ĎColombo beautification project will continueí
The development of Colombo and its suburbs was a major part of the
development activities under the previous government. People are
concerned about what will happen to the city beautification projects and
Today, the CMC which shares the major responsibility of keeping the
city clean and beautiful has to undertake those activities.
The Mayor of Colombo, A.J.M. Muzammil in an interview with the Sunday
Observer said that they are committed to keep Colombo city clean and
beautiful by continuing the mechanism they previously adopted while
assuring to liberate the Kolonnawa garbage dump site by providing a
permanent solution for the waste management problem in Colombo.
Excerpts of the interview
Q: How do you view the recent change of government in respect of the
activities of the Colombo Municipal Council, the biggest local council
of the country?
A: Even before the election I made it clear that the people of this
country were anticipating a change. They had had enough of the Rajapaksa
regime and needed a change.
Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe with various other political
leaders and Maha Sangha led by Ven. Sobhitha Thera and Ratana Thera
brought us together to fulfill the aspirations of the people. An
environment for change was created and the people responded positively
and a change has indeed taken place.
Q: How was Colombo changed in respect of administration and
A: There are two aspects for it. One is the overall development of
the city of Colombo.
The second part is the day-to-day affairs and the management of the
city. As the Mayor from day one, I was supportive of all positive
developments. As Mayor from an opposition party, I never went into a
confrontation with the Government because I got maximum support from the
Government agencies such as the Ministry of Defence, the Urban
Development Authority and other Government agencies such as the Land
Reclamation and Development Corporation, were brought in for the
betterment of the city.
The World Bank assisted the projects to the extent of US $ 70
million. The Metro Colombo Development Project was being implemented in
three stages. We have almost completed two stages. The third stage
anticipates the development of Crows Island in Mattakkuliya.
The cleaning of the canals and the beautification of the city was
done with the assistance of the UDA and Land Reclamation and Development
Corporation and we were successful and you can see the results.
So there was nothing that has stopped as a Mayor of Colombo. We never
left any room for criticism. So in the future development programmes we
will continue with the policies of the new Government policy.
Q: So the Colombo Municipal Council has benefitted from the
government agencies during the previous regime in respect of development
activities. So why you were saying that there was need to have a regime
A: What you see is the development of Colombo. The funds given to the
Colombo Municipal Council by the World Bank have been monitored,
evaluated and properly planned out.
One of the main reasons the people wanted this change is that the
Government failed to keep the national unity intact. This country is
multi ethnic, multi lingual society.
Every citizen of this country has the right to live. There was a
serious doubt about the co-existence and the cohabitation among the
communities.The gap between the majority community and the minority
community is getting widen and widen and the hatred started coming up.
The Government backed up extremism to suppress the other minority
communities is one of the key factors. Number two is the overall
corruption that has taken place. The main theme of the common opposition
is that another regime for Mahinda Rajapaksa would lead the country
towards absolute dictatorship. That was the projection of this
The type of Governance as to how the government spread out the main
economic management of the country was in question. Rulerís family was
holding the major economic part of it. You can see how much money
Mahinda Rajapaksa was using to manage himself. He was using nearly 1,000
billion but ninety per cent of that money the present President is not
using. That is where the country thought of corruption. Then there was
the national unity part.
The chauvinistic attitude of the State and the controlling the media
were also contributing factors because people wanted to talk freely. The
younger generation, the new generation voted against Mahinda due to
Q: You talked about corruption and economic mismanagement and various
other issues. How were those issues reflected in the Colombo city in
terms of development and other activities?
A: The development activities that has taken place in the Colombo
city were the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project assisted by the
World Bank and another US $ 250 million project assisted by the ADB.
They all were managed by those agencies and no one could interfere in
those activities. There was no corruption in those development
Q: But the Municipal Council funds also had to be used for those
A: Of course the funds of the Municipal Council have also been used
because we are the counterpart agency of the World Bank project and we
have to contribute 10 per cent of the project value and we used our
funds for that.
Of course when there were projects to be done in a hurry we have
utilized our funds for those projects. But we have made sure that
everything is transparent. We maintained absolute transparent. Colombo
Municipal Council and the Colombo development process was never
reflected and never spoken in any of the political platforms.
Corruption was in the Highways sector and various other Government
Institutions. It was the central Government corruption.
Q: As the Colombo Mayor you also had to take the support of the
Security Forces personnel for the construction, cleaning and maintenance
of certain areas and places. So how are you going to manage these places
A: So many places in the Colombo city were developed within the
Colombo city. The Race Course was developed but it was not mine it was
done by the UDA. The construction work was done by the Engineering
Department of the Army.
The Dutch Hospital the Central Bank and the renovation of old
building and Independence Square Development was done by the UDA.
Q: But to maintain some places you had to obtain the support of
Forces personnel and Police?
A: We have the support of the Civil Defence Force to maintain the
high standard in the Vihara Maha Devi Park on which the World Bank has
spent Rs. 400 million. You can see large number of people coming there
on daily basis and we have to keep it clean. So I am getting the Civil
Defence Force assistance.
