By Laksiri Fernando –
It is not a sophisticated ‘carpeted’ road, but just a ‘Boralu Para’ (gravel road) to assert rule of law in Sri Lanka. It is still possible if people like Ayesh, Channul, Darrel and Pinki get united and the police officers like Victor Wendakaduwa do their duty proper. The worst scenario would be the opportunist police officers like Regan or others who flout the rule of law when in office but try to become heroes in troubled waters entering into politics. All these are possibilities according to a teledrama directed by Janaka Suranjith, ‘Boralua Para,’ and the script written by Rasika Suraweera-arachchi which ended after 101 nice episodes last Thursday, 7 February 2013. The drama division of Rupavahini should be commended for broadcasting this timely light-comedy with a social message without any apparent censorship.
I started watching this teledrama because of its social humour, and nostalgia for Sri Lankan life back home, but then it soon evolved into a meaningful political saga. At the beginning, the story revolved around the uncorrupted OIC, Wendekaduwa, who was at odds with his neighbours because of his unyielding character and behaviour. He nevertheless was a good natured man who tried to uphold the rule of law as he understood. He often told his subordinates to “implement the law” (neethiya kriyathmaka karanna) even when he was at the receiving end. He was so duty minded, sort of a workaholic, and so dedicated to his duty even his wife, Thanuja, misunderstood him and eloped with another man who was an outright crook. Only his teenage daughter, Samadhi, was faithful to him irrespective of his authoritarian strictures. The mother-in-law also was an exceptional admirer of the son-in-law in Kahki.
A week before it started its broadcast, The Sunday Times on 19 August 2012 commented that “At a time when the police service and the role of the policeman has been often criticised, a teleplay portraying the humane nature of those dressed up in khaki uniform will be highlighted in ‘Boralu Para’ which is directed by an award winning director Janaka Suranjith.” This is the only previous sketchy review I have seen.
Perhaps no one exactly knew how the story would evolve at the beginning. It was the prerogative of the Director I believe. It was at the beginning a family and a neighbourhood saga. Then it evolved into a political one quite contemporaneously. Even as a neighbourhood saga, it was quite instructive revealing intricacies of family, privacy, spousal enmity and gossip. The lives of two retired senior public servants, Peiris and Supriya, divorced but living together, with the intermediary servant of Gilbert is a world of its own which could be enjoyed particularly by all. Suminda Sirisena’s acting as Peiris was superb and Avanthi Aponsu (Supriya) or whoever acted as Gilbert was a no second. When living abroad, I always thought the best talent of Sri Lankan’s (at least Sinhalese) perhaps is to Act. I am making this ‘ethnic qualification’ because I am not sure about the Tamil or the Muslim side.
The Minister, no name is given but let us say Irwin, comes into the picture when Wendekaduwa attempts to bring the underworld, the illicit business and extortion in the area under control. A ‘Chinese Bar’ quite symbolically is run near the Temple under the patronage of the Minister. The Minister dismisses the chief prelate’s repeated appeals to close down the bar. Rita Nona, an acquaintance of the Minister, runs a brothel nearby, employing young girls from what the Minister calls Sahana Kantha Nivasa (Women’s Welfare Home) or sometimes Madama (Convent).
The role of the Minister is superbly played by Jayalal Rohana; the best actor in my choice. All the nuances of a corrupt minister or a politician are beautifully performed. The Minister awakes early morning and virtually ‘meditates’ what to do to his ‘enemies’ during the day and gives orders accordingly. His gestures, howling and growling, are symptomatic of many politicians. He is surrounded by the official security as well as his own goons, and a thug nicknamed ‘Bullet’ being his ‘obedient dog’ (keekaru balla) as he says. The conflict proper arises between the Minister and the OIC, when the Minister fails to persuade the OIC to release Rita without prosecuting her for running a brothel.
There are other conflicts. The Minister acquires his political and personal funds through extortion and even robbery employing thugs. All businessmen in the area are supposed to make a handsome monthly contribution. Wendekaduwa manages to foil a heist of the local petrol shed belongs to Darrel through a tip given by Wyma. Darrel, Pinki’s father, is a big businessman involved in import export trade and many other ventures who is class minded and quite jealous about his son-in law, Ayesh, at the beginning. The Minister’s man within the police is Sargent Regan who was OIC’s driver first. He is a dishonest character, perhaps symbolic of many police officers, who looks after his own interests and goes behind the Minister for his self-promotion and without any notion of duty, justice or rule of law. But he terribly fails because the Minister looks after not of anyone else but only of himself. His treatment of his own entourage is quite revealing of the ethics of power politics.
