It is the UNP that has a vision and plan to implement – Muzammil

By Chris Kamalendran

A.J.M. Muzammil, UNP’s mayoral candidate for CMC has vowed to carry on the functions of the council without government assistance, if his party wins the elections. Mr. Muzammil, in an interview said his party has a vision to develop the city, unlike the UPFA, which is beautifying a part of the city at the expense of the poor.


You are the first candidate from a minority community to be put forward by the UNP for the post of Mayor. Is this because the UNP could not find someone from the majority community, or is it because the demography of Colombo has changed?

The nominations were handled by a senior group within the party. They interviewed six probable mayoral candidates who made a claim. After the interviews, the party nomination board was requested to have a secret vote to select the candidates. The 12 members of the nomination board selected me as the best candidate. The selection was not done on a community basis. The UNP put the best candidate forward. Nowhere was a particular community identified. The choice was unanimous.

The UNP is split down the middle. Even your campaign has not seen all the leaders on one stage. Why should traditional UNP voters still vote for the party?

I do not agree that the party is split. It is a difference of opinion which has been blown out of proportion. When it came to the selection of the mayoral candidate, the party was able to take a united stand.
The senior members are campaigning in a united effort to ensure the victory of the UNP. There is a serious crisis within the Milinda Moragoda camp.

I was not chosen on a community basis: Muzamil. Pic by Saman Kriyawasam

He is unable to get the backing of senior SLFPers. He is also unable to get the UPFA’s partners on one platform. I challenge Milinda to bring all the UPFA partners together. The crisis within the Moragoda camp is not visible, because of the power they have. Therefore, UNP supporters at grassroot level are coming out to show their disapproval of the government.

The UNP, obviously, banked on the minority vote to win the CMC. But hasn’t the TNA’s decision to ask Tamil voters to back Mano Ganesan’s party, dealt a blow to your chances of winning?

The TNA has not officially made such a statement. The TNA has officially not taken such a stance. It is Mano Ganesan’s propaganda which is trying to mislead the Tamil voters. It is a political gimmick by him.

Do you see a visible change for the better in Colombo under the programmes of the Defence Ministry and UDA.

I do not believe in the Defence establishment getting involved in civil administration. The municipal councils have been under mayors elected by the people. They know their aspirations. We know how to work for the betterment of the people.

We are not objecting to the beautification of the city. But you cannot have beautification at the expense of the poor people. They also deserve to enjoy the same facilities. But the government has neglected the poor people in the shanty dwellings. Just see their living conditions--they do not have proper toilets, no drainage systems, water is stagnated.

For example, the ‘apple garden’ (watta) ‘Dhoby Korea’ near Temple Trees, what beautification have they seen? This beautification cannot be limited to certain areas.

Your party plans for a Megapolis comprising Colombo, Kotte, Dehiwela-Mt Lavina and beyond, which was prepared when the UNP was in government. How can these plans be implemented while in
opposition. Isn’t it a ‘pie in the sky’ the UNP is referring to?

We have to have a vision, a vision for the future. You must have a plan to implement. What I have pledged for the CMC has to be implemented for the betterment of the people. We have a plan of action. We will move to the next step.

Your party is broke. How are you going to finance these projects envisaged in your Megapolis plans?

CMC’s annual income is over Rs 9 billion. Its recurrent expenditure will be only Rs 2 billion. Therefore, there is Rs 7 billion surplus. If that money is utilised properly, without waste and corruption, we will be able to manage its affairs. We will also use every possible avenue to raise funds to develop the city.

The government says, voting for another party will disrupt what they call the rapid development programmes within the city, what is your reaction to that?

Absolutely no. I will give you two examples. When Karu Jayasuriya became the Mayor of Colombo, Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga was the president. Mr. Jayasuriya got two awards for the Best City in Asia. We have performed without the support of the government. I believe the CMC has its own resources to implement my plan of action. The government will not support our plan, because the government does not have money to give us.

They are bankrupt. So I do not need and I do not expect government funds. Look at the provinces, the government grabbed virtually all the revenue – some 65% of the income was taken. I am not going to be the Mayor to stretch my hand to the government to develop the city and the people.

The other example is the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council during the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, our leader was able to get foreign assistance and develop the city. So we have a leader who is internationally accepted. When it comes to Mega projects, I am sure he can canvass for foreign assistance, if funds are required.

What are the assurance you are giving to the people living in shanties?

Government gave no assurances that houses will be built for the people. You cannot go and put the people elsewhere, and tell them to wait until their houses are built. Nowhere in the world were people relocated in this manner. Take countries like Singapore and Malaysia, where houses are built first, and then the land is taken over.

Just see how we built the Kettarama international stadium in a congested area. We first built houses, moved them, and then developed the area. That is the way you develop the area. You don’t bring the military, police and the STF and the bulldozers and break houses. You do not treat people in that manner. Now the government is saying that they will build houses in the same location.

The setbacks within Colombo are partly due to what happened at the last municipal elections?

A: I do not know if there was a plot at the last municipal elections. The two persons who changed the nominations were Mr. Moragoda and Mr. M. Maharoof. It is a well known fact. Even though the list got rejected, it is they who wanted to back the ‘Spectacle’ group.

They assured that they will get the ‘Spectacle’ group to resign and then for our people to take over. It failed, and a trishaw driver took over as Mayor of Colombo. Who is responsible? It is Moragoda and Maharoof. Corruption took place during that time. A commission found there was corruption.

Is Colombo the last bastion of the UNP to fall?

I am certainly winning the elections, though a section of the media is playing an unreasonable role. The state media and one particular private station is campaigning for Moragoda.

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