This is our old Parliament, in a high security zone. We’re not allowed to take pictures of it (Himadhu)
For all our international visitors, welcome. We probably won’t see you outside of the Green Zone. The government – in its infinite idiocy – not only volunteered to host the South Asian regional cooperation whatever (the Maldives having passed), it also decided to shut down the heart of our economy and turn our capital into a NO SRI LANKANS ALLOWED zone for a week, Cause you know, fuck it. There are two levels to this being stupid. One is that we are at war and probably not the best place for an international political conference. Such is the situ that many countries are literally bringing their own occupying armies. Two is that our economy is so bad that many people live (or not) by their daily wages. This summit is shutting down Colombo almost entirely (they’re making the 1st a holiday), meaning that – in addition to the general economic hit – tens of thousands of Sri Lankans will not get the daily wage they need to buy food and send their kids to school. But have a good party y’all. I’m getting the hells out of CL.
This government can’t really secure Colombo. The sensible thing would be to secure the airport and the main road and send everyone to Habarana or Nuwara Eliya. Instead, the government has decided to cordon off downtown Colombo (from Kollupitiya to Fort) and BMICH (including the main artery into Colombo from the West) and Mount Lavinia (including the main artery from the South). So basically, people living in Colombo can’t go the the working district, and they can’t really get out. And if you commute into Colombo? Double poops to you. The rail system too, is effectively shut down. Fort Railway Station is shut down from July 30th to August 3rd. Instead people have to get off in Bamba or Maradana and burn petrol and money getting into town, if they can. And most schools are closed. There’s more details on Naz’s blog. Basically, the people of Sri Lanka are told to disappear for a week while Mahinda can show the world that everything is fine.
But it’s not. These are not normal security precautions for a SAARC summit. Sri Lanka is at war and Japan is poised to issue a travel advisory to that effect. Colombo is not secure in that journalists are getting beaten in the street, abductions continue – and that’s only the threats from our government, not to. More to the point, the economy and inflation is so badly mismanaged that many Sri Lankans live on the knife’s edge of poverty. If they don’t get their daily wage (say Rs 500 or less even) then they don’t buy food or have enough petrol or cash to get their kids to school. So during SAARC we will not only pay billions to host the event (on credit, effectively, and printed money) we will also lose those precious hundreds in thousands of pockets. That is the money that put food on the tables and futures in the minds of our children, and we’re sacrificing them – by choice – to host this summit.
And we don’t have to. It was the Maldives turn and they passed. We too could pass, save the money for fighting the war and give the working people of this country their working days. Or we could move the summit out of Colombo. But we didn’t. For the folly and vanity of this government, the people of Sri Lanka must suffer.