I’m not against beautification of Colombo, but it must be for all not some: Muzammil

New mayor to fight for park and Race Course; promises to do away with corruption in CMC and look into garbage, youth problems
By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Muzammil on a walk-about tour of Gunasinghapura on Saturday. Pic by Nilan Maligaspe

Colombo’s new Mayor A.J.M. Muzzammil has threatened legal action against the vesting of Viharamahadevi Park and the former Race Course under the Urban Development Authority (UDA).
“We will do our best to restore them to the CMC as they were allocated as recreation places for the people of Colombo,” he said.

“A gazette notification has been issued to acquire Race Course grounds. It was given to the CMC in lieu of the CMC’s Nomads grounds which was acquired to build a cultural centre. Now we don’t have both the grounds,” he said.

The mayor said plans were also underway to take over the Viharamahadevi Park. He said these moves by the UDA were aimed at depriving the CMC of its income. According to the Lands Division of the CMC, the Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park) is situated in a 50 acre prime land in Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 07 while the Race Course is about six acres. The park has been under the purview of the CMC since 1866.

Municipal Commissioner, Badrani Jayawardena said the Viharamahadevi Park was maintained by both the CMC and the UDA but the ownership was with the council. She said the UDA had called for documents relating to the court case on the acquisition of the Park in 2001 by the UDA. The court ordered the park be handed back to the CMC.

In an another development, the UDA which now comes under the newly established Ministry of Defence and Urban Development called on Friday for applications for the post of deputy directors, site engineers, structural engineers, technical officers, and electrical engineers for its relocation of Underserved Settlements Project (city of Colombo and Suburbs).

Mr. Muzammil said he did not oppose the beautification of Colombo but believed that a serious imbalance in the process allowed only a small percent of the population to benefit from it.
He said the poor should be a part of the new look of the city but unfortunately they were being thrown out of their houses in the name of beautifying the city.

Workers sprucing up the Mayor’s residence on Marcus Fernando Mawatha. Pic by Susantha Liyanawatte

“My first prioriy is to provide basic facilities such as water and sanitation to those in low income settlements. The destruction of these settlements will not be allowed until housing projects are completed to house those who would be relocated, which could take a couple of years,” he said.
He also said that he would see to it that State institutions do not default in paying rates.

“There are some sports grounds, community centres and medical dispensaries that are in a dilapidated condition and CMC needs finances to upgrade these. Therefore strict action would be taken against those who default paying rates. Unfortunately government institutions are the main culprits with about a billion rupees pending as taxes. If it’s a private individual or institution we can even seize the property but it is not an easy task when it comes to state institutions,” he said.

Mr. Muzammil said corruption within the CMC had resulted in failing to provide city dwellers better facilities. “Bribery and corruption will not be tolerated and I will not hesitate to take immediate disciplinary action against those involved in malpractices. All CMC dealings will be transparent and people will be able to obtain information and their complaints will be looked into immediately. All tender- callings will first be displayed on the CMC’s website,” he said. Commenting on one of the biggest hazards that Colombo citizens face the problem of garbage collection, Mr. Muzammil said it would be expedited and assured that garbage would be collected from residences every other day, without allowing garbage to pile up in residences for several days.

Regarding the shifting of the fish market in Peliyagoda back to Colombo, Mr. Muzammil said, “ I have been misquoted in some media. We will seek a new place in Colombo to build a fish market while the Peliyagoda market too will operate,” he said, Addressing the problem of education he said the highest number of school-dropouts were from Colombo while many don’t make it to university too because of the existing marking scheme, which required students from Colombo to get a high aggregate.
“Majority of these unemployed youth are led astray by drugs and notorious gangs. There is very little streamlined vocational training centres in the city,” he said.

Muzammil: Will he or won’t he have to wait till Nov 1

Pic by Hasitha Kulasekera

Though the local government elections were held on October 8 and all the Mayors have taken office, Colombo’s Mayor has to wait for his term which begins from November 1. “The party has written to the secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils requesting them to expedite the appointment by issuing a gazette. We have come to know that a recruitment process is taking place by the Special Commissioner who was appointed by the government,” Mr. Muzammil said.

Local Government Ministry secretary Dr. Nihal Jayatilake told the Sunday Times that the request to the minister to issue an order advancing Mr. Muzammil’s appointment was received recently.
“There are about 10 days left and it was decided that a gazette to advance the appointment period would not be necessary,” Dr. Jayatilake said. He said recruitments can take place under the Special Commissioner but the Mayor, once he resumes office can also continue with the recruitment process. According to him, the term of Special Commissioner Omar Kamil, who was appointed to look into the activities of the CMC after it was dissolved, will end on October 31

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