By Natale Dankotuwage –
There are many problems with Sri Lankan politics. Here’s another: it’s Colombo centric. Mahinda Rajapaksa was – for all the flaws I fail to mention – a refreshing exception. Investing in parts of the Island that for years; since independence, had been overlooked.
When I visited the Island in 2013 I travelled down the coast of the Southern parts of the Island. When I asked them what they liked about Rajapaksa they brought up the roads and infrastructure he was developing. It was late millennial and some of these villages had just begun to see the sight of a paved street down their neighbourhoods.
As an urbanite of course I liked the rural sites. And the fact, while on the back of a motorcycle, I could look up into the night sky and actually see all the thousands of stars in the sky. But who was I – western privileged urbanite– to suggest that these parts of the country didn’t deserve the same types of infrastructure that made my life easier.
So, besides the fact I find Matripala Sirisena to be a puppet – a decoy – a lovely distraction set forth by power hungry elites like Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike. Hypocritical by products of nepotism.
Picture by Natale Dankotuwage
I’m also little upset he, with the guidance of his puppeteers, decided to stop building the Airport out south. When it was in fact a convenient alternative to the two to three-hour drive to an airport that was built for a traveller leaving from Colombo. With no thought that anyone else in the country – from any of the 24 other regions of the nation – would too want to take a flight of convenience.
Those who criticized the building of the flight may not have heard of the young men and women out south. Conducting classes in Japanese. So that they too could go abroad to Japan. Like those before them, who from Colombo, went to America.
Instead we’re now building a Hyatt, Altair, Shangri LA and a Lotus Tower; redefining the Colombo skyline to cater to the country and the world’s elite. With little consideration of whether the investment in the infrastructure will be of any value to the countless rural souls that Sirisena supposes to represent. A man of Polonnaruwa roots, nonetheless.
So I fear that my presumption of Colombo-centric elitism defining the current party in power is true after all. For only western-centric one-percenters would find any value in building hotels for tourists and skylines for sight-seers, rather than airports and roads for locals.
Where once excitement brewed as streets and infrastructure improved on the northern and southern parts of the nation. Rural parts overlooked for far too long. We’re back to devaluing the worthiness of equitable access. And to building things that don’t matter. To serve people that are transitory. Perpetuating the very economic inequity that divided the nation and lead it to the gates of War after all.