The conflict throughout Sri Lanka seems to be fundamentally a political struggle; not in the sense of a struggle between differing ideologies within Sri Lankan society, but rather an almost exclusive struggle between politicians who claim to represent the common person. Every political party has its unofficial mouth piece in the media and together these political trumpets occupy the whole of the mainstream press. Just a few articles from any newspaper need be read before each newspaper’s afflation becomes readily apparent as only a thin veneer of journalism conceals the self aggrandizing. Even the LTTE runs a radio station openly called the “Voice of the Tigers” and a corresponding television station from within the territory under its control.
All too frequently rhetoric alone apparently does not send a strong enough message and the resort to arms has become commonplace. Anonymous threats, abductions and detentions, physical attacks, and other harassments against the news media smother the possibility of independent journalism and precipitate even more partisan mistrust. Attacks progress with each subsequent incident vying for a more dramatic impact. This trend recently reached a crescendo with a heavily armed band of unidentified individuals who stormed the offices of a mainstream newspaper, held the staff present at gunpoint, and then deliberately set fire to the printing presses before fleeing. The entire assault taking place in district specifically designated a high security zone by government security forces.
Last week the head of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran, celebrated his 53th birthday on Monday, and also pronounced his annual “Heroes Day” address on the following day, revealing perhaps a bit of egotism. The annual speech was scheduled for broadcast through the LTTE’s radio and television stations at the chosen auspicious time of 8:05 pm. In a bit of his own showmanship the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, waited until precisely that moment; and then used aerial bombing to destroy the radio studio in Kilinochchi. This bombing of a civilian neighborhood drew criticismfrom the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for damaging the nearby UN World Food Programme (WFP) offices. The Associated Press (AP) also reported LTTE claims of a military roadside bomb killing eleven schoolchildren and two others in relation to the annual memorial.
This time the LTTE swiftly responded by targeting a ruling coalition Member of Parliament (MP) who is a minister in the President’s Cabinet. On Wednesday morning a bomb attack failed to kill the intended MP outside his Ministry office, but killed a staff member and the suicide attacker while wounding two other people present. As part of the full political context, the “marked” MP is a Tamil Sri Lankan himself and almost since its inception the LTTE has denounced with grim judgment any Tamil Sri Lankan who voices disagreement with the group’s aims or means as traitors to their ethnicity; here being the 13th time the same MP has been targeted for assassination.
That evening a larger bomb exploded at a popular department store in a suburb of Colombo during peak rush hour traffic, killing 17 shoppers and passersby with 36 additional people requiring medical attention. The explosion appears to have occurred when a department store security guard attempted to open a parcel checked in at the customer service counter adjacent the store’s entrance. No claims of responsibly followed and the department store may or may not have been the intended target of the bomb. Accusing the LTTE as being responsible for both bombings, the government over the weekend has been conducting numerous “cordon and search” operations throughout Colombo with estimates of Tamil Sri Lankans arrested thus far under PTA and ER laws ranging into the thousands; just being originally born in the northeast of the country presently seems to be sufficient cause for detention.
Posted By: Adam
With all the political, civil, and military turmoil throughout the island, a welcome and necessary relief can be found while enjoying the simple details of life. A quick snack or shared meals can be both a chance to step away from the country’s worries for a moment and an opportunity to strengthen connections with friends and colleges. And as with many other countries in the region, Sri Lankan tastes lavishly indulge on piquant, bold flavors. Whenever stopping by someone’s home, families can be expected to serve a multitude of spicy, baked and fried, crunchy snacks somewhat akin to pretzels; and on the weekend, vendors of both green mango slices and dried banana chips generously sprinkled with chili powder hawk their treats at public parks and other outdoor attractions. In some way perhaps this choice of flavors derives from the hot tropical climate.
Most people in Sri Lanka seem to share a uniform belief that nearly all of their traditional foods are simply too spicy for foreigners to handle without breaking down into tears. While perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, chili and various curry spices do factor heavily into the local culinary culture. Fortunately, I favor fiery food and surprised my colleagues on my first day at the office when I chose to eat a standard rice and curry “lunch packet” sold at small lunch stands on nearly every other street. When we began to eat, they intently monitored my visage for the expected signs of discomfort and sat with a bottle of water at the ready.
I am familiar with searing off half my tongue’s taste receptors, and compared with typical European or North American cuisine, the curry’s main burn would easily rate as ‘hot’, just edging towards ‘very hot’. I find that the typical whole chili found in Sri Lanka and used in many varieties of local dishes initially presents with a slight sweetness progressing to a smooth, even burn. However rather than mere intensity, the local variety’s distinctiveness comes through how the spice seemingly permeates directly from the mouth to one’s bloodstream. Almost immediately sinuses begin to clear, a rush of blood can be felt on the face, and exacerbated by the perpetually heat from the beating sun, cooling beads of perspiration begin to swell on the skin’s surface. After at first preparing for the worst, my colleagues are gradually expressing less concern while we eat lunch together.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Dec 2nd, 2007