“Myth Vs Reality” – East
Recently, In August visited the eastern province (Ampara and Batticoloa), on a work assignment for four days. Since most people tend to say that “the east is very volatile and it’s not safe to travel”, etc, I thought I will write a short post about the myth Vs reality on the east.
Speaking about Ampara, I would say it is a very calm and peaceful place to than ever to live in. For those who don’t know where Ampara is, it’s surrounded by Batticoloa, Monaragala and Hambantota and does not have a link in the national railway line. The A11 main road runs across Ampara linking Monaragala, Ampara, Batticoloa and right up to Trincomalee. Ampara having a population of over 600, 000 (source) has a growth rate of 0.5% and the most amazing statistic is that the population density being 145 persons per square kilo meter. The administration is being looked after through 20 divisional secretariats in Ampara. More information is in the site linked above.
Ampara being a huge area has only two main check points along the A11 main road (the only check points visible at the time of the visit). Having an urban population of over 20% Ampara has a relatively large and busy town (as busy like fort). Except for the fact that Ampara doesn’t have a very strong ADSL network (which I guess is not very important) every thing in this large town is sufficient to live a peaceful life. The farming infrastructure is massive in here. They use machinery than any thing else to work on fields.
Shops tend to operate from 7 in the morning till around 9 in the night without any hindrance. Ampara also being a hub for certain bus routes, have its own area with huge service canters at one end of the town. Ampara also is the stop of most of the NGOs and INGOs travelling and working in Batticoloa as it has the facilities for most of their needs (lodging, food, shopping, etc.). Most of the UN regional offices are also housed in Ampara. Ampara is also equipped with a huge library facility and a huge ground right in the centre of the town.
You would actually find people moving very freely every where in Ampara with out any issue or being stopped at check points asking for the national id and etc.
Speaking about Batticoloa is a little bit different from Ampara. Bordering Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa and Ampara is having a population over 500,000 with a growth rate of 1.7% and a population density of 198 persons per square kilo meter.
Batti is very much different from Ampara. Having check points at every entrance of the different divisions (mind you guys there are 14 divisional secretariats). Batticoloa having a urban population of 25% you will still never find people on the streets after 7 in the evening. Shops normally open around 10 in the morning and go on until a maximum of 7 in the evening. So basically the streets are empty after 7.
As I said yes, there are a lot of check points, but most of them are there for the sake of having them. The police is very powerless in terms of civil engagements. So it’s the STF who does handle stuff in Batti. Having said that I recall seeing different types of uniformed people having had weapons with them. You would find the police in their regular uniforms, then the village security officers in maroon, then the STF (well there are two groups of them, serving two different parties. One is the government and I assume that you guys know the other party whom I referring to), the army, the navy and the civillian forces with weapons (I assume that you guys know whom I referring to).
Having had all of them, they still do not have regular checks and all, but still you have the liberty of travelling from one end to the other even here. One thing I would say is to be cautious of the motor bike riders. It’s like the mosquitoes in the evening. So many bikes riding at very high speeds levels without helmets (I honestly don’t know what will happen in case of an accident) is seriously something you need to be very careful of.
There are different types of traditional and local food available here. You would actually love the food here. Well most of them are non-vegetarian stuff, but you could actually find a lot of vegetarian food as well. I also got the chance to visit few of the places of interest such as the Batticoloa Light House (this was rebuilt after the tsunami by the USAID), some beach (I actually can’t recall its name) and some food joints.
Being in Ampara and Batti gave me a totally different experience, which I will never forget in my life. For those who have not been to these places, my advise is to go visit them before its too late.
– Nooranie Muthaliph
Nooranie is the General Secretary of Beyond Borders and blogs at “the ultimate change” The views expressed here are that of the author, not of Beyond Borders.