened and got them released. Whenever people have problems with the police I intervene. We even help people to get their work attended to by government department. That’s how we gained votes as an independent group”, he explained.

However he said he was not sure how his party would handle the CMC administration in the event a legal battle delayed the UNP plans to take control of the council.


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