by Shanika Pitigala
The heritage of the ancient historic city of Kandy, the final capital of Sri Lankan Kings is on the verge of being devalued before the very eyes of its own people. The petty self centred notions of politicians are the root cause for the downfall of this historic city sooner or later.
In an exclusive interview, the Opposition Leader of Kandy Municipal Council, former Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijerathne revealed to The Nation that Kandy is going from bad to worse with malpractices and the unbecoming political conduct of members of the ruling party in the council.
He warned that UNESCO will soon remove Kandy from the list of world heritage cities as the present KMC administration was killing the pristine glory of the ancient kingdom city.
QAfter a long stint as Diyawadana Nilame and now being in the limelight of politics how do you view politics in Kandy?
Kandy’s administration is far beyond from being under a ‘Master Plan’. Political mayhem is taking place. Politicians pile up wealth and look after their henchmen. The promises of development made 8 months ago are unattended and a blind eye is turned, what more can I say?
A constructive plan for the Kandy city is vital and it should come with the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC).And not as personal concepts of petty self centred politicians. The ideas of ruling party Council members are put into action without prior council approval and without proper feasibility studies. The lack of proper planning is now visible in the council.
QThe UNP was defeated in the KMC after decades What were the causes?
The Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) UNP administration was defeated after 50 years by misleading the public of the city with a promise to transform the World Heritage City of Kandy into ‘A miracle City’. So far no miracle has been performed over the past 8 months. It is obvious that the people have now understood that they were taken for a ride.
The UNP was defeated by a slender majority in Kandy as certain politicians misused their rights and election laws, violated them and used state property while enforcing state pressure on the public.
People were thoroughly misled with promises of developing the road system, enhancing transportation, development of the Kandy Central Market. However, none has been fulfilled as yet. Plans of the Provincial Council, the Urban Development Authority and Ministers are put into action without the knowledge of the relevant authorities in charge.
Despite the promised transformation and performing miracles, the city will definitely be removed as an UNESCO World Heritage site, if these practices continue. The KMC is now running only on political influence where it should have been a common ground of developing the city and uplifting it. Improper planning is quite visible with the construction of the Kandy Car Park. It was designed and planned to have a similar conference hall to that of BMICH on the upper floor of the Car Park but now it seems vague as the payment hawkers are being dumped their with promises of providing them with shops .
QIn the present context, what have you got to say about the corruption within the political system of Kandy?
As I said earlier, corruption is everywhere at peak. The Kandy municipal administration is being handled in a less productive manner. With regard to the car park and the pavement hawkers’ issue, a temporary building was planned and constructed without prior approval of the council. The proposal was to accommodate the pavement hawkers who were removed from the streets.
The contract to build the sheds for those removed from the pavement was handed over to personal contacts of the MPs and tender procedures were ignored. The funds allocated for the purpose was Rs.1350 million. No proper accounting system is followed with regard to expenditure. The construction was carried out even without a cabinet approval.
Reliable sources have revealed that in addition though the shops were to be given to the vendors, they have already being booked by henchmen of the politicians in Kandy, he added. The rightful owners to these shops are once again been made to stand in a long line to reach what they want. All these are done secretly.
QWhat actions has the opposition taken in this regard?
We opposed the construction and demanded that a proper audit be conducted into the entire issue. We continue demand as KMC spends the rate payers’ monies. Such money is meant to benefit rate payers and politicians or their henchmen.
Wijerate continued to point out malpractices in the Kandy city and slammed the Council claiming it was responsible for the pathetic situation. He charged that unauthorized buildings were being put up in a world heritage city that destroyed the cultural value.
There are over 400 buildings which are gazetted as World Heritage buildings while 162 are gazetted under the Archaeological Building sites. Traditions permit that renovations should be done according to KMC plans while preserving the earlier structure and glory, he claimed. However, Wijeratne claimed that the Mayor himself had admitted recently that over 70 percent of the constructions in the country are being conducted without prior approval.
Further criticizing the KMC administration, he added that details including the plan related to the building now being constructed adjacent to the President’s House, Kandy was not informed and the reason given was such cannot be disclosed due to ‘security reasons’.
As a former Diyawadana Nilame he was critical of the activities in the administration within the Dalada Maligawa and lamented that the culture and heritage of the sacred city was at stake.
QMr.Wijeratne could you now elaborate on the lapses you see in the city as a whole, including transport, traffic and culture?
Talking about the highly congested streets of Kandy, he claimed the roads accommodated only 16 horse carriages in the past but now it caters to over 55000 vehicles daily, and these vehicles move in and out of the city within the course of the day. Irregular traffic plans have led to the traffic congestion in the streets, causing difficulty to the public as well. Though these facts have been pointed out at the council, no such proper implementation of productive plans has so far been added. Misconduct The misconduct of the administration was taking Kandy to its grave, and it will no longer be crowned as the World Heritage city of corruption continued, he pointed out. UNESCO would definitely remove Kandy as a Heritage city as its cultural value, historical significance is lost to petty undisciplined political conduct. A ‘Master Plan’ in the Administration of the city is necessary to further preserve its heritance. More firm administration is needed to reconfirm its inheritance. Proper parking slots are needed for long distance buses that enter the city instead of them being parked along roads.
The public needs to be more vigilant about the activities in the city. ‘More than being a politician, I am speaking with emotions and respect to the city, and as a man that lived through its glory, and as a former Diyawadana Nilame’. There is no development taking place and no progress is visible within the past 8 months. A deaf ear is turned on these issues though they are being brought to the notice of the relevant Officers with the high and mighty Political influence. We are trying to build a strong opposition while bringing up new proposals on the heritage of the city. Kandy needs to be preserved with its glory at all costs, he urged courtesy: The Nation