Jungle clearings attract both prey and predator. Nothing, however, moved on the pre-dawn streets of this clearing in Borella, an eastern suburb of Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, Colombo. An unseasonal November rain, pushed by the winds of the northeastern monsoon soaking the far side of the island, had crossed the Central Highlands and slicked down the dark streets of the city. Rain dripped from the leaves of the huge old trees that dotted the clearing. A few sleepy crows cawed in annoyance at the wetness. The intersection of Baseline, Kynsey, and Bullers roads, next to the Kanatte General Cemetery was an open expanse of a hundred and fifty metres across, a clearing in the manmade jungle of the city. Beyond its landscaped roundabout and trimmed islands, the concrete, brick, and tin of the jungle crept in, topped by the tangled vines of telephone and power cables. And like any jungle, it stank. Of man, and other animals. Of garbage, urine, and oil. Of rotting food, dead animals, betel juice, and crow droppings. But most of all, it stank of fear.
It was Bastille Day, November 13th 1989; but if the date was the celebration of the birth of revolution, it would never be that again in Sri Lanka. This was how a revolution died – not with heroic words and brave last stands, but with betrayal, corruption, and murder in the dark. Continue reading “The Mango Tree”