Nalina Premlal

I am Nalina Premlal. I was absorbed into social service at a very young age due to my helping tendency and with the guidance of my parents. I was born in Jaffna. I completed my schooling at the Nallur Anantha Vithyalayam. Even though I got the opportunity to enroll myself into a university, circumstances and situations made me miss out on the opportunity. However, I have immense experience in working in projects related to social services, in which I have involved myself along with my parents since my younger days.

My father worked as a Deputy Divisional Secretary. He has now retired. I lost my mother when I was small. I have two brothers. My father used to get involved in many projects related to social service during his term as Deputy Divisional Secretary. In that context, I too have provided for the children at level by obtaining goods from the parents. In addition, I have also involved in activities during my school days, such as conducting free classes for children.

I also have the experience of working on social service activities together with women’s organisations after my Advanced Levels. In addition to taking steps to provide help to women-headed households, I was also able to approach the Provincial Council at the time it was functioning, and have been able to obtain assistance for the people.

The women in our community largely face problems pertaining to their livelihood. Efforts should be made in many ways to provide them with the necessary assistance for their livelihood and to carry out necessary projects to improve their livelihood through credit schemes. I have functioned as a focal point to establish contacts between charities and those facing such issues.

In addition, women are more likely to face issues of gender inequality. There are male politicians who do not respect women, as far as politics is concerned. In some cases, I have had the opportunity to observe situations in which women are treated unequally in and out of the home.

In consultation with the Development Officer of the Nallur Pradeshiya Sabha, Jaffna, we have been able to identify those in need, provide them with the assistance that they require and create small business entrepreneurs. They have now become able to earn their daily income in some way. Until now, my social activities have been at the village level and I wish to continue to develop it.

It was in this context that the Tamil people faced oppression during the war and their rights were suppressed, and action had to be taken against it. After my school days, the idea that our rights should be won was planted. My political entry was at a time when my father was part of a political party. The truth is that I got political clarity from home rather than the fact that politicians were role models.

I am currently involved in politics on behalf of the Tamil National Alliance. But I am a member of a political party called the Liberation Movement of Tamil Eelam. My father was a member of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi. I contested in the Tamil National Alliance through the Liberation Movement of Tamil Eelam during the last election, with emphasis on women representation. I am currently a member of the Jaffna Municipal Council.

The parents of most of our relations who are abroad are living here. In this situation I submitted a petition to the council with a view to establish a nursing home. When one of the parents is alone, they tend to be greatly affected mentally. Therefore, I submitted the petition with a view to set up a nursing home named ‘Magizhvanam’ to be of service to them. Although they had a source of income, loneliness was a big problem. They had no protection or care. This proposal was opposed by a male member of our council. It was told that elderly homes were against our tradition.

There were activities that were carried out on the basis of me being a female candidate that made me uncomfortable during the election period. There have been many instances where men have said that we can do nothing while being a woman. Women face enormous challenges when it comes to politics. The practice of posting family details and commenting on public platforms is prevalent among our male community. When it comes to party politics, there could be instances where each member of the same family may represent multiple parties. There are also people who have been critical of how my husband got his job before my marriage. Such people are still the representatives of the people today.

Although I had political clarity early on in my political journey, I did not have much experience. I have gained that experience through constituency-based elections. I must confess that even though I had the ability to speak on stage from my student days, I did not have the courage to challenge on political platforms. But that mental courage has grown ever since I was absorbed into politics. As far as election experience is concerned, I contested for the Jaffna Municipal Council through the seventh constituency, and even though I was not elected, I was selected as the member of the council based on the list. I obtained the nomination through a member of the Municipal Council from our party. The alliance was formed by several parties working together. I am currently a member representing the alliance.

As far as the municipal council is concerned there are mostly no differences between the winning candidate and the proportional representative. The chairperson of our council is very patient in that regard. Prior to my political journey, I participated in leadership trainings conducted by charity organisations. Even though I did not openly express my views at the time, I now have the practice of expressing my views openly.

Even though the party provided some amount of money as financial assistance for the campaign during the election period, it was not adequate. Since the male candidates spent a lot of money on their campaigns, I needed to match that level of expenditure. The rest of the expenses had to be spent from my personal money. During my early days as a council member, I did not have adequate knowledge about the Municipal Ordinance and the municipal procedures. But now I am well aware of them.

I was also able to learn many aspects through training workshops conducted through the Provincial Ministry and privately conducted workshops. During the training, we were provided with knowledge on how women can present their demands in councils, submit petitions and win rights. Election observers provide training on how to proceed during election periods as well. Despite disagreements in the council, the members of the council are equally friendly outside.

The ruling party acquires the standing committee membership and provides membership to others as well. All parties make compromises in order to provide leadership for the committees. A situation then arises where all members accept the leadership and act accordingly. In addition, women have also been included in other committees and are provided equal funds during the annual budget allocation. We receive those funds and are doing work that people need. I have been able to carry out a number of programmes under the Gamperaliya project. Under this project it was possible to build an auditorium for the community center for our area. We were also able to set up street lights.

Volunteer organisations should continue to conduct training workshops in the near future. My expectation is to conduct training workshops related to information technology. In addition, awareness should be given to female members regarding ordinances and regulations.

I am bound by the decision made by my party beyond my personal preferences, when it comes to elections in the near future. I am ready to contest the elections when the party submits its nomination papers subject to the decision taken by the party regarding allocation of seats. If the party rejects any aspect, I believe that it can be resolved through discussion. Women must be firm in their position if they are to establish themselves firmly in national politics. We need to showcase political competence to the people rather than a wave of sympathy. They must attract the people.

I am proud to say that I am currently preparing a lawyer to carry on this political expression after me. Women should be beyond criticism. A woman’s self-behavior must be appropriate. Women who enter politics are first and foremost criticised based on their self-behavior. My plea, therefore, is that women should be more careful in matters personal personal conduct in order to face other criticisms without fear.

(This was prepared as part of the Female Councillor’s Capacity Development Project of One Text – with the permission of the councillor to publish the document.)

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