For that I am providing them transport. Economically it is cheaper
for me and it is viable for me. They are very well trained and very
disciplined sort of people. My Council has approved the use of them for
the maintaining of Vihara Maha Devi park.
Q: So wonít there be any change in that system?
A: I donít think there is any necessity for change.
Q: Keeping the city beautiful and clean is a major role of the
Municipal Council. There were mechanisms to monitor the activities. Will
there be any change in those activities?
A: The cleaning of the six districts of the Colombo city has been
privatized. But I get the services of the Environmental Police to
monitor the cleaning activities. Their presence is very important and
very useful. I would like to continue those activities.
I have mentioned to the present administration also not to disrupt
the environmental services provided by the Environmental Police. They
are very vigilant and even they supervise our private contractors work
also. They keep a close tab on them. That is a service we get free .
Police is not considered an Armed Force. Police is civil service and
they are supporting us. I think the Environmental Police is useful for
the proper management of the cleaning of the city.
Q: What about introducing waste management system for the city.
Hasn't the city administration failed in this endeavour over the past
few years making it a burden for the suburban people?
A: Yes the management of garbage is still a concern. The previous
government has committed nearly Rs. 5,000 million to have a permanent
solution to this garbage problem under Metro Colombo Urban Development
Project. That is designed by the Urban Development Authority. That
project is now at the tendering stage. So it will take another two years
the dumping of garbage will be cleared out of Colombo.
Q: Does that mean that problems relating to the Kolonnawa garbage
dumping site will be solved?
A: Yes, Kolonnawa site will be liberated once this project is
Q: How far has the CMC progressed on solving the issues of the people
who have been affected by the Kolonnawa garbage dumping site?
A: We have already resettled 200 families and we have already given
them houses. The UDA helped us in providing them with those houses.
There is another 101 families to be evacuated from this place. We are
closely looking at possibilities of no other families will get affected
from this site.
Q: One of the key issues raised during the election campaign was the
grievances of the people who have lost their houses due to their
evacuation from the lands acquired for development projects. They are
complaining that their issues were not fairly addressed. What have you
A: The primary issue was about the site in Slave Island. Nearly 150
people were evacuated from the site and it was not fairly done. It was
done in an inhumane manner. They were not given alternative houses or
places to live. But subsequently I came to that these people were given
alternative accommodation for couple of years. But of course when it
comes to development part in Slave Island 500 families were shifted out
of Colombo. They were paid rentals for two years to live. They will be
hosted in high rise condominium in the same area. That is one of the
conditions of the contract. Now they are building those apartments. Once
these apartments are completed they are getting back whatever the floor
areas they have lost. The people who were living in 100 square feet are
also getting 400 or 500 square feet houses and the people who were
living shanties are also getting houses. That programme is ok but only
concern is whether it economically viable to go for such a transaction.
That is the thing the present government is studying at present.
Q: It seems the Government has taken a decision to go ahead with the
Port City project. In your opinion how does this project affect the
A: I canít speak much about the project because I donít know what the
present government actual position on this project is. I donít know on
what basis and on what grounds they have given the green light for the
Port City project. I have to rethink how the city has to adjust itself
to suit the new changes that are coming into place.
Q: What are the new projects you are aiming at under this new
A: My prime task is to ensure that the beautification part of the
city has to be taken to the underserved areas. I am also focusing on
starting construction of minimum 2500 units of houses to be completed in
one or two years. I will find funds to implement those projects.
Q: There were certain administration changes within the CMC after the
election. What made you to change those?
A: There was not many changes in the CMC.
Q: The Commissioner of the CMC was changed.
A:The Commissioner was changed because I made a request citing that
she violated the election laws as an administrative officer. I didnít
mention anything else in that request. I only requested to inquire and
transfer her from the CMC.
Q: Previously also there were inquiries against the former Municipal
Commissioner Badrani Jayawardhana. What happened to the inquiries?
A: I donít know what has happened to them. There were various other
issues that came up very particularly the burning of files. I have made
my investigation and I handed over the results to the Provincial Council
and they are the authority to investigate. My personnel feeling is that
the political power the commissioner enjoyed was able to put everything
under the carpet.
Q: Do you think there is possibility to take action against her now?
A: Of course yes. Everything is in black and white. Everything has
been reported to the relevant authorities. I have collected all the
information after making inquiries and I have given the reports. It is
up to the higher authorities to inquire and see what she had done and
take action against her.
Q: How do you review the development projects implemented under your
tenure as the Mayor of Colombo?
A: Actually as a Councillor I have never neglected my activities. We
have done a lot of work.
All the Members irrespective of political alliance were given Rs. 4
million per year to work in their underserved settlements. We have
redeveloped play grounds, community centres, dispensaries, markets.
During the past three years we have done a lot of work.
Q: Finally, are you confident that you can keep the Colombo city
developed and beautiful?
A: Most certainly yes. We will make it better.