sri express

From Liberal Democratic to Conservative Party


By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Ms. Chamila Fernando who failed to secure the candidacy to contest for the slot of London Mayor from the Liberal Democratic Party, will now be contesting the Cambridge constituency from the Conservative Party at the British general election scheduled for May 7.

A Barrister by profession, she shared her views on her mission and related issues in an interview with Sri Express.

"I grew up in a politically and legally engaged family, where discussions around the dining table were heavily focused on these two topics. My father practiced law initially at the Kalutara bar before practicing as a lawyer in England.  When he came to England to qualify as a lawyer, he met my mother for the second time in his life", she noted.

"My parents had been proposed to each other previously whilst my mother was on holiday in Sri Lanka.  A year later they were married and settled in the UK.  My father ran a law firm in England for some 30 years until he retired about four years ago", she said.

She said that her mother came to England in 1967 to train as a nurse and went on to work as a midwife for 20 years in the National Health Service, whilst lecturing in midwifery.  She resigned later to care for my brother and myself and a few years later became a Magistrate.

Q: Where did you graduate from?

I graduated with an LLB Hons from the University College, London. I am a practicing Barrister, Member of Middle Temple Bar and a Licensed New York Attorney.

Q: Why did you change sides from LibDems to Conservative?

There were many reasons, including policy and methodology.  The manner in which decisions were taken at the Federal Policy Committee that highlighted the visible disconnect between voting members and the party executive exposing the lack of transparency.  I was a senior member of this high-level committee and saw a steady decline in the democratic instruments of the party that in essence made the entire body, look and feel wholly disingenuous.

Q: Were you bitter about not being selected for the Mayoral candidacy from Lib Dems? 

No.  I remain the youngest ever shortlisted candidate for the role of Mayor of London by any political party.  I went on to serve on the Lib Dem London Policy Committee and work on our mayoral candidate’s campaign and over a year later was elected to the party’s highest policy making committee chaired by the Leader of the Party.  

Senior Lib Dem figures at the time I left the party showed that had I remained, I would have been the natural successor to David Howarth, MP, who represented Cambridge, the seat I am currently fighting.

Q: What chances do you have to win this seat at the next general election considering Labor is the favorite in the opinion poll?

In 2010, the election results were as follows: 19,621   Number of Votes cast, 6,792     Majority, 65.4% Turnout.

Liberal Democrats -         39.1 %

Conservative -                   25.6 %

Labour -                               24.3%

Green -                                7.6%

UKIP -                                   2.4%

The Conservative Candidate in 2010 ran a very brief campaign over six weeks and was able to come second. This time, we have been working hard seven days a week since August 2014. Nationally, the Liberal Democrat poll rating has fallen as low as 5% and continues to fluctuate to a maximum of 9%.

Given the prevailing wind, the comments by respected journalists such as Matthew Parris of The Times and this newspaper itself declaring the constituency as a genuine three way marginal, this is an exciting opportunity of a generation to help turn Cambridge Blue.  Consequently, every single vote counts.

Q: Immigration, EU membership and Increased University Fees by the Conservatives are deciding factors in the next general election. What measures your party has taken to address those issues and what kind of an influence you can make to change those?

Immigration has and continues to be a subject that inflames as it confounds the actors involved with policy frameworks and implementation. The Conservative party recognises that there is more work to do in terms of dissuading illegal immigration, the process of immigration and the impact on competing needs within public services.

Increased border controls, greater monitoring of movements within and to the European Union, clamping down on health tourism are part of a mature approach on this highly, challenging subject.

Personally, there is without question an immediate need to explore Lord Heseltine’s idea of temporary residency within a diplomatic or protected enclave in the country of origin so that the decision making process becomes progressive.

This is a specific initiative that Parliament should consider and potentially if given the opportunity to serve as the MP, a private member’s bill that I would champion. The conservatives are the only party promising a referendum on Europe over the lifetime of this parliament and it is enormously important for the people of Britain to have their say.

Q: Tamil diaspora has gained momentum again here in the UK after the war. Is there anything you could do to stop them?

An important distinction must be made between LTTE sympathisers and the wider diaspora. The lobbying efforts of splinter groups and hardcore LTTE factions are the equivalents of 5-star communications groups. Peacetime has forced a re-calibration effort by them to concentrate on spheres of influence namely, the historic provision of manpower for parliamentarians and significant financial contributions to national party coffers.

Securing a balanced voice in Parliament for the wider Sri Lankan community represents a logical next step and further legal enforcement for the proceeds of crime that covers retrospective legislation are also central to building community cohesion.

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