Dear 15-75 weekly readers,
Somehow the course of travel has given me the unexpected opportunity to be your numbre one source of Sri Lankan news coverage. I accept this role humbly, knowing that few people out there in America go about their days wondering to themselves what the updates are in Sri Lanka. I also accept this role humbly, knowing how much power the locals of Negombo Sri Lanka think that I have simply because I am an American with a camera. They shared their story eagerly and hopefully and all I can do in return…is post this blog.
So here it is.
As mentioned in my previous blog, we arrived in Sri Lanka the first day the fisherman’s strike had elevated to include road blockades. Men and women of all ages joined the fisherman to share their disapproval of the rise in petrol prices from 70 Rupiah per liter to 105 Rupiah per liter.
The first day of the protests had an unsettling ending. The church bells had summoned everyone back to demand the president offer a more immediate response to their outcry.
By morning, the man at our hotel informed us that the roads were open again. I saw this as a hopeful sign, but a few minutes spent out on the roads left a different impression. According to locals, by midnight when the president had remained silent even after their demands for a resolution, the people broke out in rioting crowds in the streets.
The presidents only reaction was to send military trucks to Negombo to attempt to quiet the people. On Main Street, though nothing had gotten violent, the soldiers used gas and water to dissipate the crowds. This successfully cleared off Main Street, but simply relocated the crowd to the street in front of the St. Sebastian’s Cathedral. At this point, a voice came over the church’s speaker. A local translated for us, saying that the voice was telling the soldiers that their presence would only bring more trouble: that they should let the people say what needed to be said.
We watched as the military trucks retreated, a hopeful sign for the people. Main Street was still lined with armed soldiers.
Some locals seemed hopeful that everything would be over soon and that the president would lower the petrol prices for the people. Others thought this could be a sign of another uprising Civil War. Popular opinion however, seems to be less drastic. Perhaps a change will come, even if slowly.
It was strange to be the American in the crowd. The people assign a kind of power to this and even the soldiers broke their stern façades to smile for my camera.