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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a large tropical island just to the South-East of India. It's a beautiful place, but it has its problems. I can explain some of the things about Sri Lanka, but first here's some of the background story:

Sri Lanka is relatively independent of the world, and does things its own way. It's got quite a history to it, and this is part of the good and bad of the place. In the early days it was Ceylon, a name which is still famously known for TEA. Even though the country is now known as "Sri Lanka", the tea produced is still proudly termed "Ceylon Tea". The word "Ceylon" is from old Portuguese, and tends to be pronounced "See - Laan".

It's important to realise that Sri Lanka is not India. India is a pluralistic society, whereas Sri Lanka is not! The history of old Ceylon goes back a long way and it is staunchly Buddhist in tradition. Some of the sites which tourists like to visit include places of immense antiquity, such as the Temple of the Tooth (in which is enshrined a tooth which Buddha lost), and the Tree of Bo (which is a tree grown from a cutting from the tree which Buddha sat under to meditate).

I've got my doubts about this tax havenSri Lanka has an ancient Buddhist tradition, which although it sounds philosophical, it's also very stubborn and stuck to tradition. Not only that, but Ceylon was part of the British Empire and still has things about it which hark back to British occupation, in particular a rather oldfashioned British-style bureaucracy dating back to the 1930s or the 1950s; it's hard to tell exactly when, as bureaucratochronological dating is imprecise, unlike dendrochronology; anyone can tell how old a tree is by looking at the rings. The Tree of Bo is very old, in fact it's the oldest documented tree in the world. (Yes, of course there are older trees, but they aren't documented in terms of when exactly they were planted).

Anyway, the combination of ancient Buddhist philosophy and old-style British anachronistic ways of doing things tend to make Sri Lanka a place with a combination of old-world charm and yet implacable stubbornness.

In the general run of things, this wouldn't matter much, because people who like the place tend to stay, and people who don't like it tend to move on. However, there is a rather unfortunate thing which has happened in the zero-zeros decade in Sri Lanka. It's to do with the matter of the Tamils and the creation of Tamil Eelam. Imagine what would happen if the Parliament in London decided that Scottish people shouldn't be allowed to vote, but also that Scotland would not be allowed secession to become an independent nation. There would be a revolution! Well, that's what's happened in Sri Lanka. The Tamils were a minority in Sri Lanka and were oppressed by the majority government, so the Tamils set about setting up their own homeland in the North of the island. This was to be called Tamil Eelam and was, for a while, a de-facto independent culture. Unfortunately someone decided they were "terrorists" and so the tyrannical government in the majority Sri Lankan state of the Sinhalese was empowered, presumably by some sinister external government, to arm and to annihilate the Tamils. It is genocide.

I, as a tax exile, went to Sri Lanka to see if it was a place to migrate to. I found that for me it wasn't. It's a place with too many rules, too strictly enforced, and no room for manoeuvre. The tourist company First Choice would not be my first choice, I can tell you! They had no proper complaints department, and instead more of a fobbing-off department.

The press in Sri Lanka is heavily suppressed and controlled by the government. Websites ending in .lk are strictly controlled and are not allowed to say anything bad about the government. The newspapers are full of propagandist stuff that makes even the British tabloids look even-handed in comparison! Sri Lanka is one of the least free countries in the world, in some ways.

Tourists often never see the bad side of Sri Lanka, as they never explore further than the fluffy ropes of the tourist routes. If you feel like finding out what is hidden and sinister about the place, try doing something a bit different, and watch the reaction. If you do this, try to be awfully nice to everyone, as Sri Lanka is a place where old-style courtesy and politeness is still alive and well! People are genuinely nice to each other, and even if they have a disagreement, they are generally still polite about it.

The food is good, the tea is excellent, and the weather is nicely tropical, but politically Sri Lanka is a disaster. The odd thing is, the oppressive powers do not think they are doing anything wrong! They're like Nazi German officers wiping out Jews "for the common good of the Fatherland" or something like that!

What's even more odd is that during the George Warmonger Bush years, Sri Lanka actually fooled the Western World into believing it was in the right and that the Tamils were not fighting for freedom and instead were some sort of "terrorist threat" to be genocidally dealt with. However, Amnesty International will now be looking into the matter of War Crimes and Genocide!

After the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, aid was sent to Sri Lanka, but the Tamils (who were worst hit) did not receive anything like a fair share of it. It was like the Potato Famine in Ireland, where the all-powerful government left the people to rot.

So, when you see I've got my doubts about this Tax Haven please remember that I've visited the place and tested things for myself and found that it is not a place I would want to emigrate to. I know Arthur C Clarke the great Science Fiction author got on well there, but perhaps he was more stoical about the place.

If you visit the old capital city of Colombo, now Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, you'll see it has ancient buildings as well as modern. We have yet to see the Tamil Eelam capital city.

To find out more about visiting the place and testing out some of these cultural theories for yourself, here are some Travel Sites which are worth a look. I would advise avoiding "First Choice" as there is still a matter unresolved that they are failing to address, and which mean that from my point of view, they wouldn't be MY first choice!

Incidentally, Aitken Spence Hotels have hotels in Sri Lanka.