11/13/2019, 17.46
SRI LANKA
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Women, recycling and debt relief in the platform of Ajantha Perera, the only woman running for president

by Melani Manel Perera

The election will be held on Saturday. A well-known environmentalist, Perera has lived in the West and would like to see more “transparency” in her country’s governance model. She is convinced that she can cut Sri Lanka’s debt to China by 60 per cent through “dialogue".

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Women, recycling and debt relief from China are the top issues in the election platform of Ajantha Perera, the only woman running for president in Sri Lanka. The election is set for this Saturday, 16 November.

“I do not mind the victory,” she told AsiaNews, “but I contest on behalf of my women citizens because the women in this country do not get real respect and value for their energy and capacity.”

Perera is a member of the Socialist Party, and a well-known environmentalist. She “is determined to bring about a total transformation in the existing political culture in Sri Lanka” to “achieve a respectable place for Sri Lankan women.”

“I am a woman. I am educated and I have a vision for my country,” she says about herself. “I have a lot of international connections and I have experience working at the Consumer Affairs Authority, Ministry of Health’s food advisory committee”.

“I think I’m an all-rounder’” she adds. “I have a wealth of knowledge to be the president.” Previous presidents, “The first thing they do is appoint advisers and then they are paid a lot of money.”

In her case, she believes she would not need many advisers “because I have studied all subject areas including economics, health, women’s and children’s rights etc.” In addition, she spent 22 years abroad, returning in 1993 to work “with communities living in dumpsites.”

“People used to call me the garbage Queen as an insult. But that comment made me stronger. Now I wear it as a badge of pride to remind women everywhere that we are mothers and we are warriors. We have the ability to turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength”.

Speaking about her foreign experience, she notes that the West has “leaders who are simple and governance is quite transparent.” For example, “one of the things that would happen [in the West] is that if they get a budget, they would exactly know how to spend it, what is remaining etc. But in Sri Lanka you will never see that.”

With respect to Sri Lanka’s high debt to China, “The first thing is to put the right people in foreign embassies, not my relatives. They should be people who have integrity and include those with a vision for the country and those who show respect for other countries. This way they will build a good relationship,” which “can be social and economic as well. Whatever comes from outside should be linked to the country.”

“I firmly believe that I could get rid of 60 per cent of the debt [with China] just by dialogue. If we can economically lift and strengthen our country because of our ethnic harmony, we will become a strong nation that can face outside forces.”

Although she is sure she can win, if that were not the case, "I will not run away.” Instead, “One thing I will definitely be doing is monitor, making sure that this country is running in the right direction.”

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