A burgeoning fight at the Royal Thomian.
Recently a foreigner was killed in Tangalle, with a local government leader being a suspect. This is highly unusual (for a foreigner to be killed), but thuggery does persist. In Unawatuna, a friend of mine was accosted by someone flashing a government ID, essentially asking for his girlfriend. Some other friends were leaving a party and ended up getting thrashed into the Mount Lavinia gutter. Not to mention semi-regular fights at nightclubs like Karma.
The Mirror (UK) has the best report on the specific murder so far:
A Briton has died after being attacked on Christmas Day while on holiday in Sri Lanka. Kuram Shaikah Zaman, from Manchester, was killed in the tourist resort of Tangalle. A friend who asked not to be named said Mr Zaman was on leave from his job in the Gaza Strip, where he worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross as a physical rehabilitation programme manager.
Mr Zaman and a Russian woman were attacked following an argument with a man at a hotel, according to reports. Four men have been arrested in connection with the incident, including Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, 24, the chairman of Tangalle village council, Sri Lankan police told the BBC. A post-mortem examination showed Mr Zaman had been attacked with a sharp weapon and shot, according to reports.
The Russian woman, named as 23-year-old Victoria Alexandrovna, was being treated for serious injuries in a hospital intensive care unit, according to reports. (The Mirror)
Fights will happen, but the danger in Sri Lanka is that so many people think they can get away with it. The head of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha seemed to think he had some particular prerogative (which he doesn’t, he was arrested) and some beach boys or locals in the south seem to think that any whit(ish) woman belongs to them. In Colombo, there are numerous sons of wealth or power who think that bottle service also includes a complimentary beating of their choice.
Again, violence is part of any society, though the circumstances here seem especially brutal. There was a military assault rifle used and, though the reports are dancing around it, it seems that the man’s Russian girlfriend was assaulted and possible raped.
I daresay you’re at a risk of a thrashing anyplace in the world, but when certain people have institutional support for violence (ie, current MP and murder suspect Duminda Silva, MP Mervyn Silva, his son Malaka, etc) it becomes a much more nasty problem. The fact that the victim has been foreign tourists is especially bad since these are guests in the country, a privilege that most decent people in this country respect.
Personally, I think it starts in the schools and when people are young. There’s a certain concept of ‘boys will be boys’ and in Sri Lanka one is a boy until they’re married off, be that 18 or 35. I went to school in America and they were very sensitive to violence, if you assaulted someone you’d be suspended and then expelled, no questions asked. Here it depends on who your parents are, who their parents are, and is more often than not brushed off without serious consequence. In schools a generation ago, prefects had the right to search, harass and even assault younger students, though I don’t know if that’s the same. In Universities, ragging continues, another example of dubious authority being used to support violence. At the highest level, successful politicians practice thuggery quite openly.
It’s gone to another level, however, with a foreigner being killed. Especially as more tourists head south, the quasi mafias that have sprung up around the limited trade there will have to dissipate. These areas have always dealt in drugs and prostitution (a lot of it male) and that leads to local monopolies of violence, but as things get bigger, that can’t go on. I personally know friends who were harassed in Una and I know of another group that having to essentially bribe local toughs to hold an event in Hikka. Like a lot of other issues in Sri Lanka, this latent problem was ignored during the war years, but it needs to be understood that more than illegal structures have encroached on the beach. There’s a lot of illegal and thugish behavior as well.