Today Mahinda had to go somewhere so Colombo had to stop. His convoy closed the road from Temple Trees to wherever not in stages but entirely, so the traffic at 4pm was snarled. I was trying to travel from Thumulla to Ward Place and the traffic just stopped. People got out of their cars, walked out of buses to see what was going on. Apparently King Mahinda had to go somewhere (presumably to congratulate himself on seeing one year ahead) and decided to close every road between here and there. This effectively shut Colombo down so his convoy could travel. Not only that, he has spent millions of rupees on billboards to his glory which we have to see when the traffic is moving. And Galle Road is closed in front of his house. And the A9, so they’re lacking food in Jaffna. Oh yeah, and 3,000 people have died.
One of the biggest daily troubles of the war is the traffic. Streets are closed and there are checkpoints everywhere. Somedays they’ll just decide to check every single car. There are barriers turning main roads into slalom courses. That I can stand, for security’s sake. What I cannot stand, however, are the VIPs, honking, waving gloved hands, going the wrong way and stopping traffic altogether. The tinted windows may have to go fuck something up immediately, but they show no consideration or respect for the citizens they serve. Mahinda is the worst case. He lives in Temple Trees, and now the road in front of his house is closed. That would be fine if it was, say, the President’s House, but Temple Trees is on Galle Road – the main thoroughfare. This means that downtown Colombo traffic is choked from four lanes to two.
Also, when Mahinda wants to go anywhere, he now shuts down the entire route between here and there. That means that we don’t get isolated disturbances as he passes through. It means that the President, in an act of Incompetism, shuts down all of Colombo. His path cuts through the heart of Colombo. Everyone else must stop while Mangala sprinkles rose petals and lays out the red carpet. This is at like 4 o’clock. If you have a heart attack or actual business you’re pretty much fucked. The President needs to go to a party in his honor, and Colombo can eat cake. He is traveling in procession like a king while the rest of the city grinds to a halt.
What I find even more nauseating is that I can’t go 10 meters without seeing his face. What actually makes me throw up in my mouth is that I, as a reluctant tax payer, am paying for everything. I think a billboard costs Rs 100,000. He’s bought two at the Cemetary junction alone, plus a hoarding. On the way from Colombo to Battaramulla I see Mahinda at least 12 times, I shit you not. That means he’s spent at least 1.2 million on that route alone. Meanwhile there’s no food in Jaffna. Makes me furious.
I understand that things are hard and there’s war (which restarted when Mahinda came to power). Maybe traffic does need to be messed up. However, perhaps this is not the time for Mahinda to congratulate himself, get feted on the national tab, and campaign on my tax dollar. I’m tired of seeing your grinning face while I’m stuck in traffic, watching my money inflate out of my pocket and hearing the daily death and horror toll on the radio. Stop grinning, stop looking pretty, stop choking my city and do something.