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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Shoved from pillar to post and dumped on the pavement

Daily News: 04/10/2005" by Afreeha Jawad

From fruits to vegetables, from the pavement hawker to some office worker no one and nothing is spared the pain and anguish of politicization. Sri Lankans continue to be one of the most highly politicized communities whichever government in power and if allowed to remain that way, would not augur well for the future.

Take for instance the goings on in the aftermath of the Borella Podu Welenda Sankeernaya or popularly called 'podi market' reconstruction. Its rebuilding under one regime was much to the benefit of another. It couldn't have been better said other than through the expression coming off an anonymity insistent vendor who said:

"Kaandayamak Haduwa. Thavath kaandayak Beduwa!!"

A reminder of what Nehru had to say;" There are two types of people in the world. Some who do the work and others that take the credit.

Listening to the vendors was heart-rending many of whom were earlier into brisk business in the market's old building who looked forward to moving into their new allocation and environs following rebuild. But surely that was not to be.

As political destiny would have it, the units within the new structure were the privileged deposit of well-to-do political henchmen. Sources also point out how even underworld gangs have been given stalls in many instances while denying the long-standing vendor populace within.

Premathilaka (61 yrs) from Kataragama, a seasoned vender whose pavement life extends well over forty years was in tears ("Mata podi market eken bim angalak labune nehe. Deshapalanaya keruwanan mata meka wenne nehe."

(I didn't get an inch from the rebuilt Podi market and here you find me on the pavement. But if I was into politics I certainly would have been a 'choice pick'").

Premathilaka, a father of four children is into managing his home in the absence of his late wife. L. G. Premadasa (51 years) is saddled with a different problem, having to look after his daughter's children. He, a fruit trader striking commonality of expression with Premathilaka said:

"Mamath Parana Podi Market Eke Parana Minihek. Ithin Deshapalane Nokarapu Hinda Maava Kon Una. Athule Inne Okkoma Deshapalana kaarayo thamai."

("I too am a long-standing vendor. Had I taken to politics, I too would have been given a stall. All those that got stalls were into politics").

Suneetha and Bandula, the fruit selling duo holding a 30-year track record disclosed a unique digression. Opposite this now rebuilt rather controversial market is what is called the 'Pavement Park'.

Though designed to accommodate the 'would be misplaced' - not even here did anything come their way. The pavement was 'pre-ordained' to be their permanent abode. Today even that 'Pavement Park' is abode to political lackeys.

An irate Amaradasa (54 yrs) twenty years in vegetable disposal, crying out his heart, nerve and sinew said:

"Dan Mata Jeevethe Epawela. Duk Vindala Hamba Karapu Thena Nathi Unaa."

("I am sick of life. That little spot where I earned my living is no more.") Padmini also bemoaned discrimination even seeing the rebuilt market's present plight as the famous dog in the manger story. The place now has stalls completely shuttered up. "No, they wouldn't even try to give these to us instead of keeping them closed all the time," she said.

According to Priyanthi, another political dislodge shoved on the pavement yet another longstanding vender in the 'old podi market', earlier there were around 40 entities but after reconstruction the market has around 100 shops. "Kiyala Wedak Nehe Apata Una De" she lamented.

"No point talking of what happened to us".

Making matters worse are the police that come and order them out. Though overwhelmingly disgruntled at whatever confrontation brought on them as they pull through the day, they are also not unmindful of whatever inconvenience the public face, truly the pavement is pedestrians' territory.

Yet the evergreen accommodative Sri Lanka spirit particularly among those not evolved is most vibrant as both pedestrians and vendors co-exist neatly. Business is brisk. You name it it's all there. The Ammes whom I thought to be a dying generation are still around not to forget the kadale cart now under the charge of some other. The faces that stood behind this mobile entity are now long past paving the way I believe for the next generation.

"So there it goes, the pathos, the anguish and pain of more than 40 vendors both men and women - all victims of political misdoings now spending their days along Danister de Silva Mawatha with the pavement - their permanent abode.

As the tortuous sun sends out its burning rays and the torrential rain beats hard against their burnt barebodies, the will to survive remains untempered - a story akin to the old oak.


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