By Ajith C. S. Perera –
For the first time in history, a group of professionals and intellectuals “With Restricted Ability” will contest the upcoming Parliamentary elections 2015. They will contest as independent candidates for the Colombo and Gampaha Districts.
An estimated 20% of our Population with **Limitations in their Ability** form the Country’s Biggest Minority. BUT, the political parties find NO ONE from this 4 Million People – that includes academically & professionally qualified intellectuals with honesty, and experience as disability activists – to fill even the 29th place in their national lists.
What made we professionals contest as an independent group?
We want to use this Election to draw optimum attention to the plight of our ever growing Biggest Minority in the country – People who have Deficiency in Ability”
We had high hopes that the elected politicians from several parties, with whom we have worked closely, would make decisions on several key issues that concerns our quality of life .
But this has not happened even after 20 years.
In fact, due to ageing, numerous debilitating illnesses (such as arthritis, joint problems, diabetes, vertigo), accidents, convalescing after surgery and the ended 30 years of conflict, very many people find their mobility, sight, hearing or brain functioning restricted.
These 4 Million people with **Limitations in Ability** form the country’s biggest minority!
Yet, inept attitudes and inaction have denied us our rights to live as equal citizens with dignity and deprived us of the equal opportunities that come through social integration in respect of employment, education, recreation, travel and health.
Five factors that triggered our entry to contest
(i). Politicians found NO ONE from this Biggest Minority – *People with Restricted Ability* – even academically & professionally qualified intellectuals with honesty and experience as disability activists to fill even the 29th place in their national lists. It is a true reflection of the lack of concern of politicians when anyone becomes dis-Abled!
(ii). Political parties have belittled our cries for empowerment and made us reluctant dependants on charity and social welfare.
(iii). Continual failure by politicians to recognise the importance of our social integration and the productive contributions we could still make towards a sustainable national economy and winning the deciding votes.
(iv) When the heroic soldiers retire, they simultaneously lose their care-giver. Life in the civil society brings them new sets of problems which are yet to be recognised & resolved.
(v). Politicians and Decision makers at the top have hardly shown the genuine desire to identify the root causes of the key issues that affects the Country’s BIGGEST MINORITY.
Six key areas on which we shall focus through identified goals
(i). To remain NO part of any political party.
(ii). To have *true* public servants in Parliament who understand our key priorities and make all hear *Our Voice*, enabling us to ENJOY our rights as equal citizens.
(iii). To Implement effective measures to empower innate potential, minimise unwanted dependency and improve quality of life.
(iv). To Promote equal opportunities for full participation in all spheres of life through Social Integration concerning Education, Employment, Recreation and Health.
(v) To implement measures to promote “Accessible Tourism for All” as a yet untapped indispensable lucrative profit resource.
(vi). To facilitate with special emphasis to empower, socially integrate and enhance the quality of life in civil society of heroic soldiers on retirement as well as all other victims of the 30 year conflict.
Here too we shall focus more on accessible user-friendly built environments.
With the combined vast experiences and wealth of subject knowledge already in our possession concerning the priorities and real needs of this biggest minority with restricted ability, we shall map out plans of action to achieve each goal realistically.
Do not forget the fact that several of us are professionals in different fields with senior managerial experience.
Key Players in our team in the election fray
Perhaps my 18 years of pioneering voluntary endeavours seeking redress for dis-abled persons with unreserved commitment have propelled others to make me contest from the Independent Group No:12 of the Colombo District.
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With me are: W.M.D.Ratnasekera – a M.A. graduate from Colombo University – the founder and senior president, Sri Lanka National Federation of Visually Handicapped; Brian Prasanna– a higher diploma holder in linguistics from Hong Kong Chinese University; and Hirantha Kanishka – an amputee and a graphic designer.
The former air force officer Prasanna Kuruppu leads the Independent Group No: 15 from Gampaha. Mr. Kuruppu is a victim of conflict and the first ever to survive after the loss of both his limbs below the knees. He is presently an independent researcher and a consultant in dis-Ability and disarmament.
With him are: Anil Jayawardena (Number 3) – the current president of disability organisations’ joint front; and Dr. Nihal Fernando (Number 7), an amputee and an MBBS qualified medical practitioner from Negombo.
Anil and Brian are hearing impaired totally.
Open your eyes
We are ALL ABLE only temporarily. How many of our politicians realise that 75% of what they talk of delivering to the masses, can be worthwhile only if one remains ‘ABLE’ with ease in day to day life?
For example, think of that brilliant child who either through an accident or illness, find himself unable to access the school or the university or even the ATM machine to withdraw money in case of need.
Similarly, salary increases become meaningless IF an accident denies you opportunities for continuing employment- often the stumbling block here being attitudes and inaccessible work environments.
Even a toilet in any of the wards in all leading hospitals or leading schools including the at International ones, you are denied of entering, IF for any of the numerous reasons you had fallen on to a Wheelchair – yes even none of the reputed hospitals have a single *truly* accessible toilet in any ward.
Unless and until the politicians establish remedial measures to enjoy the rights like all others regardless of the degree of ability, promises they make at Elections, often are of hardly any real value.
You decide what YOUR future wants
No sooner your abilities are snatched away from you – which is inevitable for reasons explained earlier – than all you have been enjoying will drift away beyond your reach. You will thus fall into the pit of *unwanted dependency*, only to waste your potential and lose not only productive opportunities, but dignity and self-confidence as well.
Until our entry to contest, everyone has remained inept about the plight of the people of Sri Lanka when their abilities are taken away. Although they form the country’s biggest minority, all politician and leaders have resembled the dog in the foundry.
We believe it is we and we only – provided your votes send us to the Parliament on 18th August – who will raise there all significant issues concerning your day-to-day life and get effective remedial measures implemented to live NO MORE as Second Class often Marginalised Citizens BUT ……. as EQUAL productive citizens with dignity and self-confidence.
From the past twenty years you know well NO POLITICIAN from any party or front or alignment will ever talk about your plight in the parliament.
That is the very reason why EVERY HOUSEHOLD with foresight should vote for us.
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