Colombo Telegraph

Dumping On Sri Lanka Culture

By Christopher Rezel

Christopher Rezel

A female payment hawker forcefully voices her revulsion on a video clip doing the rounds regarding excrement on the pavement where she conducts her business.

Her complaint follows the recent Janabalaya Kolombata.

The clip contains other protesting voices but I focus on the woman’s complaint and the neglect at providing facilities for the large numbers of people that regularly come together to march or accumulate to demonstrate.

Organisers never have the foresight that people need to perform their natural functions when they gather for extended time periods.

Or is the assumption that people will somehow find a place, which of course means the nearest laneway, a convenient pavement, the Galle Face seashore, or wherever they are passing or standing at any moment?

The concept of providing portable lavatories does not seem to exist. Perhaps what’s left behind is for shit-eating stray dogs.

Consequently, after any major gathering in Colombo or elsewhere, the stench of urine and shit overpoweringly marks where people have marched or accumulated.

And the excuse that contaminated milk was secretly passed around has never been needed.

Such behaviour is repugnant. It is suggestive of Sri Lanka’s dumping on their proud centuries-old traditions and culture.

Public toilets

Perhaps this is an occasion to discuss public toilets. Most city councils, including Colombo, are unaware that transiting masses need to regularly evacuate bladder and bowels.

If ever someone is brave enough to approach one of the few public toilets scattered far and wide, the stench will usually drive them to seek out a concealed open-air location.

If compelled however to enter for say Number One, they are forced to approach on a urine flooded floor.

If it’s Number Two, readers will easily recall the state in which they have found public squatting pans or toilet bowls.

How our women manage their requirements is not even up for discussion in our male dominated society.

A dearth of public toilets, male and female, is not the only problem. Regular and proper maintenance cycles is another.

Added to that is bad toilet training and indifferent adult usage.

Most people are happy to go into a clean toilet but leave it with their signature splattered everywhere. They’ll piss on the floor and leave their evacuations for someone else to flush away.

Or they will clog up the toilet bowl by chucking into it anything and everything. After all, they know they will not return for a second use of that particular toilet until another day.

In Fort, even the few toilets in commercial cafes and firms open to the public fail the stink and befouling test. Toilet facilities provided usually meet all general requirements. But it seems no one bothers with supervising upkeep.

They usually look and stink as if they are cleaned but once before closing time. It is ignored that 15 minutes after opening time, there will be urine and shit everywhere.

This goes for toilets in the Dutch hospital shopping precinct and that provided by an esteemed café famous for cakes and pastries. Again, indifferent usage and lack of upkeep the problem.

There seems to be another problem with Sri Lankan males using toilets. Most ignore washing their hands on completing their business, whether One or Two.

In addition, because of an exaggerated notion about organ size, they’ll stand a yard away from urinal or toilet bowl, assume their hose pipe to be a foot long, and spray surrounding walls, floor, shoes and feet.

To overcome such haphazard showers, washrooms in the Fort Hilton lobby have fresh, gleaming white bathmats under each of its urinals.

The Hilton’s extensive, gleaming and fragrant smelling washrooms provide all facilities for proper hygiene – toilet rolls, washing sinks, soap, paper towels.

In addition, a male attendant is on hand should there be an inadequacy.

But notwithstanding all such Hilton planning, this writer once stood next to someone we would not hesitate calling a gentleman, a mahatmaya. He was in expensive western suit and tie. He finished his business at the urinal, shook himself off vigorously, then left the facility without washing his hands, leaving behind all his drippings and other impure deposits on the exit door handle.

Foreign visitors

With Sri Lanka’s push for greater numbers of foreign visitors for business and tourism, I am sure we would want the right impression taken away and spoken about abroad.

To achieve this it is not enough to provide a separate “foreigners-only” toilet in the Fort Railway station but leave train toilets and all other public toilets squalid and broken down.

There is also a need for greater emphasis on information campaigns via schools and media on proper toilet usage, personal hygiene, and requirement for the thorough washing of hands after toilet visits.

Then of course the powers that be must take up the construction of more public toilets for males and females strategically placed throughout all cities.

The aspect of having them regularly and properly maintained cannot be adequately emphasised.

But of course all this may be mere wishful thinking?

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