Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Killer virus on Lanka’s roads
Atipper truck hitting a police post on the MataraHakmana road this week made news. Of the numerous road accidents that occur, this accident made it to the front pages not only because it resulted in the death of a constable on duty, but arguably, due to the ‘devil-may-care’ attitude of these truck drivers in the payroll of the sand-mafia who believe that not only the main road, but even the sidewalk belongs to them.
That this particular truck hit a police post is also ironic. It is an open secret that the Police have been in the pay of the sand mafia. Ask any professional driver who plies these provincial roads and he will tell you how the drivers of these tippers show off their speeding prowess with questionable brakes to boot.
Private bus operators are only closely second to the sand mining mafia when it comes to bribing. They have separate desks that deal with the subject. They are all very cocky because even provincial politicians are in their pockets.
Environmentalists are howling about the illegal sand mining that is taking place particularly after the Government lifted the licensing requirement for these operations. Under the guise of providing material for the construction industry in Colombo and the big cities, the move came as an added bonanza for the sand mafia. Fortunately this week, the Court of Appeal shot down these moves as being illegal.
The statistics of road accidents are staggering and speak for themselves. Last year there were 2,839 deaths on Sri Lanka’s roads -- 776 pedestrians, 925 motorcyclists, 237 pillion riders, 204 cyclists, 282 drivers, 405 passengers. For this year so far (June 15), 936 deaths have taken place and this, despite months of extended lockdowns and curfews. These are apart from the grievous injuries.
Coupled with the corruption at the Motor Traffic Department in the issuance of driving licences, it makes for a deadly cocktail for road users that Government politicians usually don’t encounter because escort vehicles wave them through the mayhem that is traffic here.
The death toll and casualty figures from Covid-19 are often compared to those from other diseases to show there are worse things than the virus. There’s a lot in that argument when it is compared to the accidents on Sri Lankan roads.