May you live long, but not here
"Ayubowan", is the first word a visitor to Sri Lanka hears on arrival. These days one could be forgiven for thinking it means something very rude. It doesn’t, and the increasingly rare tourist would probably not suspect any hostility behind the still ever-present smiles. Until, that is, she or he makes the mistake of picking up a local newspaper. Traditionally fairly diverse, most Sri Lankan media outlets now speak with one voice to the "International Community", and the message is not "ayubowan", it’s "mind your own business".
Increase the impact of the culture shock by going to cover what appears at first sight to be a peaceful demonstration against Foreign Secretary David Miliband by orange-robed buddhist monks in front of the British High Commission in Colombo. Nothing much to photograph (most people smile at the camera and ask where I’m from), and I soon get sleepy from the buddhist chanting and incense. I wake up when the monk speaking into the microphone switches to English. It turns out his rhetoric is somewhat less than peaceful, and within minutes he has concluded that Miliband "represents terrorism" and has come to Sri Lanka to rescue LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The monk, who has stopped smiling at this stage, gives no reason as to why Miliband or any reasonably sane individual or nation would want to rescue a Tiger with a reputation as spotty as Prabhakaran’s. Some of the banners do though, by suggesting that Miliband is jealous of Sri Lanka’s apparent success in "wiping out terrorism".
Read the rest of this post on Morten’s blog.