The Death of Prabhāsvaratā*
A dying frangipani tree (known locally as a temple tree) stands before the ruined stupa of the 9th century Dakkinagiri Viharaya, deep in the Kaludiya Pokuna Forest, east of Dambulla. February 2018. The smaller of the guardstones flanking the steps is inscribed with writing attributing this Buddhist pabbata monastery to King Sena II of Anuradhapura. The other houses the carving of a Hindu Nagaraja deity.

• 18mm • f/7.1 • 1/160 • ISO400 • 600D & EF-S18-200/3.5-5.6 • circular polariser •

*Sanskrit term for the Buddhist concept of luminosity or light


Gota’s Gone. Now What?
Police barricades smashed aside by protestors on 9th July 2022, lie by the side of a street leading to Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, one of several government buildings stormed and sacked by angry mobs demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapakse. By the end of that fateful day, Rajapakse, accused of corruption and ineptness, and blamed for creating an economic crisis unparalleled in Sri Lanka’s history, would announce his resignation, and flee the country four days later. A full month down the road, Sri Lanka remains in crisis; led by a caretaker president picked as a successor by Rajapakse himself, and with a cabinet full of ministers who legislated the very policies that crushed the economy they’re now tasked with repairing. Much to the chagrin of large segments of the population, no charges of corruption have been brought to bear on Gotabaya Rajapakse, now living in self-imposed exile in Singapore, or on his brothers and nephew, powerful cabinet ministers in his government, and still members of Parliament. Instead, the authorities have focused on dismantling protests and targeting individual protestors with petty — though punitive — charges of trespassing, vandalism, and theft. While the past month has seen some easing of fuel shortages, mostly through much delayed rationing, Sri Lanka still hasn’t seen any of the economic measures necessary to begin the long process of recovery.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/125 • ISO1600 •

Open to the Public
Protestors stroll freely in and out of the once heavily barricaded rear gate of Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister of Sri Lanka, unhindered by the police. On 9th July 2022, protestors stormed several government buildings in Colombo, including President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat, in spite of initial resistance by the authorities, who used water cannon, tear gas, and even live ammunition on the advancing crowd, holding them off until President Gotabaya Rajapakse had made his escape. In contrast, the president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapakse, who had been forced to resign as PM in May, under the weight of public demand, abandoned Temple Trees well in advance of the protestors. The president himself would announce his resignation later that afternoon, and flee the country four days later, leaving the country in the hands of a caretaker president, Ranil Wickremesinghe who, in late July and August, would oversee the arrest and detention of many protestors, charging them with petty violations, such as trespassing, vandalism, and disturbance of the peace.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/200 • ISO1600 •

Forbidden Ground

Special Task Force policemen look on as protestors stroll unrestricted through the grounds of Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister of Sri Lanka, once one of the most heavily guarded and fortified spots in Colombo. 9th July 2022. Forced, by the weight of public protest, to resign in May, Mahinda Rajapakase had fled earlier that day.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/100 • ISO800 •

Under the Temple Trees
Young protestors occupy the grounds of Temple Trees, the official Colpetty residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. 9th July 2022. The day began with violent clashes between the frontline of the protest and the authorities, who used tear gas, batons, and even live ammunition to hold off protestors from President’s House, in the Colombo Fort, until its reviled resident, Gotabaya Rajapakse, could escape to safety. In contrast, Temple Trees was captured with little violence, in the late afternoon; Mahinda Rajapakse, the president’s brother, having been forced out of office in May, had left before the residence was overrun. Gotabaya Rajapakse himself would flee the country four days later.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/200 • ISO400 •

Captive Ground
Pushing through the once forbidding gates, protestors crowd past one of the temple trees for which the official residence of the prime minister of Sri Lanka was first named in 1856. It was the third government building to be occupied on 9th July 2022. Earlier that day, the frontline of the protest had braved gunfire, teargas, and baton-wielding police to capture first the Presidential Secretariat at Galle Face, and then President’s House, in the Colombo Fort, the official residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakse. In contrast, Temple Trees, in Colpetty, was taken with relatively little resistance, its occupant, former PM Mahinda Rajapakse (he had been forced to resign, but not vacate, two months previously), having already fled.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/100 • ISO400 •

One Year on: the Faces of Protest #2

Pro-Democracy Rally, Colombo, Sri Lanka #17 by Son of the Morning Light on
A pro-democracy protestor outside Temple Trees, the Colombo residence of Sri Lanka’s deposed prime minister. 30th October 2018.
Continue reading “One Year on: the Faces of Protest #2”

Have You Forgotten, Prime Minister?

Pro-Democracy Rally, Colombo, Sri Lanka #16 by Son of the Morning Light on
A Muslim resident of Colombo during the first pro-democracy rally at Liberty Circus, on 30th October 2018.
Continue reading “Have You Forgotten, Prime Minister?”

Betrayed by the Leaders We Defended

Jampettah Street, Kochchikade, Colombo, Sri Lanka #2 by Son of the Morning Light on
Residents of Jampettah Street in Kochchikade remain in shock five days after the devastating Easter Sunday suicide bombing killed over a hundred worshippers in St Anthony’s Shrine. Kochchikade, close to Colombo’s port, was once the constituency of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who, from October to December 2018, faced a constitutional coup triggered by President Maithripala Sirisena who sacked Wickremesinghe and his entire cabinet on October 26th and appointed opposition leader and former president Mahinda Rajapakse in his place (licensed to Polaris Images).
Continue reading “Betrayed by the Leaders We Defended”

The Protest of a Tired People

Pro-Democracy Rally, Colombo, Sri Lanka #14 by Son of the Morning Light on
More than a month of protests, Parliamentary action, and Supreme Court rulings, have failed so far to remove the Mahinda Rajapakse government which took power in a political coup triggered by President Maithripala Sirisena. On October 26th, the president sacked the democratically elected prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and his entire cabinet, and appointed opposition MP, and former president, Mahinda Rajapakse as PM. Colombo, Sri Lanka.