The main obstacle for the Minister obviously becomes the OIC Wendekaduwa. He ‘meditates’ to take revenge and kills his own goon ‘Bullet’ to frame-up Wendekaduwa for the killing. This is something quite plausible in Sri Lanka today, when you even consider the case against the Chief Justice. This was done after Wendekaduwa, quite characteristic of a police officer, makes a ‘goranaduwa’ or a loud noise to “teach a lesson” to Bullet when he was evading arrest for an offence in the presence of many people. There was only one witness to the actual killing and that is Sargent Regan. But he was not willing to reveal the truth. The rule of law goes quite upside down when Wendekaduwa was arrested by his successor OIC who is a perfect stooge of politicians.
A breakthrough for justice comes about when young Channul, a genuine aspirant for Wendekaduwa’s daughter, Samadhi, records a conversation between the Minister and Regan, using his mobile telephone where Regan accuses the Minister for the killing of ‘Bullet’ and the Minister threatens to kill Regan if he reveals it. Regan does not reveal the truth but instead steps into politics himself after resigning from the police. But the record of the conversation by Channual was good enough for the DIG in charge of the case, another good police officer, to release Wendekaduwa and arrest the Minister.
Could this happen in real Sri Lanka (?) is a dollar million question under the present circumstances. ‘Not against a Minister,’ is a wager’s remark. There have been initial arrests of provincial and local government politicians, many of them from the ruling party, for several serious offences in recent times but many have gone scot free after higher interventions. ‘No evidence’ is a usual story in most instances. A recent incident where the police could have acted in a proper manner was the killing of a chief monk in Moratuwa on the 4th night and Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wrote to the Colombo Telegraph (8 February) saying that “The OIC of Moratuwa Could Have Saved the Life of the Chief Monk.” The reason for this observation or accusation was that the monk himself had made a complaint to the police few hours before that his life was in grave danger. Unfortunately, the OIC of Moratuwa was not a Wendekaduwa!
Instead of upholding rule of law and bringing the offenders before the legal procedure, there appears to be another dangerous tendency going on in Sri Lanka at present through the police or any other agency of the so-called ‘law enforcement’ apparatus. AHRC making a statement on the same issue stated the following on 7 February.
“Following the assassination [of the monk] two persons were arrested and, as mentioned above, they were killed in an execution style shooting [after release]. The killing of persons after arrest, not a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka, has been reported in recent months in several places such as Galle after a horrifying murder where four persons were found dead with similar execution-style injuries. It was also reported that, in fact, the four persons had no connection to the killing in question. At Kahawatte where there had been a large number of mysterious killings, three of the persons who were arrested on suspicion of some of the killings were disposed of after they had obtained bail from court in a similar manner.”
It is in this context that the proper lessons of the teledrama ‘Boralu Para’ needs to be learned. The rule of law or justice does not mean the taking of the law into one’s own hands, by the law enforcement agencies or the people. There is a judiciary to deal with justice and it should be independent from politics as much as the police. The law should be above all of us, wherever you live. Wendekaduwa in this respect is an exemplary officer; all police officers in Sri Lanka should emulate him as an example. But these police officers might not be able to implement the rule of law properly unless there is proper backing from the civil society. It is in this context that the role of Ayesh, Channul, Pinki and Darrel is important.
There is a generational divide in the teledrama as well. The older generation is much yielding to political pressure, including Darrel at the beginning, and the young are not like that, represented particularly by Ayesh. There is much or some hope for rule of law in Sri Lanka if the civil society asserts its rights and the young leads the struggle.
It is possible that ‘Boralu Para’ was produced to expose one Minister in the cabinet who is detested increasing by his own colleagues. But the whole story obviously is a clear indictment against the whole government which has deprived the country of rule of law and justice everywhere you see.
Regan also has a ‘conscience’ governed by ‘fear of death’ (marana bhaya). He often wavers and doesn’t want to see Wendekaduwa completely punished. He meets the opposition leader and seeks his support to get ‘some justice’ without him being directly involved. The opposition leader, as usual, promises to consider the request but says quite unashamedly that “people like Wendekaduwa can be a problem for us since we intend to come to power.” (See Episode 99).