3 December, 2020

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Palitha Thewapperuma Is (Not) Our Hero

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Unhappy is the land that needs a hero” – Galileo

Not too long ago, a man called (Dr) Mervyn Silva roamed the country. He spiced things up. He was always in the news. The media loved him. They caricatured him. Whatever he did, however much he disregarded basic norms of decency and good conduct, he was indulged. Thankfully that was then and now we don’t (care to) hear about the man’s antics. Times have changed. What was new then is old now. Naturally, one can add. On the other hand though, when the status quo shifts, new faces come up. Like Palitha Thewarapperuma. Again, naturally.

“Eat your heart out, Mervyn! There’s a new Avatar in town” is what a major weekly English-language newspaper has to say about him. The man isn’t Mervyn Silva for the simple reason that he can’t lend himself to caricature that easily: he’s more a tragic antihero than self-parodying thug. But his most recent antic (attempting to hang himself if 10 students weren’t admitted to a school in Matugama) has won sympathy and vitriol, with both sides oversimplifying what he did (and has done so far).

Now thuggery in politics isn’t new, not in Sri Lanka and certainly not in the rest of the world. It comes up most starkly, for better or worse, when the thug is from the ruling party. By this token, some will say, Mervyn Silva is out and Thewarapperuma (if we are to consider him a thug) is in. So when the man punches politicians from the other side and later threatens school principals, we must notice. Not (only) because he’s taking justice to his own hands, but because dismissing what he does as symptomatic of a deteriorating society does little to nothing by way of dissecting the issues he’s contending against.Palitha Thewarapperuma

Photo via Palitha Thewarapperuma’s Facebook page 

We don’t know why those 10 students weren’t admitted. We don’t know why he’s so concerned about them. We don’t know why he insists on playing Batman when meting out justice. We do know, however, that vigilante justice is a misnomer even in as unruly a political culture as ours, because everything wrong committed under the sun by our politicians is committed secretly, away from our sight. So when a person like Thewarapperuma comes into the open, two points stand out: he does wrong to (ostensibly) correct another wrong, and he makes sure that whatever wrong he commits is more than offset by that other wrong he tries to correct.

We also know that politicians are wont to act in their interest. Thewarapperuma is no exception, we can assume. Maybe we’re wrong, maybe we’re cynics, but the truth of the matter is that even those who parade themselves as statesmen aren’t squeaky clean. On the other hand, I refuse to believe that stereotyping politicians this way should turn us away from the institutional flaws which crop up with the kind of incident they get involved in. Like education. Or healthcare. Or even democracy.

There are, as Malinda Seneviratne once commented, many things wrong in our education system. Systemic flaws. Corruption. Bribery. The list goes on. From Grade One to the time our children leave school, we are cynics. We are forced to pay our way through education even if it means breaking every rule in the book and teaching our kids to do the same with their sons and daughters.

Sri Lanka prides itself on being a bastion of free education, but little to nothing has been done to improve this in many, many years. Politicians, at least a great many of them, aren’t concerned about it, not because they’re in Cloud Cuckoo Land but because they indulge in what Shakespeare called the “insolence of office.” Put simply, if they receive the best healthcare and if their children are sent packing off to this near-mythical construct called “popular schools”, they don’t or rather can’t give two hoots about what the rest of the country is facing. Those who work from ivory towers hardly feel the pulse of those who do not, after all.

I don’t know whether Thewapperuma prefers to work outside ivory towers or whether he’s just pretending so as to get votes (Matugama is located in his district, Kalutara), but even if he is, I know this much: at least he’s pretending. Throughout this fiasco, he raked up some glaring deficiencies in a system we’re conditioned ourselves to accept without question. The system is failing, not because of the government in power but because (and I’m speaking only about our education system) those in power, whatever the government, have next to nothing to lose if some rural child gets screwed up in life. Whether or not Thewapperuma was correct in doing what he did is something else altogether. What matters is what he raked up.

We live in a country where incompetence attracts ridicule and laughter, not condemnation. We laugh at larger-than-life caricature and condition ourselves to do the same with reality. We laugh at the likes of Mervyn Silva because (and some of our artists are to be blamed for this) we are distracted and entertained by them. We refuse to look dissect whatever issue crops up or to constructively engage with it. We instead find room for laughter in whatever politicians do, be they from the government or the opposition. About time we realised that. And about time the media, which plays along to this sorry trend, woke up.

