(52) Distant view of Hambantota Port, symbol of China's "debt trap" - Departure for Colombo, the central city of Sri Lanka

Hambantota Travels in Sri Lanka, the Holy Land of Buddhism

Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (52)
Distant view of Hambantota Port, symbol of China's "debt trap" - Departure for Colombo, the central city of Sri Lanka

After visiting Kataragama, the sacred pilgrimage site of Sri Lanka, I finally left for Colombo, the final destination of this trip.

Just outside of Kataragama is a Sri Lankan Buddhist holy site called Tissamaharama. We stopped by this holy place first thing in the morning.

Tissamaharama was a place that has long been valued as a sacred place and was originally more important than Kataragama. And the previous article(51) Buddhistization of Kataragama, a Hindu sanctuary, and nighttime pujas - surprisingly different from those in India."As mentioned in the previous section, the number of pilgrims to Kataragama increased rapidly after the opening of the road connecting Tissamaharrama and Kataragama in 1949.

I was told that even today, many pilgrims visit Kataragama and Tissamaharama as a set.

From here, we would take the highway and go all the way. And on the way, we would pass by a famous port.

That is what Hambantota is all about.

Hambantota is a port that has become famous in recent years because of its relations with China. In this video, the port of Hambantota appears at 2:33 minutes and 33 seconds.

The Hambantota port was to be developed with a Chinese loan, but Sri Lanka has become unable to repay the loan due to the financial collapse of Sri Lanka. As a result, the right to operate the port is now owned by China.

However, this cannot be said to be a direct reflection of China's intentions. There is also a significant problem with the Rajapaksa administration in Sri Lanka, which was on the receiving end of the loan. It is known that they received a large amount of bribes from China. A portion of the loans went straight into their pockets. And the Corona disaster struck when they spent huge amounts of taxpayers' money and loans on reckless infrastructure development. This was fatal to Sri Lanka, which was dependent on tourism income.

For more information on the political and economic situation in Sri Lanka, see Etsuyo Arai, ed.The Sri Lankan Economy After the Civil War."and the same bookSri Lankan Politics After the End of the Civil War."I would highly recommend this book, as it is explained in the book called (*Both books were published in 2016, so they do not reflect the situation since then, but they are definitely useful commentaries to understand the current situation up to the present. We hope that a book explaining the latest developments in Sri Lanka will be published in the near future.)

Looking out toward the sea from the highway, I saw a few large structures. That is the port of Hambantota. However, the fact that the financing has been burnt down indicates that the maintenance work is not progressing at the moment. That is true. There is no money to build the port in the first place. And although China has acquired the right to operate the port, it is not in a situation where it would be possible to carelessly carry out large-scale construction work because of the strict scrutiny it is under from countries around the world. However, the fact that the operating rights have been handed over to China remains a matter of grave concern for Sri Lanka.

Incidentally, this is also the building that appeared in the earlier video. I also saw this building before arriving at the port of Hambantota. This is also a conference center built by Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan people are also concerned because it costs a lot of money to maintain and tear down the building. As mentioned in the video, the Rajapaksa regime was taking bribes from China to build these useless boxes with Chinese loans.

Since the airport was introduced in the video as the world's rattiest airport, I took the opportunity to see only the exterior of the airport.

It is believed that the reason for forcibly building a huge infrastructure facility in this area, where there are few people and demand would obviously be unthinkable, is because this area is Rajapaksa's hometown.

He has built an airport bearing his name in his hometown. This is despite the fact that there is absolutely no demand for the airport.

However, such a thing does not hurt him. Because the cost of this construction project is not his own money. Rather, he will receive a large kickback from China for building it. And even if this place goes into the red, it is the taxpayers' money that will pay for it. It is such a good deal. The more they build, the more they receive huge kickbacks. It was President Rajapaksa who used the kickbacks to increase his political power and create a political system that could almost be called a dictatorship.

The anger of the Sri Lankan people at this reality exploded in the massive demonstrations of 2022.

Needless to say, the problem of politics and money runs deep. If bribes become the norm, we never know when we might be in the same situation. Of course, it is impossible to be completely clean. The world is not that easy. It is unavoidable that gray areas exist. However, if politics cannot work without huge bribes, it is obvious that politics will become more about personal interests than the lives of the people. This is not a fire on the other side of the river....

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