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I had thought that the problems with traffic police in Colombo had eased over the years, what with stricter laws and better enforcement practices. Things used to get pretty nasty a few years ago. Police would stop you randomly, threaten to write you up, and then shake you down for a bribe. But now that the government is earning major revenue from traffic fines, cops are less able to take bribes – in the city at least.

But recently, much to my annoyance, I found out that it still goes on. Late at night, on Baseline road, a cop flagged me down after I crossed a traffic light. He asked me why I didn’t stop, but I was confused since I didn’t run a red light. He told me that I drove past a yellow light. I said yes. He asked me why I didn’t stop. I told him that it just turned yellow as I was passing it, if I had stopped I would have been in the middle of a junction. He then pocketed my licence (yes, he put it into his pocket) and directed me to some other cops. There were two other policemen in a squad car along with the traffic policemen. (I was under the impression that only traffic policemen could take your licence). They told me that they had to write a ticket, and had to send me to the courts, and that my licence was too faded. They also sent a cop to check out what kind of vehicle I was driving. They also asked me what I was going to do. (Dan mokadha karanne?) I then shrugged. I mean, what was I supposed to do? I hadn’t run a light. I also had only 100 rupees in my pockets. Seeing that they were getting nowhere with me, they just handed me my licence and I went on my way. By this time they had stopped 3 or 4 other vehicles all for running a yellow light.

It was all rather annoying and frustrating. It was like bullies pushing me into a corner and asking for my lunch money. These sort of things are very upsetting. You don’t have confidence in the law, you have no idea when they are going to spring a surprise on you and yet every day you see people get away with worse things just because they are well connected.

Just another joyous day in Colombo.

 

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Our Minister of Public Relations (Disasters) has done it again. He is holding a protest at Muneswaram Kali Kovil on September 1 to prevent the animal sacrifices that are part of the religious festivities that happen there.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks and layman are also joining to protest to save those poor goats. After all, it is far more important to save goats than to prevent the abuse of your fellow man.

Now I understand that Buddhism is a philosophy of peace, detachment from the world, and respect for all life. But if you are going to be on that march, you better be vegetarians.

Can anyone spell ‘hypocrisy’? (Hint: It rhymes with Deviled Chicken)

Three French tourists on holiday in Sri Lanka took photos of themselves posing with Buddha statues at the Embekka Devale. Now the photos were not very respectful, but what do you expect? They are French. The French are known for cutting heads off royalty, disrespecting religions, food, sex and running away. The studio responsible for developing the photos patriotically (see what I did there?) handed the photos over to the police who then arrested the offenders. The tourists were sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonment suspended for five years and fined.

It seems a pretty steep sentence for a moment of idiocy. But this sort of sentencing only happens when the act is on a  Buddhist place of worship. There is absolutely no such enforcement when a Christian church is attacked, when a mosque is stormed, or when a statue is stolen from a Hindu kovil. Where’s are the fines there? Where is the rigorous imprisonment? Does Sri Lankan automatically equate to Buddhist? Can anyone spell DOUBLE STANDARDS here? (Hint: It rhymes with extremism).

 

Do not go out on May Day, seriously. Unless you like to watch large crowds of dehydrated, sweating, yelling people, or like to catch up on your reading in your car, in the sun, on the street.

I do not remember May Days being this crowded in the past. Bus loads of people came into Colombo just to take part in the rallies, and 10,000 policemen were deployed to keep the peace. I had assumed that May Day was labour day and all about the worker. But what I saw was a lot of political bickering, a lot of anger, and a lot of hate directed towards the international community. I didn’t hear much about local working conditions, the prices rising, the economic situation, or anything local. It could have just been the rally that I saw though.

The placards and signs they were holding up were mostly about the US and how they should leave Syria and Iran alone. (I didn’t know we were best buddies with them) Also were placards about how Sri Lanka rejects the UN resolutions, and ‘Banki and Obama’.

The float in the picture above had a bed on in covered with a sheet, with two people in scrubs surrounding it. The ‘doctors’ had a sign on their back saying NGO and under the sheet I saw what looked like a tiger skin. I suppose it meant that the NGOs were trying to revive the LTTE?

Another section of the rally (which I couldn’t take a picture of) had a man in a blazer and a pair of shorts with a mask of Obama on his head. He was being herded by two men holding spears and dressed in black. Their costumes looked remarkably like that used by the KKK, but in black.  I am not sure that was intended, but then again, who knows.

It’s a masterful move by the government, directing anger towards people outside the country and towards NGO. Now the war is over, we don’t have anyone to fight and we have time to look at the mess in our own country. But what’s being said is, “look, America is trying to get us, the UN is trying to get us, unite!” and so we start yelling like a bunch of scared kids not looking at the mess in our own backyard.

But as they say, “Wot to do, child?”

I admit that there are many methods to DDR, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how a fashion show can be part of it. 384 ex-LTTE were released on the 28th and the ‘highlight’ of that release was a fashion show!

He said that the highlight of today’s release of 384 ex-LTTE combatants to their kith and kin by the Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadheera, at the Ramakrishna Hall in Wellawatte at 4.00 p.m. would be the fashion show by the ex-LTTE female combatants.

Island.lk

Reintegrating former soldiers into society is not an easy thing. There is trauma, there is hurt, there is hate, and you force them to strut around in front of the very people they were fighting? It boggles the mind. Is there really so little sensitivity and common sense in the authorities here?

The census people finally paid me a visit and it happened to be past nine in the evening. I busy doing some work on my laptop, happily lounging around in my shorts and a faded tank top when I heard a knock on the door. I thought it might be just the neighbour with a message or something but it turned out to be this young lady with an old lady on guard duty and so I let them in, shoved my books aside and prepared myself for the interrogation. I kept wishing that I was wearing something more substantial like a t-shirt and maybe some underwear. Going commando in this heat is awesome, but it’s a little unnerving when you have two women staring at you.

I suppose this census thing would help the government know what is happening but it still felt like I was getting a colonoscopy. They asked me where I am from, what I am doing now, whether I had studied in the previous month (uh?). They asked me if I had a tap inside the house (confused me for a moment there), whether I had a bathroom inside the house (almost said, ‘no, I just use the balcony’), what the walls were made of (no clue. wall stuff?), if I had a tv, radio, how many computers  I had. She also asked me if I could write a letter in Sinhalese, and then we had a discussion about just how much Sinhalese I need to know for her to mark it down.

She had maybe 5 or 6 pages worth of stuff to fill, but we filled only about 4 in the end, for which I was very grateful. I felt a bit bad for her because she had to trudge around every house in that area to fill her forms, but I still feel vaguely abused.

There is a huge fuss about a US backed UN resolution that aims to pressure Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations in LLRC. Nationalists everywhere are up in arms about how the US is trying to take over Sri Lanka and place their own people in charge of the country etc etc. It’s funny because the LLRC is a Sri Lankan body mandated by the Sri Lankan government to give recommendations to Sri Lanka. So, SRI LANKA Y U NO LISTEN TO YOURSELF?

But all this fuss is a wonderful opportunity to divert attention away from the price hikes and protests against the government. Smokescreen anyone?