Dengue cases dropped drastically due to former Defence Secretary’s city development
It is not advisable to build high-rise buildings on narrow roads
Housing is a pressing issue in Colombo
I decided to follow former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in politics because he saved the country from terrorism
65 percent of people in six percent of Colombo land area
It is far below “WHO” requirement for space
Former Chief Medical Offic
er of Colombo Municipal Council Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam is contesting the local government elections as mayoral candidate to the Colombo Municipal Council under the ‘Flower Bud’ symbol of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna [SLPP]. He says it is better to have a professional as a mayor of Colombo.
Q As the Chief Medical Officer of the Colombo Municipal Council for 26 years, what made you to contest the local government elections as the mayoral candidate under the Flower Bud symbol?
My whole family has been supporters of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) traditionally. My father’s youngest brother was the party’s organizer for Akmeemana in the 1980s. Now, there is a breakaway faction. Actually, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa saved our country from the scourge of terrorism and prevented it from disintegration. I thought I should follow his footsteps politically. He is someone who did a lot for the country despite various allegations.
Q Colombo Municipality has been a UNP stronghold. In fact, even when Mahinda Rajapaksa was at the height of his popularity, the UNP won in Colombo. How challenging would it be for you this time?
It is a challenge. I have always taken up challenges. For example, in my Public Service Department, I should have had at least 1200 workers. I had only half of them. Yet, I did better than any of the former Chief Medical Officers. I managed to get Colombo declared as a Polio free zone.
How I did it was that I got all the staff members except labourers trained in Polio vaccination. That was to put drops in the mouths of children. In one way, we vaccinated all the children in the city who were under five years of age. Actually, this should have been done by nurses and midwives. I thought I should get the maximum out of my staff. I followed the same steps in terms of controlling Dengue, Cholera etc. I utilized the facilities and available manpower.
Actually, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa saved our country from the scourge of terrorism and prevented it from disintegration. I thought I should follow his footsteps politically. He is someone who did a lot for the country despite various allegations
Q What are the pressing concerns you have identified in Colombo?
The main thing is housing. Actually, 65% of people in the city live in underserved settlements. These underserved settlements are in 6% of the land area in Colombo. You can imagine the gravity of the problem. Their houses are too small. That is a matter of concern. In a house of 400-500 sq ft, two to three families are living. However, the WHO norm is 120-150 sq ft per person.
Housing is a pressing concern, while land is another issue. I suggest constructing three-story buildings and give the people adequate space at the same abode where they live now. People could use the ground floor for business purposes. Women can do such activities for income generation.
There is a need to have a better transport system to get rid of traffic congestion. We find a lot of high-rise buildings on narrow strips of lands. We must ensure that no more high-rise buildings are put up in this manner. In fact, residents cannot park their vehicles. These small roads are used to ease traffic congestion on major roads.
This is one of the major complaints raised during my door-to-door canvassing process. We have to look for improved traffic designs. These narrow roads should not be used for uni-flow traffic. During rush hours, residents cannot even get out. People who live peacefully on these lands abutting narrow roads cannot do so any more. When high-rise buildings are put up on narrow roads, there is no ventilation coming to houses.
Housing is a pressing concern, while land is another issue. I suggest constructing three-story buildings and give the people adequate space at the same abode where they live now. People could use the ground floor for business purposes. Women can do such activities for income generation
Q What is your plan for eradication of Dengue?
Actually, I implemented a very successful programme. After I retired, they stalled it. New types of Dengue fever are found in Sri Lanka. It happens with the arrival of some foreign nationals infected with the disease. We have to contain the spread of the disease in Colombo first. It is like the head of a body. We have to protect the head first. They stopped the anti-Dengue campaign which we initiated. After that, it spread to other areas. We had a programme that received an international award. I would like to resume it if elected to office. For that, we have to fill in the vacancies. There are about 120 vacancies for health instructors and around 50 vacancies for field assistants to control mosquito breeding. We have some other vacancies for health educators and midwives as well. All these people could be used for Dengue-control work.
If we contain the disease in Colombo, it could be contained easily in other parts of the country.
Q Your rival candidate Rosy Senanayake of the UNP said former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa made only cosmetic changes in the city in his city development drive. What is your response?
He developed the city starting from the Port up to Gregory Road. It spread to Bauddaloka Mawatha, Bambalapitya Junction and Galle Face. That was the triangle he developed. That was how he started. After developing, we did not find a single Dengue patient in that area. The area surrounding Gregory’s lane was full of Dengue patients. Once it was developed with properly laid drainage lines, we did not find any patient in the area. What is happening now is that no one is maintaining these areas. The other thing is that it serves as a catalyst for people in the area to clean their own residential gardens. They noticed how the government did it. Then, residents also followed suit. The government’s initiative, at that time, bore fruit to people in that manner.
Q What is your message to the city voters this time?
I saw the 2018 budget. It is only Rs.18 billion. Out of that, Rs.10 billion is meant for the municipal engineers. Out of that also, Rs. 3.5 billion is spent for garbage disposal. Last time, they allocated only Rs.1.5 billion for it. This time, it has been increased by 50%. Garbage collection is outsourced to the private sector. The private sector should collect garbage daily if they receive an increased allocation. It should be looked into.
Q How important is it for professionals to join politics?
I have been in the CMC for 26 years. It always had commissioners who were professionals. During the last ten years, we had administrators from the SLAS. Before that, it was either engineers or doctors who served as the Municipal Commissioners.
If we had a mayor who was also a professional like in Singapore, we know exactly what the problems and technical solutions to them are. Rather than apportioning blame on each other, we have to find solutions in that manner. We must have a clear idea about the cost. It is a good idea that professionals are joining politics. They have the practical knowledge.
Q There is ethnic and religious diversity in Colombo. What do you suggest to foster unity among all
We should always think that we are all Sri Lankans. We should forget the religious and caste differences. We have to elect knowledgeable and qualified people to run the Council. Otherwise, we would end up being countries like Libya, Syria or Lebanon.
They stopped the anti-Dengue campaign which we initiated. After that, it spread to other areas. We had a programme that received an international award. I would like to resume it if elected to office. If we contain the disease in Colombo, it could be contained easily in other parts of the country
Q During the previous government, there was a proposal to make a Colombo Municipal Corporation. How do you see the practicality of it?
I think Colombo should be expanded now. Rather than building all the institutions within the city limit, they should be taken out of the city. There are high-rise buildings coming up. Who will take the burden of all the sewer lines? It is better to have pockets of areas surrounded by parks and greenery.
That is always better to expand the city to Nugegoda, Battaramulla and Angoda areas. Also, we must have proper transport systems and roads. It is a good idea that we expand and introduce a corporation system.
Q What do you think of the new election laws governing the local government polls?
It is a good thing that we got rid of the preferential voting system. Candidates are very less. In my case, I have to print a certain number of leaflets and make door-to-door visits. We do not put up posters and we held small pocket meetings.
I think Colombo should be expanded now. Rather than building all the institutions within the city limit, they should be taken out of the city. There are high-rise buildings coming up. Who will take the burden of all the sewer lines? It is better to have pockets of areas surrounded by parks and greenery
It is good in that way. The number of members to be elected has increased. It is not a good idea. There are too many members, and therefore the cost would be high. A job which is normally done by one person, has to be done by three or four people as the result.