Two immensely popular members from rival political parties have given up their offices and decided to enter the upcoming Provincial Council polls in the Gampaha district with both seeing provincial-level politics as a springboard to parliament.
Nimal Lanza is the youthful City Father of Negombo and he is confident of winning and emerging as the candidate with the highest number of preference votes.
He concedes that there is very little one can do inside the Provincial Council, but it is the only available passage to Parliament which he has vowed to enter after the next general elections. “One could do more in the mayoral office, but on the other hand if you are to improve your political office then sacrifices will have to be made down the road,” says the 34-year-old politician.
|Mr. Lanza addressing supporters
Mr. Lanza says he won the Negombo Municipal Council for the UPFA in 2006. He takes special pride in noting that he was able to do this in a traditionally UNP stronghold. “To achieve this I had to change some traditional tactics and procedures. The UNP supporters in Negombo are also this country’s citizens. They have their share of problems that have to be addressed. So I met all the citizens whenever time permitted. I did not care if they were red, blue, green or any other colour.
“This paid rich dividends, and the end result was that I was able to obtain a large number of UNP and floating votes” Mr. Lanza said.
The sprawling fish market that is nearing completion on the beach next to the old market is one among 14 town projects initiated by Mr. Lanza.
The other politician who has given up his mayoral post to contest the provincial poll is Ajith Manapperuma. He is the UNP mayor of Gampaha. His supporters say he has virtually single handedly given the municipal limits of Gampaha a clean slate, using whatever available resources and to some extent foreign funding, but with little or no help from the Government.
They say Mr. Manapperuma has put every effort to make Gampaha an environmental-friendly and pollution-free city.
Looking back at his attempts over the years, Mr. Manapperuma, a civil engineer by profession, says he is a happy man today, because he has done something for the town he loves.
The Gampaha town is perhaps the only place in the country where trash and rubbish such as waste from the hospital and discharge from the market squares are not allowed to rot in the open. Instead they are re-cycled for a useful purpose.
Mr. Manamperuma says a team of dedicated workers collect the rubbish on a daily basis, where it is later re-cycled to produce biogas, while objects like plastic litter and paper are separated and sold and the money is channelled to the council’s account.
The biogas thus produced lights up the fires in the council’s kitchens and is also distributed to several residences in the council’s vicinity, according to Mr. Manapperuma.
A resident who benefits from the council’s biogas pays Rs. 500 a month for an unlimited supply of gas. The council uses the money to buy tea leaves, coffee and sugar for an army of manual workers, Mr. Manapperuma says.
He says that every day the council collects about two tons of garbage, of which half is pumped into the biogas project while the rest is sorted out and sold. The council collects about Rs. 25,000 a month from the plastic and paper sales, he says.
A keen educationist, Mr. Manapperuma is critical of the state of education in the district. “It is in a pathetic state,” he says placing the blame squarely on the government.
|UNP candidate Manapperuma demonstrating his biogas generation project
“Every town is known for something. The Gampaha town is famous for education institutes. Of the estimated 100,000 people who enter the town daily, some 60 percent are students,” he says.
“But the sad part is that this vital sector has been ignored over the past one and a half decades and the rot has been allowed to set in owing to corruption at all levels and a step-motherly treatment meted out by the central Government,” the UNP candidate says.
He says that village schools were being closed down at a frightening pace owing to the lack of proper facilities and trained staff coupled with irregularities by the officialdom.Mr. Manapperuma says his aim is to enter parliament some day but he fears that when this happens, all the good work he has been doing could be neglected unless an equally committed person becomes the mayor.