I Am for the People and by the People – Anusha Chandrasekaran
Anusha Chanrdrasekaran is the daughter of the late Leader of the Upcountry People’s Front, P. Chandrasekaran. An Attorney at Law practicing in Colombo, Chandrasekaran is contesting from an Independent Group based in the plantation sector. She says that she is following in her father’s footstep and wants to bring a change to her community focused on education and self-employment for women.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
What prompted you to contest in the General Election?
A: It is my conviction that I should serve my people.
What is your opinion about the lack of women politicians and candidates from the plantation sector?
A: I am concerned and have come forward as a woman to take up some challenges. Likewise, I will encourage my fellow women to take up politics and serve people.
What do you want to achieve in politics?
A: I want to work for my people because I very well understand the problems in the plantation sector that needs more attention than before.
What makes you think that you will enter Parliament and why should people vote for you?
A: I’m fully confident that I will enter the House and the support of my people is highly commendable; they know that I’m not a liar.
The plantation people’s issue is that demands for a wage hike has been politicised and rejected by their bosses and politicians. Will you get it for them and how are you going to achieve it?
A: The wage issue will always exist and will continue to be as long as leaders would like it to remain so. I will approach the issue methodologically. There is a need for dialogue between stakeholders. The only permanent solution is to make the workers smallholders. The Employer’s Federation Chairman has something running in his mind. I will talk to him and see how it can be amended to suit the needs of my people.
You said you don’t make false promises. Can you promise three things that you will give to your community if elected?
A: I will provide what I can deliver and here are some: I will guarantee the land rights for my community including other rights and will elevate my community to a greater standard of living.
People of the upcountry suffer a lot due to the economy and the unemployment rate is growing. The current problem is that graduates are not offered jobs. I will take permanent action with regard to these issues. I will also create proper self-employment avenues for upcountry women; who have no choice left but to work on the mountains.
Women in plantations live under untold hardships. How will you improve their standards of living?
A: I know it well and also understand them. I will draw up a perfect plan. I will talk to various agencies internationally and locally. I will certainly improve their standard of living admirably. All what I want is that people who trust me should not be let down.
Is women’s healthcare and the increase of domestic violence due to alcohol consumption by males in the household? There are also the problem of wasp attacks that have not been addressed. How will you find a solution to such burning issues of the day?
A: This is an important question. I will aspire to improve health services and for that, I will need advice from the people. There are doctors who can be supportive to this end. There are many other organisations like the Rotary Club who can help us in a big way to sort out health issues of women in the plantation sector. On the question of domestic violence, it should be first studied thoroughly. There should be ways to figure out causes, reasons and then find a solution. We should mainly encourage temperance and educate families on domestic violence and the negatives of alcohol consumption. There are also organisations that specialise in this field. I will get them involved. As far as wasp attacks are concerned, tea bushes have to be maintained well and estate management should make sure they are attended to.
There is a strong Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) backed by Jeevan Thondaman and Digambaram of Tamil Progressive Alliance contesting in the plantation sector. How is your campaign different to theirs?
A: My drive is people-oriented and I believe that the truth will prevail. My father was a successful leader in the upcountry community who drew the attention of international organisations to their plight and he made huge development across upcountry and also raised his voice for the rights of our people. I’m following in his path to create a new developed society. There are a lot of people who want change in the upcountry and they are the ones supporting me. Therefore, I’m not afraid of any powers that are prevailing in the estate sector.
The CWC is an ally of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and you are also backing them. Tamils have accused successive Governments for the poverty and step-motherly treatment of estate workers despite their contributions to Sri Lanka’s national asset: tea. In your opinion why are they not given any recognition like other State workers who enjoy decent pay, status and perks?
A: You are correct. Estate labourers should be treated on par with other workers. I will study the matter and table it in Parliament to overcome the setbacks my people are under.
You followed your father into politics. What have you learnt as a woman?
A: I have learnt politics from my father since childhood. I have learnt a lot about life and politics. I am people friendly and can approach them to find solutions to their grievances.
Some say you are known because of your politician father. What’s your identity?
A: My father adhered to good decent politics and what really matters is how we serve the people. I am for the people and by the people.