Meegahathenna Primary School is in Matugama. Until a few days ago we didn’t even know it existed. How many politicians in this country are concerned about what goes on in a place like that, I wonder. Probably not many. Why? Because they’ve no reason to be. We’ve divided this country into what’s popular and what’s not so much that we don’t care anymore. Things would, I’m willing to bet, have been different if Meegahathenna was in Colombo and every affluent family made it an annual rite to fight tooth and nail to get their children admitted to it, and if that school was associated with those who pride themselves as being meritocrats and technocrats because it promotes a kind of elitism a rural, far-off place like Matugama doesn’t.

For this reason, the likes of Thawarapperuma will remain as jokers in our minds. Not because we are ignorant about their potential to turn to thuggery, but because the subject of their debacles is some outstation, hitherto unnoticed institution. That adds humour to the fiasco, we think. Naturally then, we mock tragedy. And grin at it.

Nine mothers were arrested after Thewarapperuma’s suicide “attempt”. They were arrested because their children were admitted to a school which (allegedly) barred them for no good reason. In the end we laugh at those nine mothers, because we don’t know what it’s like to have our children kept away from school. So let’s admit it: the media serves those who live in ivory towers. Not (only) politicians, but us. The reason? We wallow in want so much that we’ve detached ourselves from those who wallow in need.

Palitha Thewarapperuma is not my hero. He’s a pretender in my book. Like Mervyn Silva, he spices things up. That’s his way of making political capital. But that we should forget everything he unearths because of what he does isn’t cause for complacency. It’s cause for shame. National shame. What Galileo said about heroes, then, is as true today as it was in his time. A tragedy, given that the closest thing to a hero in our political culture is a man who acts in the crudest way possible, who attracts ridicule and not scrutiny in what he does. Even though what he does manages to dig up some unseemly, undesirable, but nevertheless real deficiencies in our system.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be contacted at udakdev1@gmail.com. His articles can be accessed at fragmenteyes.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    If Palitha Thewaraperuma is a hero – then Mervins, Toy Pistol Mayor, Duminda Silva (nationas most known day light killer) all should be braded as our heros. I have no doubt MR et al will promote these the kind of men while UNP seems to be very silent withthe issue that their man Thewa has once again ran amok – not making him exemplary. All these acts should be not represtative any means to young blood of UNP. I love Dr. Harsha Silva, Senasinghe, Ramanayake, Rosi and many in todays actions. None of them have any kind of thoughts to sabotage. UNP came to power by paying a large price, that to be protected by every means is what they have to focus on, not just one another illfated candidate – but with some good qualities. Becoming so melt down cant lead him to a good politician in this country basta. Thugs should be made away from lanken politics was the motto of curret duo s election manifesto.

    • 9
      1

      Best thing would be to hand over Thewa to Ghansara. He could tame him by his tactics.
      Thugs of any form must not be given chances if we really promote GOOD GOVERANNCE:

      • 2
        0

        Hey guys, good move…. I think it is really good thing that they have to learn it from the nursary on.. not to be corrupted..

        —————————————————————-

        Anti-corruption, bribery syllabus soon in schools
        2016-07-06 19:20:59 16 1369

        The Education Ministry would soon introduce lessons on prevention of bribery and corruption into the syllabus in schools, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said.

        Minister said this while delivering a speech at an awareness programme held at the Taj Samudra, Colombo on the series of programmes organised among students and school community regarding prevention of bribery and corruption.

        “The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, headed by Ms. Dilrukshi Dias Wickremesinghe, has started working closely with the Education Ministry by adopting education models to ensure the plan materialised,” he said.

        The series of programmes is organized under Sathpiyawara awareness programme spearheaded by the Commission parallel to the International Anti-Corruption Day which falls on December 09.

        During the programme, principals, teaching advisers and teachers were educated regarding the preparing of books to be issued for students on prevention of bribery and corruption.

