Vasu says 'I' m winning'
Vasudeva Nanayakara, the Colombo mayoral candidate of the United
People's Freedom Alliance says he will clean up and rearrange the city
and its civil administration. The fire brand leftist says he is prepared
to go through the phases of the country's history, while remaining loyal
to his ideology of socialism.
He says," the present phase requires the implementation of
democracy". He pledges for a job quota for the unemployed youth in the
city and better housing for the city's slum dwellers, amounting to be 52
percent of the total population in the town.
He warned, "there will not be peace in the city as long as there is
an increasing poor Colombo and an increasing richer Colombo.
Mr. Nanayakara spoke to the 'Sunday Observer' staffer Ranga
Jayasuriya about his vision and his policies for the future Colombo.
Q: You are a fire brand political activist identified with
marxism. Now when you contest the country's financial capital, it seems
there are some contradictions...?
A: The truth is I am a leftist and an agitator for the cause
of the poor. I would like to see democracy expanding and deepening. I
want national harmony as the major premise for the entire future of the
country. With these purposes and with my background ideology of
socialism, I am prepared to go through the different phases of our
history in conformity with the circumstances and needs of each phase.
The present phase requires the implementation of democracy, the
implementation of national harmony and the implementation of pro- poor
policies rather than the transformation of society, which is a long term
process. But we always have current objectives and that is to make the
city a better liveable place for all people.
This will provide the ideal backdrop for the city to emerge as a
healthy centre for trade and finance. Now you will not see a
contradiction between my purpose and my ideology.
Q: You referred to pro- poor policies...
A: To house them in proper human dwelling. Fifty two
percent(52%) of families live in sub human conditions in slums and other
hovels which are today not only the cause for uncleanliness of the
environment but also the breading grounds of crime.
They are condemned to a sub human life. They are denied of school
admissions, denied of residential status recognised by the council.
Their children can not get admission to the schools, with the best
schools around their dwelling, because their houses are "anawasara"
Once we bring them into recognised status of citizens residing in
specific residential dwelling, they become entitled to schools. In their
adolescence, they have to be trained in some skills, train themselves,
Then the problem is they are not employed by the private or public
sector as they come from a background of slums and such living areas are
generally condemned by society as areas of crime and areas of illegal
livelihood. Only ten percent out of fifty two percent of the people have
stable jobs. The rest have temporary day today earnings and are driven
to live an illegal life such as drug traffic and purveyors of violence.
They are being used by the elite for their own purposes, whenever
violence is required by them, political or civil. So the elite who are
the ruling class are responsible for whatever criminal and lawless
nature that prevails. City's people have a right to ask a minimum
percentage of employment opportunities available in the city.
So this council will agitate for the jobless youth of the city. We
will say we want a definite percentage of employment opportunities
available in the city in the public or private sector. Some of these
young people have been rehabilitated by voluntary organisations and they
are now reformers of their own surroundings.
There are about 2000, 3000 young people. They are no more into drugs,
no more into illegal employment. So these people need to be backed up
with employment opportunities. Unlike the city council which is thought
of as a server of sewerage lines, the water, drainage lines, cleaning
the city garbage, of course all these have to be done, but it should
also take care of its citizens, particularly those who have been
excluded and marginalised. Which is the reason why the city is lawless.
There won't be peace in the city as long as there is an increasingly
poor Colombo and an increasingly richer Colombo.
Q: Of course, this sounds a very ambitious programme. But why
did no one ever try this in the past?
A: No commitment. There were programs of training young
people. There are programs giving them skills, but these programs have
been neglected and most of these are drawing youth from outside Colombo
with the influence of officials and politicians. City youth have been
excluded in order to accommodate people from outside Colombo. This is a
grave injustice to people in this city, specially to poor.
Q: You were referring to a certain quota of jobs to city's
A: A quota of employment for the city's youth. Council will
train them, give them skills, give them English knowledge. That is one
of our purposes.
Q: Will there be a legislative enactment to secure them the
A: That has to be negotiated with the government and the
private sector. Ministers are bringing all their people from their
electorates. Companies bring all their people according to their
connections to directors and the executive staff.
They are not conscious about the need to accommodate the youth of the
city. We need to drive that consciousness into them. This will be done
through negotiations between the council and the private sector. I will
be meeting the Chamber of Commerce, where I will take this up.
Q: This housing program will be a mammoth task...
A: Of course, it is a mammoth task which is already under way.
