22 October, 2017

Lawlessness & The Meethotamulla Garbage Dump Collapse

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

For many decades Sri Lankans have ignored the collapse of their legal system, the crisis of the judicial system and the virtual disappearance of all legal traditions. For this reason, the bond between law and social structure is now weak. This means that the law is unable to keep the political, social and cultural structure of society within a certain normative framework, resulting in chaos. As chaos spreads widely, any kind of catastrophe can become possible. The Meethotamulla garbage dump collapse is one more reminder of Sri Lankan society’s tragic loss of all the legal bonds that kept it sane.

There is nothing so senseless as to allow a huge garbage dump to exist, without dealing with it in the manner expected of a society to deal with its waste. When even such an elementary principle of dealing with waste does not register with those who run the administration of a locality, it is not a minor issue, but rather it means that a deep internal transformation has taken place within that society, wherein the basic principles of decency and sanity no longer operate.

Many foreigners who visit South Asian countries find Sri Lanka to have more cleanliness compared to other places in the region. This means that for a long time, Sri Lanka has had its own traditions of maintaining cleanliness and dealing with waste.

Today however, almost in every area there are complaints of the failure to maintain proper modes and arrangements for dealing with waste. Sometimes, not having places to put their waste, people dump it into canals and waterways. The result is that these waterways, once clean enough to bathe in, are no longer usable for such purposes. Anyone who gets into the water is likely to catch one or more disease. There are similar environmental problems in nearly all parts of the country, due to the lack of proper arrangements for dealing with waste.

Any social order requires social authorities to function to provide an orderly and acceptable situation. Such an order is usually made up of many simple laws and regulations, as well as common habits formed around such rules. When these basic laws and regulations are ignored by the authorities, then we are left with the situation facing Sri Lanka today.

The problem of the collapse of the Meethotamulla waste dump is not only about the unnecessary loss of so many lives. It is also about the many lives of persons living in misery for many years, suffering all types of foul smells and diseases which are a product of such a waste dump. Such an elementary health issue being ignored by the authorities for so many years indicates the extent to which these authorities can get away with ignoring their basic duties. It is possible to get away with such irresponsible behaviour only because the law does not matter very much in the present context.

In the immediate aftermath of such a miserable event as that in Meethotamulla, many things would be said and sympathy will be expressed towards the victims. This will only last a short time however, and things will return to normal, in a situation where abnormal has become normal.

These abnormal circumstances will only see more tragedies, such as the failure to control dengue, and to provide clean water, resulting in widespread kidney related diseases.

These are not different, unrelated events, but rather the end result of a lawless society. This problem has now become so entrenched, that no one in the political and social leadership dares to come forward to deal with it. Lawlessness is being treated as a fact of life in Sri Lanka, which itself reveals how far the disease has spread. When the abnormal is treated as normal, and lawlessness is seen as a part of life, then what happened at Meethotamulla, and worse, are likely to keep recurring.

 

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  • 7
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    Sri lanka is a country of Garbage and rotten corruption – on land and sea!

    Google earth map shows the island is surrounded by a sea of garbage and toxic oil slick. The SL govt. should be leading a GLOBAL policy push to stop ships polluting the Indian Ocean by dumping garbage and burnt oil and also preventing militarization of the Indian Ocean where navel ships from all over the world dump their rot!

    However this will not happen due to corrupt politicians and lack of strategic vision for development that benefits the people of Lanka – rather than those who loot us like the corrupt politicians!

    • 1
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      In even today’s context, there is no law in action and disipline to the levels that any decent people would expect srilankens to be.
      We thought after current IGP s appointement, things would have turned out to be very different.

      I wonder, why these people, and their mirror images – that get appointed to represent them in POLICE, Parliament, Regional Bodies or anywhere, seem to have no balls to stand against high abusive cultures that established in the country over last decade. Instead, they just get adapted to the prevailing highly corrupted systems.

      It is sad to even read that the company visited the country in order to take up the issue in terms of garbage recyling to be rejected for some commission getting reasons.
      At least for the first time, in order to give a relief to those suffering folks in such suburbs, they could give that particular company to do the job. In the second stage, sometimes, the state could discuss about getting advantages by purchase of local bio or non-biodegradable garbage. We have to make sacrifices in order to learn the systems. Why the politicians and the powerful men can get it ?
      The youth losses came in to being through the man made disaster, will never get back. Those innocient people had the chance to live their lives.

    • 1
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      Srilanka’s garbage dumps are from the size multiple times smaller than the high profile corruption mountains. That we should be well aware of .

      Ridiculously, most people s representatives are the real representatives meaning leaders would NOT have been this much abusive, if people are non-abusive. This has been in the country for ages. That is part of lanken culture/tradition.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 3
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    Basil Fernando has rightly pointed his finger at the root cause of many of our woes. The woeful lack of law and order is responsible for much. For years, and years, much underhand sharp practice has now finally come home to roost. When unscrupulous parties made money out of inadequate service contracts all concerned turned a blind eye. Politicians and party leaders made promises then looked the other way. When concerned people took to the streets, they were tear-gassed, water-cannoned..or worse (anybody remember Rathupaswela?). The majority of our politicians and their leaders are the we-are-alright-Jack sort who couldn’t give a fig for anything that doesn’t threat their well being.

    Garbage piles……who cares? River and sea pollution…who cares?Landslides…who cares? Chaos on the roads….who cares? Harassment of women on public transport….who cares? and on and on we go.

    Everybody says something must be done, Somebody could do something, but Nobody does anything. When it happens everybody points the finger at somebody else; and what to do?

    People elected to ACT just scratch their arses and talk.

    And the curse of Lanka is that WE keep voting these people back into power because WE cannot get enough capable and competent people to come forward until our political leaders get rid of the self-serving scum they nominate.

    • 0
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      Yes absolutely correct and they are talking about the uneducated uncultured psychopath Gota as a presidential candidate?

  • 0
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  • 1
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    corruption.rent mentality. no law. all people involved. even the dead are responsible.

  • 1
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    This is a country that has failed to control the dengue menace for over ten years. This can be contained within six months by quarantining the dengue patients till the germ is no longer in their system. Why is this not done? Why are there so many respiratory tract related patients in hospitals today? Instead of isolating dengue patients the health authorities are going round the country asking people to clean up everything and the people are in turn setting fire to everything that is around their homesteads and the whole environment is being polluted. I can go on about all the topsy turvey things in this country for hours, but will not change anything till the voters decide to elect an educated set of politicians to rule this country. I hope that day is not far off with how things are turning out of late.

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka has become a lawless country as the Police that is there to police the rule of law has become an agent of the illiterate corrupt politician. This is best epitomised by the recent recorded conversation of the IGP with some one said to be a politician. It was yes Sir, No Sir 3 bags full sir. A disgrace to the Position of IGP that must be occupied by a man of strength and integrity not by a servile individual. The unaccountable disgraceful politician has found a slave to carry out all the illegal activities. This is what is wrong with SL. Te answer is discipline of the police and training of the proper practice of policing. If not soon the injustice of the police will result in the people taking the law unto their hands. Sri Lanka will then not need a police.

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