        Coming October month was named as the ‘Month of Preventing Bribery and Corruption’ by Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

        During October, a number of workshops and events including debates and poster competitions would be held at all government schools in collaboration with the Commission and Education Ministry. (Piyumi Fonseka)

  • 1
    7

    They both are born and bred UNP… Aren’t they..

    Blessed lot they are….

    • 6
      1

      Kussi Amma Sumana, what does it matter what Party they belong to? They are just as despicable as many of your heroes from yesteryear.

      The problem with guys like you is that they ignore the misdeeds and more serious charges against characters like this depending on their Party affiliations.

      So no wonder we are stuck with the dregs of our populace as our representatives in government!

      • 0
        4

        Gee…You are a genius,, Which party of the Yhapalanaya did you vote….

        • 5
          0

          KASmaalam KA Sumanasekera

          Please read:

          Juno probe enters Jupiter’s orbit following ‘amazing’ Nasa mission – as it happened. Cheers in Nasa control room as Juno space probe enters planned orbit of Jupiter to study solar system’s largest planet.

          Nasa scientists celebrate as Juno probe successfully enters orbit around Jupiter

          Michael Slezak
          Tuesday 5 July 2016 14.58 BST
          theguardian.com

          The entire world is constantly striving to achieve better result than yesterday. What do you do, trying very hard to find golden willy among your politicians.

          “Gee…You are a genius,, Which party of the Yhapalanaya did you vote….”

          Whats the matter with you Vellala/Dalit stupid people?

          • 0
            2

            Dear Native,

            Have you booked a Trip to Space in one of those Richard Branson’s Virgin Probes?.

            You should be watching Dalit news in America rather than reading about Black Holes and Jupiter.

            Did you see how that poor black was shot in broad daylight, while he was reaching to the glove box to show his driving license.

            And how his dear Missus and the 4 month old baby were watching from the next seat?.

            And they are the people your Diaspora and Batalanada Ranil’s GOSL signed contracts with, to give our inhabitants Yahapalanaya.

            • 4
              0

              KASmaalam KA Sumanasekera

              “And how his dear Missus and the 4 month old baby were watching from the next seat?.”

              I did watch the clip with sadness.

              Do you remember how innocent people were being pulled out of their houses, bombed, shot, raped, properties burnt (including a Library), looted, tortured, ……. in this thrice blessed island of ours?

              Did you see how a poor women was beaten up by a uniformed policeman in broad daylight in Ratnapura? Did you see how a bunch of army war criminals shooting naked men whose hands were bound? Did you see a person was beaten up by police in Bambalapitiya sea? Did you know a few people were hanged in police custody? You still remember Welikada prison massacre, don’t you? ……..

        • 3
          0

          Kussi Amma Sumana, I voted for getting rid of the Rajapakse gang that was ripping off the country and fattening their personal assets and accounts. However, although much more is desired from the current lot who are bumbling around with their flaky appointments and other dubious decisions, they are still better than what we had.

          This still doesn’t excuse your type of apologists who expose their misplaced loyalties in favour of Party affiliations over National interests, regardless of crimes committed and obvious psychological problems.

          And one doesn’t need to be a genius to figure out your type of character, as you do a damn good job of exposing yourself in public.

          • 0
            2

            Mr Einstein,

            Did you say National interests.

            Hindians are going to walk in freely soon, as they like and take the few good jobs our graduates now have in Medicine, Engineering, Technology and IT.

            And buy properties in what ever left over good locations after the Poms, Germans, Dutch and the Singaporeans have scooped up.

            They are already flooding our country with cheap and nasty Hindian goods including Nescafe and even Red Label.

            Ask your Colombo Elite mates whether they like the Nanos , NesCafe and Red Label made in Hindustan…

            VAT is making our Dalits, who are over 60 percent even poorer.

            Foreigners are dictating how to write a constitution to meet the demands of ex Lanakans who have taken refuge in the West.

            And are determined to punish the Srilankan Armed forces for elimination Mr Pirahaparan and his LTTE.

            Buddhist Religion is being down garded to please the NGOS and help them to indoctrinate the poor Dalits who are vulnarable.

            Even Buddhist temples are being taken over by the Dept of Yahapalana Buddhasana and the traditional old Elephants have to be leased from the Minister in charge.

