School kids from Kurnegala, come to check out the green.
After the Sri Lanka Civil War, our Chinese arms dealers got some land. Now the Rajapaksa family is selling even more land to unnamed Chinese investors. At the same time, they’re changing the laws to allow foreigners to buy Sri Lankan land without the usual taxes. I wouldn’t even call it a Chinese land grab. The Rajapaksas are just handing it over.
The land in question is around the iconic Galle Face Green. It was the site of a 1956 satyagraha (peaceful protest) by Tamil Parliamentarians. Since then, Sri Lanka was torn apart by civil war, but the Galle Face Green remained. Except when they tore it up for a year to re-green it. But nevermind.
I love Galle Face. You can get a shawarma from one of the eight competing ‘Original Nana’s’ outlets, or just grab an isso vade (fried shrimp thing) from a cart. People sell all kinds of pickled fruit and an overworked pony does the rounds. Busloads of outstation kids come and dip their toes in the somewhat hostile surf. It’s a good time. Every class and race ambles around there without thinking too much or blowing anything up. I dig it.
I don’t know how I feel about the Chinese. I mean, I like the Chinese people and I’d like to visit there, but I don’t really want their dodgy government owning parts of Sri Lanka. Developing, mmmm, I guess, but the Sunday Times article talks about land being sold outright. $700 million may seem like a lot now (especially for land that needs to be reclaimed) but it’s nothing in a hundred years. When Colombo develops that land will be the center of our city. And it won’t belong to us. We’ll have to rent it out from the Chinese.
Bandula Sirimanna is the Sunday Times journalist who’s been following this. It’s really quite shocking how it all comes together. In December of last year, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority said they were investing $100 million USD to reclaim 400 acres from the sea. Last Sunday the headline was that the government had received an investment of $700 million from China to reclaim 500 acres. Is the last 100 acres plagued by sea monsters? Killing sea monsters might cost $600 million USD, but I can’t imagine what else would make the price and deal change. Something doesn’t fit.
The Times quotes government sources saying the land is being sold to the Chinese, not leased. If the reclaimed land is being sold at $700 million that’s $8,750 per perch, which would be insane. In 2010, the SLPA said hoped to sell the land for around $100,000/perch (SLPA). According to per opposition MP Harsha de Silva, this is all being done without tenders or transparency. So really, who knows.
I have no particular ill-will towards the Chinese. As far as I can tell, they take care of their own interests. I just wonder if the Sri Lankan government is taking care of ours. Wait, maybe I got that sentence wrong. The Chinese government takes care of their own interests, and the Sri Lankan government takes care of theirs. That makes more sense, and by sense I mean HORROR.