Milinda Moragoda in Borella
So, the Colombo Mayor’s race is on. I’m supporting Milinda Moragoda. Why? Because he’s highly intelligent and actually ethical. He’s also got a good plan for developing Colombo – since he’s now in the SLFP – he can work with the government and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make it happen. Let’s unpack this.
Smart And Decent
Milinda is a rarity in Sri Lanka – a widely read, travelled and educated politician with wide connections on the ground. He also takes pains to be a generally decent and compassionate human being. He is one of the few politicians to not use banners or posters during campaigns at all and he prefers to talk to small groups rather than give big speeches. This borders on politically suicidal, but it is actual ethics.
The glaring flaw in his character, however, would be loyalty to the party. After years in the United National Party, he crossed over to the government in 2007. This pissed a lot of people off, including me. He paid a price for this in that he lost his seat at the last Parliamentary election.
Time, however, has shown that he didn’t have much choice, as Ranil still maintains a stranglehold on the UNP, making it an ineffective force for changing peoples lives. Milinda actually did have success as a government Minister, notably in the Justice Department, actually documenting and beginning to work on the huge backlog, a lot of which was found to be cases of child abuse.
The broader issue for many people is how could he work with the Rajapaksas, bete noires of many Colombo liberals. I guess that’s a good question. For me, I think that Mahinda is actually doing a decent job with severe excesses. His brother Gotabaya, I think, is doing an excellent job developing Colombo – taking down walls, beautifying the city, etc. My only complaint is that Colombo is becoming a bit of a highway for people from the suburbs to get in and out, a concern that Milinda’s manifesto says he will address.
So, for me, I guess I can live with the crossing over. The UNP is completely messed up and it’s a politician’s job to serve people, not the party. Some people can’t live with this, but I’d encourage you to read Milinda’s manifesto and think about it.
Colombo is effectively run by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary Of Defense and President’s brother. This sounds draconian, but he’s actually been doing pretty well. He’s taken down a lot of walls, revealing that Colombo has architecture. He’s also created green spaces – most notably around Independence Square – and even made sidewalks. Cops actually help with traffic and the city has visibly gotten a lot lot better.
This power structure came because the Colombo Municipal Council got completely messed up, being run by a trishaw driver for years in an election fluke. The UNP didn’t file papers properly and asked to contest under this guy’s symbol. When that symbol won, the guy simply refused to give up the post. I think he’s the driver for the Ambassador to South Korea now. Anyways.
Milinda promises to be an actual, effective Mayor, which would be cool. He’s also connected to Gotabaya, which makes it possible. Frederica Jansz’s comments on this subject are worth reading, The Leader is perhaps the arch-enemy of Gota, but even she endorses Milinda in her own way.
I like Colombo but it’s long been ranked a not very livable city. Even changes going on now tend to privilege cars and commuters rather than people that live and work in the city. And Colombo really could be awesome. It’s already one of the best cities in India (that’s a joke, but true if you think about it).
So, yeah, I support Milinda. My dad is working with him on policy and I’m working with him on social media and stuff. Most notably on his Facebook page (which he actually comments on himself) and the site ourcmb.com, an interactive document that lets you comment on individual paragraphs in his manifesto.