Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Omen one - Angry Buddhist monks

Happy and energetic: the front view of Colombo.  Of course there is an underlying history of trauma, uncertainty, mistrust and political instability.  I ran into the darker side more than once yesterday.
Having been asked by one too many tuk-tuk driver whether I was married and where I was staying, I decided to walk the kilometre or so to the Galle face Green (a spacious area by the sea with kites, ice-creams, food stalls and a few shady palms).
Of course, as it would happen, my walk was interrupted by a protest of Buddhist monks outside the Indian High Commission.   The street was filled with bright orange.  The wall of the building was lined with soldiers.  I hesitated.  But crossing six lanes of Colombo traffic seemed more risky than walking past a pack of monks.
I asked a soldier if I could walk past - and if I could use a camera.  He gave me the traditional Sri Lankan head wobble that looks like it should mean no, but signifies consent and agreement.
And so I proceeded with care between the soldiers and the monks.  Getting out the camera, looking very confident and asking a few people along the way what was happening seemed to create a good cover as an international journalist and suddenly I was part of the mosh pit of journalists capturing the leader's press conference.
Unfortunately I couldn't understand a word of it and no one responded to my calls for an English translation.  But I think I gathered that the monks want the Indian govt to ensure safe travels through Tamil Nadu (TN) following attacks on Sri Lankan monks in TN - assumed to be connected with LTTE or sympathizers.  You can see a real journalist's pictures here:
http://www.demotiximages.com/news/1889230/sri-lankan-buddhist-monks-continue-protest-indian-high-commission#media-1889181
I had visited a Buddhist temple in the morning and read the inscriptions denouncing greed, hate, violence, gambling and promoting giving and sacrifice and self-understanding.  Not sure what a rally of angry Buddhist monks says - but it doesn't bode well.

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