An Echelon Media Company
Saturday May 18th, 2024

Child or business? Sri Lanka flag vendor given choices by Rajapaksa backers before attack

ECONOMYNEXT – It was a hard choice to Shermila Mohamed, a national flag vendor at the protest site on May 09 near the presidential secretariat where hundreds of protesters had been demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government for one month.

A hoard of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s supporters, hours before his resignation, stormed the Galle Face Green protest site where Shermila had been running a successful flag business selling national flags to protestors at the the Gota Go Gama, the makeshift “village” which the protests were centred around.

“They (Rajapaksa supporters) asked me what I value more, my child or my business,” Shermila told Economy Next on Tuesday (25) sharing her horrific experience on May 09 – which has since come to be known as Black Monday – when government supporters brutally attacked unarmed and peaceful protesters.

“I said my child and they said, ‘Then we will have to burn down your tent’.”

And burn it they did. Before setting the tent on fire, they trampled down Shermila’s flags, her bread and butter. Not one flag was spared.

Shermila holds a permit as a vendor at Galle Face. She left her job at a popular electronic store and days before the protests decided to start up a business selling flags with her brother and son. That ambition came to a halt on Black Monday.

“I had flags, needle and thread, wooden poles and masks – all worth 600,000 rupees, which I bought with a loan. How will I repay it with no sales?” she said.

The attacks, however, did not discourage her to leave the protest site.

Now she sells Buddhist flags which she had ordered after May 09 for the Vesak national Buddhist festival.

“The Buddhist flags I sell now are to remember the attack on May 09 by  government supporters who insist they follow Buddhism,” she said.

The attacks over protesters and people like Shermila later led to retaliatory mob violence across the country, with anti-government protestors attacking the then ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP) supporters and torching the houses of SLPP legislators and local councilors. At least 10 people were killed and nearly 300 were injured in the clashes.

Despite the violence, people like Shermila cannot afford to close down her business because she may have to starve in what has become an unprecedented economic crisis.

The severity of the economic crisis has forced many to take to the streets demanding that the president and the government leave office. The protesters also want justice and are calling for the Rajapaksas to be held accountable for their actions on May 09.

The attack later forced Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign along with his cabinet of ministers, paving the way for a new government under prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The new prime minister has yet to address key economic issues, but many see another time bomb ticking to potentially massive public riots over food and medicine shortages in the next few months.

At Gota Go Gama, some vendors have now settled with different jobs, which partially explains Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, which was the root cause for the protest.

M K Lakshan from Kurunegela has resorted to selling masks, flags and protest accessories, after fuel price hikes took a toll on his main source of income of running a three-wheeler for hire.

Lakshan, a father of one, said he has been observing the protest and decided to do his bit as a citizen while also making a living.

Sri Lankan flag and mask vendors were seeing a boom in business at the protest site before Black Monday because there was high demand for those products at the protest site.

“Demand has also grown because protesting became an activity open to the public after the country was closed for more than two years,” said Danura Gunesekera, who sells mobile accessories and clothing.

He said the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions after two years helped bring strong support to the protest.

“People are more interested in coming forward for the country,” Gunesekera told EconomyNext.

Gunesekera said the cost of running at Galle Face is significantly lower as they are mobile sellers and don’t have a rent to pay considering the prime location they trade at.

“I used to make 30,000 a day from selling flags here. My only expense as of now is paying for my cart which is 200 rupees a day. Other than that I get food, water and other facilities all from here,” said S Subramaniam also known as Suda at Gota Go Gama.

Suda’s business was also disrupted after the May 09 mayhem.

He was a wagon toy seller that was prominently seen in the areas of Dehiwala and Colombo.

Subramaniam first visited the protest site in the first week of the protest. Seeing the determination and the commitment of the people helped spark the business idea, he said.

Shantha Kumara, a hand band and sticker vendor at Galle Face, started selling headbands and face stickers to protestors.

“I get the head band made from Kandy and I sold about 60 pieces on weekdays and during the weekends I sold about 100 pieces,” Kumara said adding that before the protest he would sell items in accordance with the season.

This season, before May 09 it happened to be face tattoos and head bands that say “Gota Go Home” that became one of the fastest selling items for Kumara who was there from day one. (Colombo/May3/2022)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourist fair seeks to involve universities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourism fair kicked off this week to promote interaction between industry stakeholders and relevant Government bodies, including the Tourist Police, and also universities.

“Several universities, including Colombo, Uva Wellasa, Kelaniya, Sabaragamuwa and Rajarata were given free stalls to facilitate student interaction with industry professionals,” Chairman of the Sancharaka Udawa Organising Committee, Charith De De Alwis said in a statement.

The event takes place today (18) at the BMICH and houses stalls for hoteliers, tour and transport services, with a goal of attracting 10,000 visitors.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), the 11th edition of Sancharaka Udawa offers a platform for both B2B and B2C sectors.

“Sancharaka Udawa houses over 170 exhibitors and a footfall of more than 10,000 visitors,” De Alwis said.

This year’s edition will include participants from outbound tourism sectors to facilitate capacity building. The event provides networking opportunities for industry newcomers and veterans.

“The networking platform offers opportunity for small and medium-sized service providers integrating them into the broader tourism landscape. The anticipated outcome is a substantial increase in bookings particularly for regional small-scale tourism service providers.” (Colombo/May18/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s CEB sells LTL shares to West Coast IPP for Rs26bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has sold shares of an affiliate to West Coast Power Company Limited, an independent power producer giving profits of 25.9 billion rupees in the March 2024 quarter, interim accounts showed.

The sale has been carried out as a transfer.

“Twenty-eight percent (28-pct) of share ownership of CEB within LTL Holding’s equity capital has been transferred to West Coast Power Company Ltd for a total consideration of Rs 26 billion as part of a partial settlement of outstanding dues…” the March interim accounts said.

“This transaction resulted in a net gain of Rs25.9 billion rupees which has been recognized and reflected in the ‘Gain from Share Disposal’ in the individual financial statement in CEB.”

LTL Holdings is a former transformer making unit of the CEB set up with ABB where the foreign holding was sold to its management.

The firm has since set up several IPPs.

West Coast Power operates a 300MW combined cycle IPP in Kerawalapitiya promoted by LTL group liked firms in which both the Treasury and Employees Provident Fund also have shares.

Its operational and maintenance contract is with Lakdhanavi, another private IPP. The firm has been paying dividends.

The capital gain from the transfer of shares helped the CEB post profits to 84 billion rupees for the March 2024 quarter.

CEB reported gross profits of 62.7 billion rupees from energy sales and 30.6 billion rupees in other income and gains in the March 2024 quarter. Other income was only 3.1 billion rupees in last year. (Colombo/May18/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka mulls mandating prices for shopping bags in supermarkets

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka may end the practice of supermarkets giving free shopping bags, as part of efforts to contain plastic use according to deliberations at a parliamentary committee following a supreme court decision.

Sri Lanka’s courts many years ago barred supermarkets from charging for plastic bags from customers after activists went to court.

However a Supreme Court ruled in March this year to overturn that.

The parliament Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development said it could not reverse the gazette issued under the Consumer Affairs Authority Act until it had received a copy of the ruling.

The committee said the ruling might prompt shoppers to bring their own bags, which would lead to a reduction in polythene waste.

It may only apply to supermarkets and not to smaller merchants, however. (Colombo/May18/2024)

Continue Reading