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Response to the open letter to the Mayor of Colombo by Citizen Fernando

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 23 May 2018 00:00

I was prompted to send this response to the open letter addressed to the Colombo Mayor by Citizen Fernando which was published in Daily FT on 19 May. 

The only reason why I decided to write this is because Citizen Fernando’s letter is based on incorrect facts or his deliberate intention to cast snide remarks against the newly-elected first lady Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake. 

In this instance, I must emphatically state that I have no personal interest nor any affiliations to the Mayorship of Colombo to defend or justify the actions alleged to have been committed, other than being a regular reader of the esteemed Daily FT and as one who would prefer to see letters, columns, articles or reports based on facts  and also that the valuable space in the FT is not wasted in carrying defamatory remarks about eminent personalities by individuals hell bent on slandering those not in their favour.

Fernando, his pseudonym, quotes a popular daily newspaper to state that the Colombo Mayor is spending Rs. 7.5 million to renovate and ‘revamp’ the toilets in the Mayor’s official residence. His derogatory intent is quite evident when one reads his comment, “While admiring your reply, I have a couple of suggestions. Once the toilets are revamped, and are ready for opening (at which possibly Hans Grohe will cut the ribbon), please invite your Leader for the first flush. Many of us are waiting for that flush.” 

He goes on, “Please invite those bent-in-two, dressed in orange rags, insides-gnawing-with-hunger road cleaners and janitorial staff, who are common sights everywhere, for a walking tour of your toilets. They will love to see where you do in style and at their expense, what they do into holes in the ground.” 

We cannot forget the time when even when a public lavatory was opened for use by the citizens, the ‘cutouts’ announcing the event carried the legend, “this lavatory was constructed and opened under so and so’s Chinthanaya”.

He is talking about foreign representatives visiting the Mayor at her official residence. I pity his ignorance. The Mayor does have a duty to meet foreign government or institutional representatives at the official residence though it may not be frequent as Fernando tries to make out.

It is a fact that many official buildings constructed by the Dutch or British are still used by Government institutions; the Foreign Ministry office, the Governor’s residence, now used as the President’s residence to receive foreign dignitaries and the Museum are such examples and these buildings have been revamped by the State to make them appropriate for the purposes they are used and of course the old dilapidated rooms and toilets included have been renovated and revamped, at a cost. The utility items that existed were very old relics of the past and necessarily had to be replaced. 

Now the cost of revamping of the toilets in the Mayor’s residence is not Rs. 7.5 million as stated by Fernando but the entire cost of renovating the whole building according to recommendations of experts, to restore the archaeological or heritage value is Rs. 5.2 million. This was officially stated by Senanayake, adding that the Town Hall buildings too need to be restored, not for viewing alone but they should have the utility value as well. It goes without saying that the toilets are part of the sections that need to be repaired and revamped. Toilet fittings and accessories, even those made in Sri Lanka, do not come cheap nowadays. 

Most countries renovate and preserve buildings with heritage value for posterity. Former Defence and Urban Development Secretary Rajapaksa revamped the old Dutch hospital in Fort similarly and rented out the premises to high street businesses including expensive restaurants and bars, which are only patronised by the nouveau rich in society.

Fernando goes on to comment on the Meethotamulla disaster. One cannot forget that the former Defence and Urban Development Secretary, using authoritarian powers, dumped all the garbage in Colombo and immediate suburbs at the site, without even a glance at the plight of the people living in Meethotamulla, only to please the eyes of the high society ladies and gents when they undertake their daily workouts on the nicely-paved walkways to reduce the fat in their bellies. 

Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary, with all the authority and power he wielded could have easily provided decent and basic housing to the poor city dwellers, who constituted the majority of the voters that brought his sibling to power as Executive President. Alas, he never even bothered to provide good housing to those in the vicinity of the Meethotamulla garbage mound or those evicted from places like Slave Island.

I appeal to the likes of Citizen Fernando to get the facts right before jumping to comment on the issues or personalities.

Morris Perera

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