Colombo, ‘slums’ and all, view from Sri Lanka Insurance
Sri Lanka is finally beginning to experience normal issues. The Daily Mirror is stuck on breaking news, but if you put it all together there are bigger issue at play. These little headlines all come from bigger issues – the beggars involve poverty, dengue involves health, and the strikes involve education. These are broader issues that have been buried under years of bombs but now they’re starting to make page one. The media is covering most of these wrong, breaking news rather than putting it together, but you can’t blame them. For a Sri Lanka used to life and death headlines, it’s unusual to have ordinary concerns.
Unusual, but truly a blessing. I enjoy talking about the news now because you don’t get the same heavy, sin feeling. Whenever people complain I honestly grin because it’s nice to argue about something that doesn’t involve dead bodies. Mervyn Silva tying a government official to a tree? Great, honestly, I remember when people that crossed him were getting stabbed in the bus.
There are a few stories which have broken about poverty, namely that there are 65,000 homeless in Colombo and then the spate of beggar killings. The police solved the latter by deporting many beggars to Hambantota, but the issue is at least bubbling. This poverty (and corruption, in the case of what’s actually a beggar mafia) has been there for years but we haven’t seen it because of the poverty of Prabhakaran’s political imagination.
The rash of recent dengue deaths (quite scary really, affects everyone) is a broader issue of health and environment. We simply don’t keep our country clean and this breeds mosquitoes, sickness and death. We don’t dispose of garbage properly, we don’t keep our own neighborhoods clean and thousands of slum dwellers live on top of drains and near filthy canals. Dengue has killed more people that the LTTE this year and it deserves this much attention.
Students and teachers are on strike, the former against police brutality but also for more money and against privatization. The latter are on strike for more money, which means the non-academic staff will probably strike. Neither side is particularly right, but they are generally right in that the system is criminally broken. We waste, more than money, our young people’s time and it’s tragic that University grads have a higher unemployment rate than A/Level grads. The system is broken and people should be protesting. Now that we can be sure of kids getting to school safe, we should ensure that they learn something there.
Among other things. I follow the news semi-professionally, and all the little breaking bits have only now come together into a bit of whole. It’s not life and death and it’s not us vs. the government or the government vs. terrorists, it’s something more complicated, drawn out, and more difficult to resolve or understand. Which is truly a blessing. It sells less newspapers, but I’m thankfully that things are no longer black, white and red.