There are five hundred housing units already under construction since we
came in to power in three places.
Q: How many houses are to be constructed?
A: sixty five thousand houses.
Q: Is this in line of the "Thirasara Purawara" Program?
A: No. That was unsuccessful, because that went too high. It
must not exceed four or five floors. Then you don't need lifts and other
equipment of sophistication, which do not last longer. We can not
maintain them within our conditions.
Q: Of course, we know you are a agitator of the cause of poor,
but, if you take certain poor electorates in Colombo, for instance
Central Colombo, I would say, the poor there are more UNP than the UNP
A: Certainly, but the point, what I have found here is most
people have habitually or customarily lived in the hold of the UNP. That
is Because they are the keepers of their gardens, tenement gardens and
slum dwelling areas. There are the chieftains. They control people there
and they also turn to chieftains when their is certain difficulties.
There fore they are hooked to these chieftains.
And the chieftains collect good profits out of council programs and
whatever transactions the council does with these slum dwellers. These
chieftains are the beneficiaries of the council's funds by one means or
another. So in return they uphold the UNP's regime in their tenements so
in return the council's UNP regime give them (chieftains) the benefits
of riches out of council funds. So that is a cycle in motion. We have to
break the cycle.
What I am telling people is what you need is not small relief in
order to overcome your day today problems or small giveaways. You need a
transformation of your life, your future and your destiny.
There for as a community of different ethnic groups, we must rise up
to the challenges. We will transform the council, by taking control of
the council which has been under the control of wheeler dealers and
Q: One problem is that the city centre is very disorganised...
A: Yes. The entire city centre should be reorganised and
rearranged in a manner which can accommodate all persons concerned,
pedestrians, pavement hawkers, three wheeler drivers, the buses.
We will have to reduce the number of vehicles coming into the city by
providing efficient public transport. Even the mayor can come by bus.
Buses must fly from one end of the city to the other end of the city and
these are called the city lines and would provide a quick transport.
Roads should not be congested. roads must have a lesser number of small
vehicles. small vehicles must be parked outside the city centres. Public
transport must be used by most and should be efficient.
We plan to build a monorail overhead like Bangkok- we can't afford
underground- and that should transport people from one side to the other
and congestion will be reduced. Fly overs will be erected in the city.
There are 30 fly overs to be erected in the junctions.
What we don't have is not money, what we don't have is not expertise.
What we don't have is commitment to implement. Because the present
system gives a lot of profit to a few people. Like the garbage disposal
system. A few people are enriched by this system, at dumping point, and
collecting point and also in transporting. They have been given the
contract and they would like to continue with it. They are continuing
with a problem and making money out of it.
Similarly they like the city what is now. Because it gives them
bribes, it gives them all kinds of avenues of earning big profits out of
this. So there are the vested interests in officials, wheeler dealers
and there are some councillors who are in collaboration with these
And they are reluctant to change the present system. we are going to
have a new leadership and to have our councillors newly focused in to
this purpose and with the powers, I can exercise as the mayor backing of
the President, of course we will be going a long way.
I will be going to bring about a stream- lining of the system of
administration where no political influence, no bribery, no influential
people are allowed to interfere to intercept. Any matter regarding the
rights of any citizen will be initiated and it will have its own stages
of processing and will come to a conclusion within a time frame. No body
will be allowed to quicken the process or delay the process.
Q: If we talk about your relations with business community?
A: We will facilitate their business. They want more people to
come to the city, more transaction, more tourists coming to the city
which is better organised. City's business community will be very happy
with what we are doing. We are cleaning up and rearranging the city,
which will attract more people and more business.
Q: So how confident are you of victory?
A: Well, with the understanding of the middle class and the
upper middle class, about our intentions, capabilities and commitment,
and also with sections of poor in the gardens of tenements joining in
breaking out of the lock, I believe, we will win
Q: How successful are you doing that, I mean breaking the poor
from their locks?
A: Yes, as for poor sections in tenement gardens, you need to
release them from the clutches of chieftains, even their afraid now when
I want to go to a poor settlement. 24 hours before I go there, they come
to see me, saying" If you come here, I will be in trouble.
Our chieftain is very angry that you are coming there and behaving
like this. For our sake please don't come". This is my experience in
about 20 places. Basic democratic rights have been denied to these
people by the chieftains, the mafia.
I believe they will vote with me. So my request is that the police
and army should see that no people are prevented from voting by these