Chandra Silva - Fifth death anniversary :
Hardworking statesmanship is a rare word heard in today's politics. Chandra Silva is one of the few exceptions to the rule with his brief but brisk period of heading the municipal government of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte: from 1991 to 1996 as Urban Council Chairman, and from 1997 to 2001 as the mayor.
When Silva took the reins of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte urbanity as its Chairman, the Urban Council was hardly worth anything as it was a dumping place for the neighbouring slaughterhouses. New libraries and reading centres were built to encourage book culture. Free book distribution ensured free education for all.
Every lane got proper name boards for easy direction. Maternity and dental clinics were built to enhance the health. Welikada and Delkanda plazas were erected for convenient consumerism.
He took steps to distribute the Government-owned titled deeds to poor. He built cemeteries with a nice scenery of flowerbeds.
In fact Silva charged ahead carrying out drastic changes in the administrative structure; nobody will deny this is the Golden Period of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte Municipal Council. Kotte Mayor became famous even among political rivals. He went on a fast pace until he could convert the normal Urban Council into an administratively important Municipal Council in 1997 when Amarasiri Dodangoda was Minister of Provincial Councils.
Silva, who first joined Sri Jayawardenapura Urban Council as a library employee in 1977, was a tireless union activist against labour injustice. He could not remain silent when labour rights were violated. Silva's strong political attitudes made him a victim of the 1983 strikers' tragedy. Following the 1983 tragedy, Silva took up law as his profession till he took charge of Urban Council administration in 1991. Silva gathered a great deal of experience working as the private secretary to the then Speaker Stanley Thilakaratne even before joining the Sri Jayawardenapura Urban Council as a normal employee.
Chandra Silva earned bouquets as well as brickbats from rival parties. Presidents in the calibre of Ranasinghe Premadasa took Kotte's first citizen as quintessential politicians while the stadium named after Chandra Silva was sold to a private institute by his successors.
Historically speaking Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is not only the present capital of the country, but it was the last administrative capital before the first European invasion in 1505. The word Kotte denotes the Fort, hence Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is 'victory enhancing Fort' of the country. Kotte is a multi-ethnic, multi-religion city with the majority being Sinhalese and small communities of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Malay and Indian origins living. The city became the Kotte Urban Development Council in 1930s and was promoted as the Kotte Urban Council in 1979.
Born in 1950 to Moragasmulle Martin Silva and Premawathi Gomes, Chandra Silva was the eldest in the family. He had his primary education at Sri Sobhitha Vidyalaya, Rajagiriya and secondary education at Wesley College.
The late mayor Chandra de Silva's wife Swarnalatha Silva currently holds the mayor's office, carrying out her husband's service. Free book distribution is one of the projects still being carried out.
DN Sat Dec 27 2008