            I haven’t time to digress on how the future incomes of our inhabitants have been already given as collateral for Mahendran’s borrowings at higher than market rates ,so that their Family Trust can finance the future Elections of Batalanada Ranil’s UNP .

            And the COPE has been told by the Deputy Governors that it was Batalanada Ranil himself, who instructed the Singaporean to go to private dealers and borrow at higher rates.

            And you reckon this Yahapalanaya is all about National Interest.

            My foot…

            • 0
              0

              Kussi Amma Sumana, looks like you have missed the forest for the trees, but that’s not surprising when one has the type of tunnel vision you have!

              I never said that “.. this Yahapalanaya is all about National Interest”, on the contrary, I said that “.. much more is desired from the current lot who are bumbling around with their flaky appointments and other dubious decisions, they are still better than what we had.”

              So go back to your pandering to the Rajapakses and their criminal gangsters and writing your apologist crap, unless you want to take a dispassionate view of what is really happening and what is called a ‘reality check’.

              Better still, see a shrink and get treatment for your obvious malaise.

  • 4
    0

    The politicians who behave in this manner are not suitable to be our deputy/ministers! The minimum punishment he deserves is strip him from the Deputy Ministership. The general public who meet their salaries and other perks should demand this. Then only you can see others behaving properly. Piyal

    • 4
      0

      He is a pain in the ass to senior UNPers.

      Does he go to school at all ?

      JO make every effort to fish on mud attacking UNP in explaining the incident. I heart that multicriminal culprit Jonsten Saying being unable to approach the senior men in UNP, Thewarapperuma has made efforts to kill himself that way. ::::. see, how these buggers as politicians do the job.
      No matter listers would get misguided, they just add their lies to the air that then go viral everywhere.

      • 3
        0

        Did he go to school at all ?

  • 3
    0

    Like Mervin, Thewarakperuma is a hero to some. Believe me. It is almost identical position once Andare held, which modern day governments continue to support with court jesters like Mervin and Palitha. Without a doubt, we have a strong cultural affiliation to this type of characters.

  • 1
    4

    By the way, Uditha, Isnt Yahapalana “thuggery” applicable to Hon. Leader of the Opposition when he burst into an army camp, the Chief Minister of Eastern province attacked verbally a naval officer in the area like a mad dog? And Ranjan R’s some of actions like a bull in the china shop? Sujeeva Senasinghe’s threats to Athurugiriya Police? Hirunika the doll’s escape from the police and the “sinhala buddhist” Patali’s miracle exit from the infamous accident he faced in Rajagiriya?

    • 2
      0

      Why not you guys see the positive acts of the mentioned ? You behave not to be appologetic to MR et al, showing the other way around.

      What had those ministers of MR cabinet doing within the last 5 years ? They buggers only enjoyed their perks did nothing …. you please see in mirror first to add your thought to this valuble forum. You guys are a shame to our future generatons.

    • 2
      1

      Sujeeva Senasinghe’s threats to Athurugiriya Police?

      That was later clear with them. Unlike the case under MR lead, they didnot stay mum. Thanks – that show the good governance nature

      Hirunika the doll’s escape from the police – She was treated adequately, .. and even remanded though later.. but in the days of MR – he kept the man with murder charges away from the country- That was Duminda Silva.. all the fabricated news were full in lanken tabloids…Maharajas dynastay collapsed all because of the mountaions of abuses.. you may have earned by going the dead bodies of the poor. But we the folks fought to the end under the least of LATE MOST RESPECTABLE SOBITHA THERO…. we won… but still make every effort to marginalise you guys. that spread lies but blant lies and malice.

      “sinhala buddhist” Patali’s miracle exit from the infamous accident he faced in Rajagiriya?

      This was not a punishable act.. in Germany, the minister would have been warned to have done so, ifat all he did it.: That to be repeated by you guys, neglecting the mans potentional to have worked diehard to drive away most abusive former president …. our dream became real by the collective efforts being sacrificed by all.

      • 2
        1

        Mr. German, it seems to be greek to you what I have written. Hit and run is not a punishable act in Germany! So do you suggest SL also to follow German, like you worship Yahapalanaya blindly? Let hit and run be not punishable in Germany, Hungary or Gibraltar it is a serious crime in SL, which right in every sense.

