By Granville Perera –
The announcement by Mayor A. J. M. Muzammil that he is going to open the city’s pavement for hawkers again is mind chilling and is the worst piece of information the Colombo city dwellers have heard in over a decade. Muzammil has already unleashed the dreaded beggar menace and all he needs is to give the pavement to his cronies for the city dwellers to perform trapeze acts on the city roads. The peaceful strolls of window shoppers in the city would only be a dream. No pedestrian would be able to walk peacefully on the pavements that have been beautifully developed by the Urban Development Authority. Muzammil, who is trying to gain cheap popularity and a few votes for his wife at the forthcoming general election, is sadly mistaken. The UNP, which has promised her nomination, will have to review that pledge, or else the UNP will face the most humiliating defeat ever in the city of Colombo. Ranil Wickremesinghe is no fool to take this suicidal route and hope that good sense would prevail. Can the UNP claim any worthwhile developmental achievements under Muzammil’s tenure as mayor? The UNP should shove this wheeler-dealer family out of UNP politics, forever.
When Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in power, Muzammil was flirting with him and Ranil’s United National Party (UNP) could have lost the city of Colombo. His threats and intimidation probably forced Ranil to consider nominations for Muzammil’s wife on the UNP ticket in Colombo. What are her qualifications to demand nominations from Colombo when there are hundreds of other more eligible candidates for that slot? Muzammil wants to continue plundering the city as Mayor and his wife to be elected to parliament, so that one-day when he is thrown out as the city father, he could attempt at a seat in Diyawanna. For his unprincipled and sloddy rhetoric, he should be thrown to the crocs at Diyawanna oya. May the gods protect the city of Colombo from another term for Muzammil?
The city of Colombo was transformed from being one of the dirtiest to the fastest growing in the world as per a ranking undertaken by a MasterCard study. This is a remarkable achievement indeed for a nation that was emerging out of a protracted civil war. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at the end of the war, mobilized the excess manpower within the armed forces towards development and beautification of the city. Ancient building that were abandoned were restored to pristine conditions. The restoration of dilapidated buildings undertaken by the Urban Development Authority are world class and cannot be disputed. This success of the beautification programme was undertaken under the able leadership Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a task master par excellence. The resources for the beautification programme, I believe came mainly from the flood control programme for the city, and today we are spared the option of swimming to work in most parts of the Colombo due to the excellent work done by the Urban Development Authority. The parliament drive and the Diyawanna lake development projects, the waters edge and athidya walkways etc. propelled us on par with any other beautiful city in the world. Our neighbours in the region envied our remarkable post war achievements. The magnificent walkways and recreation facilities at independence sqare are world class. All these were undertaken by servicemen who would have otherwise been confined to barracks, and their imagination could have run riot and their guns pointed at the government, leading to a possible military coup that would have driven us back to the gun culture. If one studies the demobilization of troops in countries where they have had long drawn conflicts, it has been very unpleasant and Sri Lanka should be proud of its achievement.
Countries like Nicaragua, Mozambique, and closer to home, Cambodia experienced turmoil after prolonged civil wars. The soldiers, especially the disabled turned their guns at civilians and intimidated them in to doling out huge amounts as ransom. Their arguments have always been that they sacrificed their lives for people to live in peace and it was the people’s turn to look after them. Gun trotting ex soldiers were a common sight in these countries. Gotabaya foresaw this and turned their energy in to a constructive force in support of development.
Of course Gotabaya Rajapaksa is no clean angel. His vengeance and hate of Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka saw the war winning General in prison. He has also been accused of the white van carnage, massive corruption, promoting hate towards minorities, mass murder of civilians at the end of the war, the floating armoury scandal, corruption and intimidation of opponents. However, after 150 days of good governance, he has not been charged and if the government doesn’t have sufficient evidence, he should be cleared. If he is not guilty of the crimes rumored, he should be asked to come back as Mayor of Colombo, and my vote is for him.