Chamali Fernando | (Pic by Chandana Wijesinghe)

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Cambridge Chamali Fernando, like her parent’s home country, came into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. During an event hosted by campaign Keep Our NHS Public in Cambridge, Fernando was asked how authorities could help police deal with people with mental health issues. She responded that people with mental health issues wear wristbands which indicates a person’s illness and that this could help barristers, such as herself, to better aid the public. This lead to a smear campaign that ultimately called for her to stand down for saying that mentally ill people could wear wristbands.

Apart from wristbands, Fernando is also known for her campaign for environmentally friendly development. She is a senior policy advisor to the Coalition for an International Court for the Environment. She identifies her family as always having been ‘politically active’. Following in her father’s footsteps, Chamali Fernando read law at University College, London and qualified as a barrister from the Inns of Court School of Law in 2002. In 2012, she was sworn in as a licensed attorney for the State Bar of New York, USA.
Her legal practice in England includes planning law, employment, fraud and financial litigation whilst, lists her official website.

When asked whether she faced the same sort of discrimination faced by Ranil Jayawardena, she said she always identifies herself primarily as British. “Besides, there is a big drive in UK towards diversification of the parliamentary composition,” said Chamali. “It encourages people of different background to enter parliament.” Robert Blay threatened to put a bullet through Jayawardena, if he became the country’s first British Asian Prime Minister.

However she confessed that, for ‘someone like her’, the North is difficult to contest in. “But South East London is an urban intellectual city. London is more cosmopolitan compared to the North, more culturally diverse.” She said that Cambridge in particular is much less tolerant of the intolerant.

Chamali confessed that a lot has changed in terms of how Sri Lanka is perceived in UK, since the recent regime change in Sri Lanka. She said that it is important that Sri Lanka changes the message it intends to convey to the international community. The best way, according to her is to promote sustainable development. A major part of her political campaign was to promote sustainable cities. “The traditional Sri Lankan culture has ample examples of sustainability. Take for example coconut, nothing is thrown away,” said Chamali. She pointed out that despite the fact Sri Lanka is a tropical country with an abundance of locally grown organic foods, many food products are imported.

Her vision for Cambridge is to make it a ‘leading global benchmark for a greener, fairer and more sustainable world’, states her website.

She emphasized on the importance of reducing the carbon foot print. When asked whether it is fair for developed countries insist that developing countries to limit carbon emission, when these same developed nations burned their fair share of carbon during their industrialization period. In fact they could not have achieved their ‘development’ if they had not. In which case is it fair to ask third world countries to forego this development?

“We have to keep in mind that sustainable use of the environment is key to economic development,” said Fernando. This is where newly liberated territory like Jaffna comes in, explains Fernando. “Jaffna is ripe territory for making regeneration ecologically sustainable,” says Fernando. She explained that Jaffna is an ideal platform to try out new technologies, such as new building material, that does least damage to the environment.
But this would invariably call for technology transfer between developed and developing nations and when asked whether these would not be exorbitant for a third world country like Sri Lanka, Fernando explained that, even new solar technologies like solar power window films are relatively inexpensive.

When asked why such technologies have not reached third world countries, if they are as affordable as claimed, Fernando said that it’s because policy makers are not interested in reaching out to such developers.

“Developed countries are very vocal about Corporate Social responsibility, an area Sri Lanka has not yet ventured into,” said Fernando. “But Sri Lankan has the potential to become the global benchmark in CSR.”

She emphasized that Sri Lanka needs to become a C40 city, like Cambridge. C40 cities encourage urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.

“The whole point is that Sri Lanka has not yet looked into getting leverage at the UNHRC by drawing attention to Sri Lanka’s environmentally sustainable traditions,” pointed out Fernando. “Sri Lanka is not pressing this environmental agenda enough,” said Fernando. Environmental sustainability is a key political issue and according to Fernando Sri Lanka can wipe out the negative international publicity it received with regards to war crimes allegations by adopting environmentally sustainable development.