They are demolishing Unawatuna. At least, they’re demolishing all the illegal hotels there. I don’t know how i feel about this yet. On the one hand they’re illegal, on the other the hotels are what give Unawatuna its character and feel.
The Man is moving into Una. I’m picturing large resorts being opened up on the bay and the beach being turned into a virtual desert spotted with the occasional oasis of deck chairs the use of which requires the purchase of a coke and lime. The charm of Una gone, the local entrepreneurs reduced to selling ganja, massages, inflatable toys and beach sarongs. Anyone been to Negombo? Its the same there.
The local entrepreneurs, now there’s a story. The beach was unused so they used it. They built their hotels and kept the local economy going. Tourists came and Una was voted one of the best beaches in the world. Places like Unawatuna, devoid of big investors and resorts were kept alive by local businesses that could survive on low turnover if they had to. This kept Sri Lanka’s tourism industry going. And now that the war is over and the Man is moving in, the authorities are quick to disenfranchise them.
In Islam for example, property rights are different. Land belongs to him who makes use of it. And if you own a patch of land and leave it idle for a long while, it effectively ceases to be yours if someone comes along and actually uses it for social benefit. All land ownership developed organically, everywhere. This whole sense of the government owning land is a remnant from feudal regimes. And if the government doesn’t provide these hoteliers with adequate compensation, it would be grossly unjust.
But what compensation can replace the loss of a lucrative business? Something that will continue to provide you and your children with a steady source of income and continued opportunity for development? What can compensate the loss of livelihood, the loss of something that gives you the satisfaction of being independent? nothing.
OK, the peeps at Una aren’t exactly cherubs. There is a very tight mafioso-esque cartel system that completely cuts off competition. Meaning that if anyone has the gall to set up show in Una without their explicit approval they would stop at nothing to make that business fail. Thug cartels like these are common around the island, look no further than Kiribathgoda for an ideal example.
But local businesses benefit the local economy. Big investors tend to suck all the profits and leave nothing for the locals. Sure, laws exists that make big hotels hire locals for work, but this only lets a smattering of the money trickle down. A plausibly better way of developing would have been to distribute deeds to well run hotels, destroying the cartels and bringing outside investors in to partner with existing owners. Come up with a plan for the development of the bay and work close with the locals to make it work. This ensures fast development while at the same time keeping the locals in the money.
Taking away a lifetime’s effort just when all their hard work seems about to pay off seems not just tyrannical, but downright ungrateful. If this happens, it would be a perfect example of the ill affects of capitalism. So much for Southern camaraderie.
UPDATE: Newer reports say that Unawatuna isn’t broken, much https://abdulhalik.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/unawatuna-isnt-broken/