Nominations closed: Off to the hustings

House-to-house, door-to-door, promises made with no hope of fulfilling them as voters are wooed for a simple ‘x’
By Mirudhula Thambiah, Pix by Gemunu Wellage

As nominations closed for the 23 Local Authorities on Thursday, political parities and independent groups launched their campaigns with the stage set for a close contest more among own party members.

Pocket meetings, poster campaigns and door-to-door campaigns are mostly by mayoral candidates vying for the post, which is expected to step up in the next few days.

There are 6,448 candidates eligible to contest in the forthcoming Local Government (LG) elections on October 8. They include members from 132 independent groups, while 1,589,622 persons are eligible to vote at 1,167 polling stations.

Sunethra Ranasinghe arriving to handover nominations
The convoy of a UPFA candidate for Kotte after handing over nominations
JVP party supporters at the Elections Secretariat on nomination day.

The UPFA and the UNP will be contesting in all 23 LG councils. The UNP has announced their mayoral candidates for all councils, but the UPFA announced only the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) candidate.

Former Cabinet Minister Milinda Moragoda was named mayoral candidate for the CMC from the UPFA, while the UNP announced A.J.M. Muzammil, former provincial council member, as their CMC mayoral candidate, along with Sunethra Ranasinghe for Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia, and former Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijeratne as mayoral candidate for the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC).

UPFA Secretary- Minister Susil Premajayantha speaking soon after nominations closed, said, that his party was confident of winning all 23 local authorities. The main members handling important posts within the UNP, have joined with the UPFA to contest in the CMC, in order to express their solidarity.
“We have fielded candidates from all communities without any barriers,” he said.

The UPFA’s CMC mayoral candidate Milinda Moragoda said, he is looking forward to prepare a development programme for Colombo city for the betterment of its people. Former Deputy Mayor- CMC, Azath Sally, who, during the run up to the nominations, claimed that he would be selected as the mayoral candidate of the UPFA, stated that he would not be contesting elections, when he was not selected as a mayoral candidate. He later stated that he would contest as a deputy mayoral candidate on the UPFA ticket.

Speaking to the Sunday times, Mr Sally said he has not finalised his campaign strategy, though this time it would be a simple house-to-house campaign.

Commenting on his failure to secure the mayoral candidature, he said, “It was the decision of the party. Even though I was confirmed as a mayoral candidate, due to some reason Mr. Moragoda was chosen. I do not want to fight for it. I also decided not to contest, but after the President’s request and that of several other ministers, I decided to contest. The UPFA will do a historic change within the CMC by capturing it.

Former parliamentarian Mohammed Maharoof said he has decided to contest on the UPFA ticket, because the UNP leader did not keep his promise to make him the mayoral candidate. “The UNP hierarchy had differences with Sajith Premadasa, and thought that I was backing Sajith, and removed me from the mayoral candidates’ list” he said.

UNP General Secretary- Parliamentarian Tissa Attanayake, said that a UNP victory is required to secure the lifestyles of Colombo’s citizens. “We have fielded an eligible group of candidates this time to contest for the CMC under the leadership of Muzammil” he added.

He also said there was no leadership in the CMC in the past. Hence, to give priority to the people, a UNP victory is essential. The UNP’s CMC mayoral candidate A.J.M. Muzammil said that, although the party was out of the CMC for the last eight years, they would regain their destiny with the people’s support.Meanwhile, WPC member C.Y.P. Ram, who also vied for mayoral stakes, told the Sunday times, that since the mayoral candidature was not given to him, he has decided to field his son John Ram on behalf of him on the UNP ticket.

“Most of the Tamil-speaking people have voted for me, and I believe these people will vote for John Ram to secure his victory” he said. The JVP too, will be contesting in all 23 local authorities. It announced that former WPC member Sunil Wattagala and former council member Samanmalee Gunasinghe would be their mayoral candidates for the CMC and for Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia Municipal Councils respectively.

JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunetti told the Sunday Times that his party had already started door-to-door campaigns and pocket meetings for the preliminary stages of their election campaigns. “In our campaign we request the people to establish their powers within the local authorities, because the promises made to the people at the last election were never fulfilled,” he said.

The SLMC will be contesting independently in Colombo, Kandy, Negombo, Galle and Nuwara Eliya Municipalities, and in Kalmunai and Kundasale Urban councils. It will be contesting in alliance with the government in Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia, Badulla and Matale Municipalities, and in the Kottikawatte-Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabha.

The SLMC has selected former parliamentarian Shafeek Rajabdeen, Azmin Marikar and Nizam Kariappar as its mayoral candidates for the CMC, KMC and for the Kalmunai UC respectively, while it has not selected mayoral candidates for the other councils.

SLMC Leader- Minister Rauff Hakeem said that their party has throughout been in power in the Kalmunai UC, while in Colombo and Kandy, they will be a deciding factor, as the amount of votes secured by the SLMC will decide on which party will ultimately win.

“We are very confident of winning the Kalmunai UC. We will play the role of kingmaker in the CMC and the KMC” he said. Commenting on the representation of the SLMC in coalition with the government, Minister Hakeem said that, when SLMC councillors are elected, they will cooperate with the UPFA.
“If the Kalmunai UC is captured by us, the council will be under our rule, while government members will support us,” he said.

SLMC’s CMC mayoral candidate, former parliamentarian Shafeek Rajabdeen told the Sunday times that his main focus will be on the development of the low income people within Colombo City. “People should be given proper sanitation, health, education and living facilities. These are some of the key points included in my election manifesto” he said.

However, DPF Leader Mano Ganesan said that his party will be the democratic alternative to both the UPFA and the UNP within the capital. The DPF is in alliance with the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP), but has fielded candidates independently for the CMC and Dehiwela-Mt Lavinia Council and the Kollonnawa UC.

