Environmental activists cry foul as climate action event allegedly disrupted
ECONOMYNEXT – A collective of Sri Lankan environmental activists were in for a rude shock this morning when a 30×60 feet print of a ‘Stop Ecocide’ artwork they had put up last evening at the Viharamaha Devi Park was unceremoniously taken down by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).
The “mural” was part of a campaign the activists had launched in solidarity with this year’s first Greta Thunberg-led Global Climate Strike that is scheduled to be held today.
The organisers of the Colombo event told EconomyNext that they had obtained permission from the CMC and other relevant authorities weeks in advance, only to be told by those very authorities today that their art installation had to come down.
The #StopEcocideSL climate action event was organised by Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE), Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS), Extinction Rebellion (XR) Sri Lanka, the Pearl Protectors, Earth Guardians Sri Lanka, and Climate Action Now Sri Lanka. The groups came together to raise awareness about climate change and large scale deforestation that activists claim is currently taking place in the island. The organisers had planned to display artwork and sculptures created by children and adults alike at the event and permission had been obtained in writing from the CMC, public health inspectors (PHIs) and the police for this purpose. EconomNext saw signed copies of the approved request letters, but CMC officials were unavailable for comment.
“We got approvals for this event weeks ahead. We were not told that we couldn’t put the mural up, or take our art work into the park,” Melani, a member of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Sri Lanka and Climate Action Now Sri Lanka told Economynext.
“We put up the mural last night, but since this morning they have been trying to take it down. They took it down thrice already. Then they tried to confiscate it so our memebers who were here sat on the print,” she said.
Melani claimed that numerous works of art she and her fellow activists have gathered – sculptures, paintings and posters – were now rendered useless as the authorities would not let them display them inside the park premises.
Another member said a civil defence force officer had told him that they had received instructions from the CMC to not let anybody take anything in.
“We don’t know what is happening,” he said.
Media reporters earlier today said the President’s Office had made the directive to take down the mural – a claim denied by a spokesperson for the President’s Office that EconomyNext spoke to.
Explaining the reasons behind today’s event, Melani said: “Firstly, there is ecocide happening in Sri Lanka. Our natural ecosystems are being destroyed at a rate and, secondly, there is also a climate emergency the world is faced with. If you connect these two the best way an island like Sri Lanka can face these crises is by protecting our natural environment and ecosystems.”
“We have an amazing bio-diversity and that’s what kept us safe all these years from natural disasters. That’s what we want to say and raise awareness on,” she added.
The activist further said the organisers of the event want to urge policymakers to adopt a more sustainable development plan.
“The unsustainable infrastructure development and monoculture farming is not going to work. Nor is it going to help the other beings we share this island with. When the repercussions come, it will be the young generations, it will be us who will have to pay,” she said.
Reported by Mahadiya Hamza; photos by Chanka Jayasinghe (Colombo/Mar19/2021)