The new system adopted for the Local Government Elections has provided opportunities for new faces to make a change. Contesting under the UNP ticket from the National List is Jerusha Crossette- Thambiah, an Attorney-At-Law currently in private practice and also a lecturer at the University of London – External Programme. Speaking to the Dailymirror, Jerusha shared her views regarding the upcoming polls and what areas need to be focused on:
QWhy did you want to support the UNP?
I don’t like the word politics, so I would like to call this entering public service. Why I chose to get involved this time around is because it’s the first time since the inception of municipal councils that women (52% of the population ) have been afforded 25% mandatory representation and it is about time.
It is also the first time that a woman has been nominated as the mayoral candidate for Colombo. So taking this into account and the change that can be made at the Local Government levels, leave alone the great strides made in regards to womens’s representation, I accepted the invitation to be on the list and hope that some serious work can be done.
I can honestly say that there is inclusion for all minorities in this party and I have never been made to feel like I am a part of the minority. It’s important to note that I am a part of a privileged few who were raised in Colombo and have not felt the divide and discrimination as much as some others have
QDo you believe that Rosy Senanayake is an apt nomination for Mayor?
YES! I have watched her work for a long time and I know she is hard working, passionate and always rallies together the people who are suitable for the job. This was especially true in the case of the National Child Protection Authority during her stint as state minister.
QAs a lawyer, what issues do you see in the present political system?
One of the major drawbacks in the old system is that it left little or no room for professionals to come forward and even less of an opportunity for women. This then in turn affects key stakeholders (the women) as there are men making decisions with regards to women’s issues.
The old system also made it difficult for professionals to come forward as there were campaign costs and the sacrifice of one’s profession etc. These have been addressed through the introduction of the joint system of first past the post and proportional representation systems. So making a complete change from the local level will definitely change the game and hopefully take ‘Our Colombo’ to
I have to make special mention of the fact that another marginalized group I’d like to represent is women and a lot of work has to be done in terms of the daily plague known as street harassment. Strict complaint procedures and hotlines need to be in place
QWhat are the main issues you have identified in Colombo?
Our election manifesto focuses on five of the main issues in a long list of things to be improved.
Garbage collection is a critical issue. An alternate disposal site in Puttalam has been identified and regular, efficient garbage collection systems are to be implemented.
With regard to traffic there are proposals to build flyovers to ease traffic, maintain existing roads and flyovers and launch water taxis on the canals to ease traffic on the main roads.
Digitalize the Municipal council. This will help the public with their day to day interactions with the council so complaints, payment of bills , obtaining applications and licences etc can be done online.
Council members will also have a website each to enable transparency and have direct access to your members.
Community centres- More than 25 community centres are to be established in Colombo with preschools, libraries, career guidance units, internet cafes, counselling, recreational facilities etc to serve the community better.
Participatory Citizenship – This will help provide stakeholders and residents with an opportunity to have quarterly meetings with the CMC, so that residents can have a direct influence on their respective budgets and address issues in their area in a timely and methodical manner.
QAs a contestant representing a minority, what challenges do you face?
I can honestly say that there is inclusion for all minorities in this party and I have never been made to feel like I am a part of the minority.
It’s important to note that I am a part of a privileged few who were raised in Colombo and have not felt the divide and discrimination as much as some others have. It is therefore my duty to be a voice for those who have been marginalized on grounds of their race as I speak all three languages and endeavour to bridge the unnecessary gap created on racial lines even in the year 2018.
I hope the city will support this new era and the change that we are trying to make from the LG level upwards. The support from the Central Government in achieving these will also be of great value
I have to make special mention of the fact that another marginalized group I’d like to represent is women and a lot of work has to be done in terms of the daily plague known as street harassment.
Strict complaint procedures and hotlines need to be in place, CCTVs on public transport etc have to be immediately set up, equal opportunity must be given to female vendors and entrepreneurs at the market place, feeding and changing rooms must be established in public areas and efforts must be taken to get women involved in the budgetary process. These are a few things that I would like to support and see happen.
QColombo is mainly a UNP voter base, but while the UNP was in power limited development took place. What are your views?
I won’t deny that there is much to do. It is my belief that through this new system, capable and honest people have been put forward and with a former member of parliament and a power house woman at the helm it will definitely make the much needed change. The council and the way it is run have to be given a complete facelift and that is what we want to do. I hope the city will support this new era and the change that we are trying to make from the Local Government level upwards. The support from the Central Government in achieving these objectives for building the city of Colombo this time around after many years, will also be of great value.
QWathu or low-income households are an essential part of the city. How will the party ensure a better city for these people?
The people in underserved settlements live in bad conditions and sometimes lack basic facilities such as electricity and clean water. The new flats they are being given are inclusive of all these basic facilities and a secure area to raise their children. Another problem affecting these settlements is the use of drugs and the setting allows for the distribution of such without much intervention. Doing away with this sorry excuse they call housing and introducing the new housing flats will improve living conditions and also reduce the distribution of narcotics.
Another development focused on these residents is the community centres. In many homes both spouses work. In some homes the breadwinner is a female and most often she is faced with having to manage work and raising children, hence the facilities these centres provide will hopefully support these breadwinners. These centres include daycare facilities, provide after school classes and a library and most importantly serve as safe spaces for their children to be at when their parents are at work.
QHow confident are you that the UNP will win?
I think it is important this time to vote for the person as much as it is for the party. I have been working closely with the ‘young blood’ introduced by the UNP for this election and I can safely say they are all hardworking, professionals and have only come forward to do some serious work.
I think we can all agree as much as we complain that there is no place like this city. It is my favourite city in the world and also home, not only to me, but more importantly to you as well. So if it is change in the system and unblemished candidates, with a vision and strong leadership, that the city is looking for then find out about your options and go out and vote. I am confident that if this is done ‘our Colombo’ is in for a big win and some exciting times.