My trip to Sri Lanka was long overdue. I was supposed to be there last year, but had a long wait before I could finally make it. From the moment I landed in Colombo, I could see the situation the country is in today. Colombo looked heavily fortified with the police force and the army spread all across the city with vigilant eyes. People were being frisked and asked to show identification papers all over the city.
It was a bright & warm day and I enjoyed the long drive from the airport to my hotel. I realized that Colombo is a clean city, which is quite uncrowded. The infrastructure looked in tune with the times. It was really surprising for me since I didn’t expect this from Sri Lanka. Going a little back, I realized that the Colombo airport too was great and I don’t think even a single airport in India can compare with it!
I set about my work to do a few accompanied interviews for an opinion poll. Colombo was under a fiery thunderstorm and downpour during my stay. My team braved the thunderstorms and managed to speak to a few respondents. While these people were being interviewed, I could sense some sort of hopelessness that is creeping into the minds of the people here. I remember from my previous studies that over 80% of the people felt that the Sri Lankan government was committed to peace. People still believe that the government is committed to peace, but they are not very sure what the government can do about it. With the weakening of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and breakdown of talks, people might be feeling that a third-party intervention is the key. Interestingly, Sri Lankans are in favour of the international community, in particular, India, intervening and trying to sort out the dispute.
Another interesting issue was that of migration. Many respondents I spoke to (including my car driver, an auto-rickshaw driver, hotel staff and folks in ACNielsen) expressed a keen interest in migrating to other countries for better opportunities and a better quality of life. They were really concerned about their family’s safety as well. However, the key barriers that they saw in doing this was availability of funds to take such a step and migration risks.
While dwindling tourism revenues had left many people concerned, people were upbeat about the economy clocking close to 7.5% growth. However, the cost of the war has left the economy grappling with inflation levels close to 18%.
My return journey is nothing much to talk about with flight cancellations and re-routings and long waits at the airports. But, on the whole, it was a great experience.