Clarifications and comments Panadura Public Market and the Urban Council

Published : 12:00 am  October 20, 2018 | No comments so far |  |  (122) reads | 

I refer to the two articles which appeared in the Ceylon Daily Mirror on;   


a) 17th May 2018 on the Panadura Public Market. 


b) 19th May 2018 on the sorry state of affairs of the Panadura Town.  


As one of the former Chairmen of the Panadura U.C. and an elected member of the Council from 1979 to 1991 (12 Years) I feel that it is my duty to make my comments on these 2 matters.   


Panadura Public Market   


The original Public Market was constructed 1922 when the late Dr. Simon Gunawardane the father of late MP and Minister Leslie Gunawardane was Chairman of the Urban Council.   


This was the Market that existed in 1979 when we were elected. The UNP was then in control of the Council. The market building was a solid structure and this was the only Public Market for the whole area covering Moratuwa and the Kalutara District. By the mid 1980’s Public Markets came up in Moratuwa, Bandaragama, Horana, Kalutara etc. and these were new buildings.   


This gave rise to a school of taught by certain politicians that Panadura should also have a new market and after a series of discussions an estimate was prepared for Rs. 4.7 million to be the cost of constructing a new market. I, as a Financial Consultant, by profession, was surprised to find that the Panadura UC did not have a confirmed source to obtain this Rs. 4.7 million. They were only limited to verbal promises given by high-level politicians that money can be obtain from the Decentralized Budget funds but no written confirmation was available.   

 

The market building was a solid structure, was the only Public Market for the area covering Moratuwa and Kalutara District


In 1990 when I became the Chairman, I prepared an estimate for Rs. 1.1 million to renovate the existing marked and requested for approval to obtain a loan of Rs. 1.1 million from a State bank (repayable in 5 years) to renovate the market. The Councillors at that time said that they will approve in principal to go in for a new market and not renovate existing markets. As there was no confirmed source of funds available to start building a new market, we continued with the existing market.   


The term of our regime was to end in mid 1991 and at the election the UNP group did not secure a majority in the UC and from July 1991 the UPFA group assumed power in the Panadura UC. As I was not given nominations to contest, I was not a member of the council from 1991 July onwards.   


After about 1 year the UPFA group put forward a resolution to demolish the existing market structure and this was unanimously approved and this massive structure was brought down. The construction of a new Public Market was started and they never completed it and it never came to the roof level. In fact the “new market” never had a roof. The 1st floor slab served as the roof for the ground floor shops. The exposed incomplete building was subjected to deterioration by the elements and today is on the verge of collapse.   


The main reason for the inability of the Urban Council to do the construction of a new market was the non-availability of the required financial resources. To my knowledge a proper project report was not prepared, and the progress of the work on the proposed market was done in fits and starts since the funds were not available as and when required. This type of working will always result in poor quality and the end result was an incomplete market building. I remember when work was not in progress the structure was exposed to the elements and the reinforcements were rusting and this has resulted in a weak structure. The main reason for this kind of thing is that the Councillors at that time consisted of under-educated persons who did not have a proper knowledge of this kind of work and the end result was that the money of the people of Panadura was wasted.


The State of Affirs of the Panadura Town


Some 100 years ago the Panadura Urban Council was formed and people who contested the elections and elected were people of stature. In the system that existed anyone who wished to contest can submit his / her nomination for the ward and can be elected. If a candidate does not get a certain percentage of the votes polled his/her deposit is forfeited. They can either contest through a party or as an individual as an independent. According to the present system one can only contest through a party. If a party cannot grant nominations he/she will have to form a group and submit candidates for all the wards which is a practical difficulty. Therefore if one does not get nomination through a party he/she will have to wait without contesting.   


Over the last 20-25 years the persons who were nominated to contest the local election were nominees of the organizers of the main political groups/parties, these persons are mainly the catchers of the organizer.   


This is an Urban Council which had members of the calibre of Lawyers, Doctors, Educationists and other Professionals. Other than lavatory coolies, today tappers, garbage collectors all and sundry persons are nominated by the main political parties to contest. Quite a number of them have not even passed the GCE (O’Level) properly. Even as of now out of the 18 council members in the Panadura UC, quite a number may not be aware of the existence of the Urban Councils Ordinance and the specific details of what kind of powers etc. are available to the members.   

 

Thus the poor quality of the town is due to the action taken by the Leadership of the political parties which nominated such poor quality people


The article stated that there are all sorts of traders including fish mongers selling their wares on the open road causing inconvenience to the public who use the roads these are being encouraged by Councillors to help their supporters and relatives. There are provisions in the ordinance to prevent these but the council members tell some of the officers who should take suitable action, not do so because there people are their supporters.   


I must say that the problem is in nominating unsuitable persons to hold office as Councillors, thus the blame should go squarely to the higher ups of the political parties, who accepted the list of Candidates submitted by the respective organizers without going into the background and the suitability of the prospective nominees.   


There are a large numbers of persons in the area who can do a superb service to the people if elected but the voter has only a limited choice since the nominated people are of very poor quality. Perhaps the respective organizers are reluctant to nominate people of good quality as they can be a threat to them politically.   


Thus the poor quality of the town is due to the action taken by the Leadership of the political parties which nominated such poor quality people.   


Rohana Soysa  
Former Chairman,  
Panadura Urban Council