17 May, 2022


On Being “Targeted”

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

I make no apologies for the fact that this piece is less concerned about “rural perspectives” than it is about being on someone’s “hit list!”

It is now a considerable time since I was first accosted on the streets of Kandy and threatened for “writing against the President.”  While it was not the first occasion that a shot was “fired across my bows,” it was the first overt threat.  Prior to that incident, I had had frantic messages from Colombo friends “close to the seats of power” warning me against criticising certain Cabinet members in print because they had a track record of (let’s not indulge in euphemisms here!) killing those who had crossed their paths.  I must admit, that considering the source of these warnings, they did have something akin to a chilling effect on me, particularly since I was relatively naïve in the ways of the Sri Lankan political establishment, having been brainwashed, I suppose, by being very politically active in another part of the world where the biggest threat to one’s person would have been a dog who objected to a political canvasser knocking on his master’s door!

Some of the stuff that has gone on around us belongs in the category of the crass and unsophisticated.  However, I must admit that a couple of the initiatives have been slicker and more difficult to deal with in the absence of money to burn, the difficulty attendant on organizing publicity campaigns, or seeking recourse to a legal system that exists only in name and is regularly subverted by those with the appropriate “connections.”

I have written on more than one occasion about the matter of noise pollution towards which the police continue to turn a deaf ear (no pun intended), despite several years having elapsed and several appeals being made to them.  The fact that an appeal for investigation by a very senior Minister of State has been completely ignored, says one of two things (or both) The Minister’s request was a token one and known to be such by the Guardians of the Law or that the police chose to ignore the request because they felt no compulsion to act on it.  In case you think this is an inconsequential matter, let me assure that a 4 a.m. reveille every day for six years is no laughing matter!  I will put this issue in an even more serious context a little later in this piece.

Where the local (and national?) politicians seem to think they really have us by the “short & curlies” is in the matter of destroying our access.  Literally.  A significant part of the road that serves us (and a substantial rural population) has been devastated by a local Pradeshiya Sabhawa hauling loads of garbage on it in a trailer drawn by an agricultural tractor (with “mud tires”) at least six times a day.  While the balance of this road is not exactly the Le Mans circuit, it is motorable.  The kicker here is that the part of the road that has been destroyed is very close to where it leaves the main highway, making the closure of access very significant to a large number of people even if intended purely to take revenge on someone seen as a political dissident.

I have for several months past, phoned the personal secretary to the Senior Minister who is my MP and who happens to have been a schoolmate as well.  I keep getting a never-ending series of assurances and, recently, even some “activity.”

This “activity” took the form of a new spur off this road, allegedly intended to provide additional access to their garbage dump.  The only glitch here is that the “spur” is in fact a collector for all the runoff coming down a not-inconsiderable hill, which is now diverted on to a road that is already being wrecked by the garbage-hauling!  The “spur” cannot be used by the tractor as I write this because, in fact, it is one large drain!  We have had enough time to evaluate this new activity and it is now the consensus of opinion that this was simply a ploy to hasten the complete destruction of this road, making it accessible only to the garbage-hauling tractor and “teaching (us) a lesson.”  As bizarre as this is (and paranoid to boot!) how else does one explain a totally senseless excavation of a hillside to divert a significant quantity of rain water on to a road along which it then forms a stream?  I know this exercise provided “commissions” and other goodies to friends of those in power but the motivation begs an explanation beyond even that.

Incidentally, apart from my own calls to the Minister’s brother, emails attaching photographic evidence of what is happening etc., the local residents drafted, signed and forwarded a petition to this Minister explaining their desperate plight.

To no avail.

It is self-evident that destroying a citizens’ existing right of access to their home is a criminal act, but the sequence of events suggests an attempt to kill two birds with one stone in that it effectively destroys our efforts to run what has already proven to be a very well-received paying guest operation, geared to tourists who are looking for peace and quiet in surroundings that have been treated with ecological sensitivity.

“Blast them with amplified Calls to Prayer and chanting long before sunrise and, if that doesn’t work, make sure that they have no motorable access to their destination,” seems to be the watchword.

Rommel would have been proud indeed of our local politicians even though they might not be confronting the might of the British Empire!

My major personal regret in all this is that a man with whom I shared an alma mater and whom I’ve respected as somebody of personal integrity and decency should be an unwitting participant in this tawdry exercise.  But then, I suppose, such is the nature of Sri Lankan politics today!

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Latest comments

  • 0

    ” since I was relatively naïve in the ways of the Sri Lankan political establishment”

    I am glad you realize that you are naive. I know of no instance where any state was liberated from fascism by the Mike Banda type of activism you seem to embody.

    I am glad you have had the opportunity to test your ‘old boy network’ and find out for yourself its true worth. Next you had better test your friendships. Friendship in Sri Lanka means ‘fair weather friends’. There are very valuable exceptions but this is the general rule.

    Politics in Sri Lanka is of an advanced Kautilyan type that even India is fast losing ground to. This will logically lead to world war three (YES WW III and you can laugh your red head off if you like) in which this island will receive the same treatment meted out to its northern regions.

    So what do we do:

    1. Accept the fact that fascist or as some would like to call it ‘populist’ governance without the constraints of political or legal systems and due process is WHAT THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA BE THEY TAMIL OR SINHALA OR ENGLISH SPEAKING WANT!

    2. Accept the fact that anyone who wants a rule of law and due process is NOT WANTED HERE.

    3. All those who want the rule of law and due process get out of the country before the fighting starts.

    4. Those who refuse to leave will have to fight and they had better make the links they will require to do so.

    5. Those who do not have the stomach to fight or fly can of course say “ I am sorry, I was relatively naïve and did not know that you were playing for keeps”, and join the fascists. The majority of the German populace did just this with Hitler and most of them they survived and history holds nothing against them and will hold nothing against you either if you choose to do as they did.

    This is no time for HEROICS. Assess your capabilities and live within their scope.

    • 0

      I am glad you pointed this out crazyoldmansl. Yes people will call you crazy but I too believe that this idiotic regime is leading the country towards another war and a bloodier one than the previous. Their desire to stay in power is so great that they will try everything – even if it is another war.

    • 0

      That was an interesting dissertation, indeed! Suffice it to say that being principled and lunatically naive are not interchangeable. Not in my book anyway, though I suspect that, given the company you keep, you may find difficulty in differentiating between the two.
      As for what sounds suspiciously like a demand/threat rather than a suggestion in the same vein as the exhortation of the Nixonians that “This is Sri Lanka: love it or leave it,” I’ll paraphrase what the opponents of Nixon and the Vietnam war used to say then, “This is my Lanka. I’ll love it: YOU leave it!”
      Incidentally, the reference to “Mike Banda” is a dead giveaway as to who you are, pseudonym notwithstanding!

  • 0

    When it comes to politics, money and power,
    there is no Mother, Father, Or any relativeness and Friendship,
    even you shared an alma mater.

    money politics and power comes first.

    And One more thing comes to mind,

    If you are with us, You are a Patriot,

    If you are not with us, You are a Unpatriotic, LTTE TIGER SUPPORTER.

    Now White vans [ some time change colour to Blue] may linger close by.

  • 0

    Emil, as for the Minister friend from your Alma-mater, ask Geetha Kumarasinghe about his eloquent tongue.

  • 0

    Emil in the case of this Senior Minister, it is not the system but the individual !

    It is people like this who thrive on an already corrupt system and even devise methods of “improving ” it for their benefit …..as you have just experienced.

    A special cage should be built on Galle face to house these specimens (when the good times come) and free access should be given to the public to pelt them with offal !

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