Fuel shortages and empty supermarket shelves: Singaporean in Sri Lanka describes experience under curfew
COLOMBO: Things have changed drastically since Mr Ramdzan Salim arrived in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital in March on a work assignment.
With his hotel window overlooking the Old Parliament Building, which houses the presidential office, the Singaporean project coordinator has had a front-row seat to the political and economic crisis that has taken over Sri Lanka.
Over the past few weeks, the field near the building has been the scene of a growing protest camp. Dozens of tents have been erected at the site, as demonstrators express their anger at the government's mishandling of Sri Lanka’s worst financial crisis in decades.
“From a peaceful green field, it’s become a crowded, makeshift village set up by peaceful protesters,” said Mr Ramdzan during a phone interview with CNA on Thursday (May 12).
“The protests have actually been very peaceful in fact, the (protesters) also made it as a platform to showcase some local artists as well as a platform to voice their dissatisfaction with their government,” he said.
But things took a dramatic turn on Monday when government supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked the protesters in Colombo, injuring dozens.
Following the clash, Sri Lankan authorities deployed thousands of troops and police to enforce a curfew.
According to Mr Ramdzan, around 120 to 150 protesters still show up every day.
EMPTY SHELVES, FUEL SHORTAGES
When CNA spoke to him, the 50-year-old was rushing to buy essentials before the start of the curfew, which was due to be lifted on Wednesday morning but has been extended. People will not be allowed out from 2pm on Thursday until 6am (8.30am Singapore time) on Friday.
“We have been on a two-day curfew already so far so you can imagine that people are running out of essentials and stuff,” Mr Ramdzan said.
“Certain things like fresh vegetables are totally empty on the shelves at the supermarket and there’s been a shortage of milk for the past two months,” he said, adding that he has been stocking up on canned goods and other non-perishable foods.
The situation has also disrupted his work.
“We couldn't travel out from the hotel at all the whole of yesterday because of the curfews and the roadblocks,” he said.
“For this week, there also won’t be any supply of diesel until Sunday which means we have to limit our travel because that’s what our vehicles run on,” he said, adding that the shortage has increased the average waiting time at petrol kiosks to three hours.
On Thursday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advised Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Sri Lanka.
MFA also urged Singaporeans in Sri Lanka to exercise vigilance and take all necessary precautions for their personal safety.
Mr Ramdzan is making arrangements to fly back to Singapore in 10 days’ time when his deployment ends.
“I still hear that there are unrests and arson (attacks) in other parts of Sri Lanka but in Colombo, in general, it's quite subdued now after the violence escalated on Monday, so I’m not too worried,” he said.
“So far, there are no restrictions on travelling to and from the airport but tourists and business travellers will need to show their airline tickets and passports in order to pass the roadblocks.”