        We are now in a different era. A yahapalana era which promised loads and loads of ‘fairy tales’ before the election. “In MR’s time it was like that, in MR’s time it was like this” song has no value at all, further.

        You may want to lick Sujeeva’s or Patali’s shit in the name of yahapalanaya but the public of SL know what LATE MOST RESPECTABLE SOBITHA THERO, lately said.

        So Rarityminds, dont you think, there should be a limit to “go shopping” for politicians of 3rd grade?

        • 0
          0

          I know what it means to be with law and order. Having lived in Germany for the last 3 decades I am more or less german than slanken. It should sound even in Germany, the kind of accidents are not punishable forgetting everything. U have not the least idea – should be one another frog in a well mentality. You say go shopping for bad politicians, who are the goodies for you ? Ones that slaughtered lankens for their political hegomony ? Man, wake up, tomorrow will be too late .. lankens deserve good system.. we can allow JO or the others to sabotage lanken good moves.

    • 2
      0

      I have no doubt, like his sons, you may have run amok in the high days of maharaja.
      Where no views of the common man were respected, nor was teh views of Mahanayake.. but they ran night car races as the bad soldiers were given weapons. You guys behaved yourself like the monkey got mirrors.

      At least now it is time you guys to sense, as to why the bugger et al was removed. People s power broke their walle thanum maligas.

      I wish the billions that your king had grabbed from our poor people should be gotten by hook or crook. The state should confiscate his all the properties for this . Then we wnt need to pay more taxes, we can relieve the majority folks. WITH the loans being gotten, rulers can work on the booming economy.

  • 1
    0

    Let’s see the type of courage the Party Leader and his key ‘YES MEN’ have in taking appropriate disciplinary action against this MP who displays uncivilized ways in resolving peoples problems. Most appalling thing was to see, 5 year old students made to hold placards denouncing the Principal while MP was fasting by the side. Keerthiratne

  • 3
    0

    Young chap you are writing to less than 5% of the people in this country,and general masses gives a rats backside to the opinion projected by Colombo elite,Royal St Thomas’s clan and you. Mervyn won by four hundred thousand votes in Kelaniya.say no more.I am not in anyway condoning these third world politicians running road side cinema scenes,but they score more than educated scoundrels who rob the coffers. See where the PM who think this is Iceland, is going to end up.For some of us leading,barrister politician,hiring his wife,daughter and 90 people from his village to work for him is accepted. Hiring a Royalist with no experience and leadership to run key institutions is also okay.Write, you dumb people write like you always do,but our country has a different drift.Alas but true.when Thewarapperuma returned his 28million official vehicle he made thousands of followers,if not for him 10 students are without a school.What do you think our corrupted education ministry official doing for these poor Sri Lankans? Write about them go against the tide don’t just day dream,or get carried away with megapolis..

    • 3
      0

      Didn’t read the article or between the lines, did you?

      • 3
        0

        Uditha, are u doctoral student ?

        If yes, please find better audience where you will find more knolwedgeble ones than the the dimwits. Most that join this forum are MR supporters that would voluntarily swimm in the flowing toilet pits of Mahinda Raja.

  • 1
    3

    Dr Mervy has some class unlike Mr Thevere..

    When Dr Mervy got off the Merc ,with that Manilla folder under his armpit to enter the office of th Yhapalana Bribary Miss appointed by Batalanada PM,I mistook him for a legal consul first.

    After his spiel to the Media scrum only ,I realised it was old Dr Mervy,his own ex UNP mates used to call Kudu Mervyn.

    He was on his way to present all corruption of his own Govt, to the new Govt under his old boss Mr Clean Batanalada Ranil.

    Next to Hora Hora the UNP opposition,s other most mentioned election slogan must have been Dr Mervyn .

    My Elders tell me he is now working with the new UNP organizer in UNP Buddhist turf Kelaniya.

    • 0
      0

      I heard your beloved elder say “Let’s wait and see, he hasn’t arrived this way yet.” when asked if he was willing to accept Mr Thevere. I guess his salon door is still open for anyone.

  • 2
    0

    Uditha,

    Thank you for the article.

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