The new Port City

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I wish your newspaper had run an opinion column about this project. I believe it is such a serious matter that it should probably have been put to a referendum in the first place, after the plan was properly presented to the country. I am utterly dismayed that the new Government, after appearing to take a strong stand against the project while campaigning for our votes, has now decided, quite quickly, to go ahead with it. Surely they would have been aware of the Chinese “unhappiness” and the costs involved about our withdrawing from the project while they were campaigning. They also campaigned on the basis of future transparency of Government dealings. They must therefore give the country a very clear picture of what this port city is going to involve. I am strongly opposed to it as I was to earlier attempts under previous governments to build on Galle Face Green (with the dubious promise of later reclaiming land to replace the green for the people of this country). I am opposed to it for at least two reasons. The first is that it seems to be an infringement of national sovereignty, where we are handing over the possession of a large part of our coastal water/land to a major power in the region. And who knows what this could mean in the future if India and China become antagonistic with each other? My second reason is one that I have not seen expressed anywhere, not even by environmentalists whom I would have hoped were sensitive to this issue. I protest against the loss to the people of this country, and especially Colombo dwellers whose environment is being increasingly invaded in so many ways, of the very special view of the sea one has from Galle Face Green. We don’t just look out to sea there but we have the sea to the North, West and South of us and this has a very subtle spiritual (psychic?) effect on us. The whole sweep of the sea as we stand or walk on the edge of the Green is one of the great pleasures of “going to Galle Face”, even though we may not be conscious of it. Its effect may be too subtle to realise but it certainly uplifts the spirit. And it has done this for centuries for millions of people. It is the wrenching away of this very special experience from all of us which makes me want to cry out against this act. I am angry that a few politicians, with other interests - in their pockets - and the possibility of flying regularly about the world where they savour the pleasures they are taking away from us, less privileged, more earthbound creatures - have worked up this scheme without consulting us, we who brought them to power to be our servants. And I am utterly disappointed that the new Government only now realises that it cannot undo what the previous one undertook. What are your promises worth? Already the stretch of ‘reclaimed land to the north is blocking our view of the sea there. How much worse will things be once the buildings rise up? I ask the 100-day Government to lay out for us the financial implications of withdrawing from this scheme, and I call upon the people of Colombo to think about what the loss of the view of northern coastal waters at Galle Face will mean to them? Is it too late for us to express opposition to this plan? Manel Fonseka