Lankan woman elected mayor in Australian city

b2032fc28478f0780b11dcb047bddb3cA Sri Lankan born woman whose family fled riots for a better life has been elected the first Greens mayor in Moreland, an Australian city.

South Ward councillor Samantha Ratnam won the mayoral vote 6-5 over Labor candidate Cr Lita Gillies, bringing an end to the ALP’s stranglehold on the mayorship, the Herald Sun reported.

Cr Ratnam had been unsuccessful in the previous two mayoral votes, but secured the vote of independent councillor Helen Davidson, who had backed Labor candidates in previous mayoral votes.

“I was more confident this year than the past two years, when I was pretty sure I did not have the numbers, but until the hands went up I was not sure it was going to happen,” Cr Ratnam said.

“The night was quite surreal and it’s just still sinking in.”

The ascension to mayor has capped an incredible personal journey for Cr Ratnam, who arrived in Australia with her family in 1989 having fled war-torn Sri Lanka and spent time in Europe and Canada.

Aged 6 at the time, Cr Ratnam said she remembered the 1983 riots in Colombo that gave rise to the country’s 30-year internal war, including her family being split as they took refuge when Sinhalese Sri Lankans burnt Tamil Sri Lankans’ homes.

“I remember seeing the streets burning and for the first time seeing adults crying,” she said.

“It was an experience that changes you in many ways, but going through it together with family helped the healing.”

Her family left Sri Lanka in 1987 and Cr Ratnam said it wasn’t until she moved to Brunswick seven years ago that she felt at home.

She said her experiences fuelled her interest in social work and motivated her to take the program manager position at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Looking forward, Cr Ratnam said planning issues would be high on her agenda.

She said she would advocate that Planning Minister Richard Wynne approve the Brunswick Structure Plan, Environmentally Efficient Design policy and Apartment Design Code with minimal or no changes.

“We need these rules set so people have certainty and clarity,” she said.

She said other major projects in the next 12 months would include the design of the Oak Park pool redevelopment, construction of Pascoe Vale Community Centre and transport infrastructure, including improvements to Upfield Shared Path.

The major challenge facing Moreland Council, and all local governments, would be rates capping, Cr Ratnam said.

The State Government has introduced a Bill to stop councils increasing rates by more than the Melbourne consumer price index.

“It is really going to be a significant challenge,” Cr Ratnam said. “It is going to put a level of restriction on what services we can provide the community.”

Cr Ratnam said being head of what had at times been a divided council could be challenging but she was confident councillors would work together.

“It should be an interesting year and there has certainly been a change in dynamic of the council,” she said.

“But I have faith that everyone will put their best foot forward and make the last year of this council a successful one.” (Colombo Gazette)

16 COMMENTS

  1. We as Sri lankans are so proud of your achievement.. it doesn’t matter whether you are Sinhalese or Tamil..keep up the good work.. there will always be people who have nothing nice to say.. congratulations!

    • How can the Sinhalese get credit of Samathan’s achievements when they burnt Tamils homes’ and chased out her from her homeland?

  2. Congratulations. Some of the racist comments shows us why SL can never move forward. Our ethnicity doesn’t define us.
    Comments like the one China, above, is the reason this country had a 30+ years war.
    Ms. Ratnam, I know it’s hard work on your part that brought you here. Congratulations

  3. There is a similarities between 1983 riots against Tamils and mass killings of Tamils at the end of war. Both are committed by Singhales. In 1983, Singhales killed innonce Tamils without uniform, at the end of the war they did the same thing without uniform.

  4. She and other Tamil diaspora should never forget that if there were in Sri Lanka, they would have one of the victims of war crimes. They would have end up in jail without facing trial. Tamil diasporat should always be thankful the countries that gave refugee. Wherever Tamils, should love that country and be honest to that country than any other country and should contribute to those countries whatever ways they can.

  5. Educated fled the country and good live and trusted politicos in foreign countries . All the thugs living a luxury life of political in sri lanka . God bless Sri Lanka.

  6. Our heartfelt congrats on your election as the Mayor.
    Best wishes for better things to follow in down under.
    Proud Eelam Tamil from NYC.

  7. proud of her as srilankan but ,she had this chance to exporuse cause of tamil tiger terriost start this brutal killings/trying to seperate the country,kiling govt forcesin 1983 start riots,by few parts of the country few angry sinhalese,that open the doors for all the tamils to become refugies all around the world,majoraty is econamy refugeies,not even live in srilanka,come from tamilnadu in india,living in s/lanka illeagaly,made forge documents an migrate to various countries of the world under refuge grounds,for better lives.rather than blaming sinhalese people w/ crocadile tiers,should thank sinhalese who helps her & her parents to open doors for her life,carrier after 83 riots,rather than dying undre prabakarans child traning camps,

    • Yes you are right.Thanks to the riots of 1983 majority of tamils claimed refuge in western countries & most of them are better off if the riots had not taken place. But that is no cause to justify the riots or ethnic violance. Lets live with peace & harmony at least now.For anybody nothing like his own home country.

    • Please ignore the ranting by the half baked ,ignorant “china”.
      He /she is just reflecting the frustration and expressing stupid excuses for the barbarism exhibited by his kith and kin.

    • Please read Emergency 58 by Tarzie Vitachi and other publications by reputed authors before writing horrible English and distorted facts about the ethnic conflict in Sinking Lanka.

    • You are jealous that the Tamils are doing well in many nations; If the LTTE committed atrocities, why your alleged criminal regime denying independent international war crimes investigation? No wonder that the world knows Sinhala Apartheid and racism!

  8. Congratulations and best wishes for future successes
    in your political field.
    Every TRUE Sri Lankan will be proud of your achievement.

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