The torn up Unawatuna beach
From Unawatuna to Manning Street, the government is trying to do the right thing, the wrong way. At the least, they could be doing things better, not provoking protests and confusion. Here are a few tips:
Issue A Press Release
Many Sri Lankans heard about the demolition of illegal beach structures in Unawatuna from obscure foreign wire services, at least online. The rumors going around Colombo were that hotels had been destroyed. I drove down the Southern Expressway and the rumors weren’t true at all.
The government had razed illegal structures on the beach itself, and rightly so. There were spots in Unawatuna where you had to swim around structures unscrupulous restaurants had built. Wrongly, however, they left all the rubble on the beach, effectively ruining it until somebody cleans it up. Hotels were fine but the beach was trashed. Note that this during peak season.
The spin in Colombo, however, was that businesses had been destroyed, which they really hadn’t. Some lost lounges or eating areas, but as anyone who’s built a sandcastle knows, you shouldn’t build stuff on the the sand. Almost all of the businesses had their rooms and kitchens on actual land, thus preserved.
The confusion, however, could have been avoided if the government just issued a press release saying what was going on. Instead it went through the grape vine and came out sour grapes.
Have A Plan And Stick To It
From tourism to vegetables, the government has a plan, but they don’t stick to it. They will issue a policy, face protests, then change or delay the policy. The style is basically to leap before they look, and then stumble back.
There are certain policies which the stakeholders simply won’t like, like transporting vegetables in crates. The traders just don’t want to do it. If they’re consulted and given times and compromises (the blogger Ranjit Hulugalle recommends subsidizing the crates among other accomodations) some will budge. More importantly, if the government tells the public what and why before everything explodes, they’re more likely to have support to follow through.
Instead they try to muscle through alone, hit a wall, and step back. This dance goes on for months, with delays and protests, inconveniencing everyone, just because of poor planning and communication.
With tourism visas, also, the policy has been delayed multiple times. This just confuses everyone and makes the government look weak. If they consult stakeholders early and inform the public at the same time, this process could be a lot less embarrassing for everyone.
Most of the time the government is trying to do the right thing. I don’t agree with the visa policy, but we do need to become a modern nation. That does mean a smarter food supply, widening roads, preserving beaches and any number of things that will anger people used to the lax everything of the war years. The government is doing these things, which I give them props for, but they’re doing them the wrong way.
The changes are really quite simple. Consult, plan and communicate, then act. While I commend the action, right action is generally a better way.