Living next door to politicians in Sri Lanka has the dynamics of living beside an elephant. The elephant’s personality and status will define the nature of the relationship. The wisest thing you can do is keeping your distance with a quietly low profile. However the nature of such relationships involves too many variables to neatly “theorise” in a tweet.
Typically most people will highlight the downsides of living next to politicians. These boil down to three main inconveniences
- The risk of getting killed (in the crossfire/cross-blast of an assassin)
- Intrusive and restrictive security arrangements
- Lack of neighbourly behaviour worsened by a disregard for municipal regulations
Reality is much more complicated. Things are not that bad most of the time (with the inevitable exceptions of course).
The risk of assassination is an artefact of the bad old JVP terror days of the late 1980s. The period caused a major evolution in politician security. Consequently assassinations of politicians at home became a rare occurrence. The murder of Lakshman Kadirgamar is one of the few exceptions. Most LTTE assassinations of politicians are carried out by suicide bomber far away from the victim’s castle at some public venue.
The supposed downside to increased security are restricted roads with sandbagged checkpoints. Your politician neighbour’s commute may involve a convoy of SUVs hurtling down the street. Such Criticisms ignore the unintentional benefits of such measures. Restricted assess to your road means an elimination in non local traffic. A good thing if your front door sits on a secret Colombo shortcut used by 10000 other people.
Military security does a decent job of deterring thieves. Or so relatives in “high security zone” around politicians tell me. I have noticed (when visiting those relatives) that military guards tend to be more efficient, professional, and relaxed. A military presence also means that the politician’s goons be in their better behaviour.
A rarely mentioned positive outcome of a politician neighbour is that it encourages bewildering efficiency from normally unhurried municipal bodies. Roads tends to get patched up faster (to avoid straining the springs of his lordship’s chariots). Drains are fastidiously kept clear to prevent a flood during heavy rains. You can even wiggle out of having to pay bribes by just hinting that you share a wall with his lordship.
Such blessings are sadly proportional to the standing of your neighbour in the royal court. Like the stock-market, courtiers fall. Often fatally out of favour. Leaving a terrible mess that could get you dirty if you fail to keep your distance.
However not all politicians merit military security. Which is when things can get complicated, delicate and lead to long stories. All told in another blog post coming some time or another..