Mr. Ganesan added that, the Tamil people are clearly with us in Colombo, Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia and Kolonnawa. Tamils do not have a single reason to vote for either the UPFA or the UNP. The Tamil community was voting for the UNP when we were in alliance with that party as the UNF. Now UNF is history. The days when the UNP took the Tamil voters for granted are all over now, while the UPFA has missed its opportunities to win over the Tamil mind, after the end of the war.

Ex-Diyawadana Nilame, senior Councillors in the fray for Kandy’s LG polls

By L.B. Senaratne

Former Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijeyaratne leads the United National Party (UNP) group at the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) elections. This is not the first time that a Diyawadana Nilame had contested and also won a seat at the KMC, but that was half-a-century ago.

Niranjan Wijeyaratne and supporters arriving at the District Secretariat to hand over his nomination

The UPFA is led by a former Opposition Municipal Councillor Sena Dissanayake, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is led by former Councillor, Asmin Marikkar, and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is led by former Councillor Anura Gonawela.

Nominations for the KMC was handed over by eight registered parties and six Independent groups. Gangawata Korale Pradeshiya Sabha would be contested by eight registered parties and three Independent groups. Kundaslae Pradesihya Sabha is contested by six registered Parties and two Independent groups.

Two nomination lists for the KMC were rejected, namely, that of Seth Janaseth Peramuna and of an Independent group. For the Kundaslae Pradeshiya Sabha one Independent group nomination was rejected

In the Gangawata Korale Pradehsiya Sabha, Ruhunu Jantha Party was rejected. In a statement by Retuning Officer Gamini Seneiviratne, 10 accepted political parties and 11 Independent groups had handed over their nominations for the elections on October 8, 2011. It stated that there are 74,073 registered voters in the KMC area, 50,401 registered voters in Gangawata Korale Pradeshiya Sabha and 88,903 voters in the Kundasale Pradeshiya Sabha area.

He said that in order to elect 58 members for the three local bodies, there are 716 members in the fray.
He also added that, out of the 33 Nomination lists presented, only 29 would be contesting the elections, while four had been rejected.

Crisis over UNP choice for mayor’s post

The UNP is to meet on Tuesday to resolve a dispute over the mayoral candidate for the Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council, Party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said yesterday.

Muzammil greets Susil Premajayantha at the Elections Secretariat office

This was after Parliamentarian Mohan Lal Grero said that an assurance given to him that the mayoral candidate seat would remain vacant, was not honoured.

He said the nomination board had, however, appointed a mayoral candidate from Dehiwala.

“This is a huge injustice done to the citizens of Ratmalana. This mistake should be rectified before 72 hours (Tuesday noon) or I will sacrifice my organizer post of Ratmalana, the area which I work for, which I love and one which is close to my heart,” he said.

However Mr. Attanayake in a statement said that Sunethra Ranasinghe had been appointed by a nomination board. “She was a former Parliamentarian and the former Mayor of the Dehiwala-Mt.Lavinia Municipal Council.

We have got a request to refrain from naming a candidate for the mayor’s post. We took this request into consideration and got the views of the candidates of the Dehiwala and Ratmalana divisions,” the statement said.

Muzammil as the leader of “a force to be reckoned with”

Muzammil in a separate statement said that, as the UNP Mayoral Candidate, he pledges to change all aspects that disturb the people and brings them suffering.

“The Municipality will seek to conserve and create environmental beautification activities and support what is truly legitimate. Nowhere is there an economy sans people; likewise, Colombo would not exist without its people. I therefore urge you, the residents of Colombo, to demonstrate unequivocally, that you are a force to be reckoned with; a force that will not relent in the face of oppression,” he said.

Both candidates paint bright picture for Colombo

The two main parties – the UPFA and the UNP, contesting the Colombo Municipal Council elections are set for a keen contest. Former Cabinet minister Milinda Moragoda leads the UPFA while the Western Provincial Councillor A.J.M.Muzammil leads the UNP.

Both chief candidates spoke to the Sunday Times about their campaigns and plans for the city.

Milinda Moragoda

Why do you think you were selected as the mayoral candidate?

The President invited me just before the election was declared to take on this challenge. After a lot of consideration, I thought I would take it up and here we are now.

Why do you think voters in Colombo should vote for the UPFA?

After having 30 years of war, now there is an opportunity to actually build up the city and the municipality is a place where one can really make a difference to the ordinary person.

What are the main shortcomings of Colombo city?

The whole issue of shelter for the poor, the problem of infrastructure like drainage, garbage and the sewerage systems.

Could you explain the key features of your election campaign?

We are looking at developing a city with a competent and professional administration and making Colombo a regional economic hub. We will also carry on the beautification of the city and aim at making it a healthy city.


Why do you think you were selected as a mayoral candidate?

As a senior member of the UNP I secured the highest number of preference votes in the past. My performances in the last Provincial Council, Parliamentary and Presidential elections enabled me to secure not only Muslim votes, but Sinhalese and Tamil votes as well.

Why should the voters in Colombo elect your party?

Our priority is to ensure a better living standard for the poor people who live in the city. The government on the other hand is evacuating such people from the city.

What are the main short comings of Colombo city?

There is no people’s administration in Colombo. For many years there was no elected body governing the CMC. Rate payers, tax payers and poor people are facing day-to- day problems which can only be solved by a friendly people’s administration.

What are the key features of your election campaign?

Our party leader has prepared a New City Plan for Colombo that ensures that residents will not be thrown out of the city but would be provided places to live within the city with all infrastructure facilities.
nWhy do you think the people in Colombo should vote for a party that has not been in the council for the past eight years.

In our absence people have undergone severe hardships and this alone will make them want us to take over the municipality.

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