20 October, 2017

Selective Application Of The Law In Rural Sri Lanka

By Emil van der Poorten –

Emil van der Poorten

I never cease to be fascinated by those who incessantly pillory “Colombians”, in reality those who seek to defend the concepts of law and order, the rule of law and basic human rights and who happen to live in our capital city.  Their common place of residence provides the horde of Rajapaksa Sycophants with the opportunity to apply this “urban” stereotype to them.

What you will NEVER hear from these paragons of probity and virtue is so much as a reference to the plight of those they go to such lengths to pretend to represent, however obliquely.

What has brought this most forcibly to my attention recently has been the spate of headlines describing the prosecution of those (of lesser means and of rural origin) against whom the full force of the law is exercised, if local media is to be believed.

One of the more recent headlines had several villagers being taken into custody and charged for being in possession of porcupine flesh.  While I am sure there is a law against the killing of any sentient being in this country – humans excepted in the matter of practice – this seemed a bit bizarre.  As anyone who lives anywhere where co-existence with porcupines is a necessity of life will confirm, these rodents are the bane of anyone trying to grown anything for personal consumption or to earn a few rupees in the market place.  The people throwing up their hands in holy horror at the killing of our oversized hedgehogs very obviously have no knowledge whatsoever of the fact that they are capable of completely husking seedling coconuts, ring-barking high-yielding rubber plants when they are barely out of the ground and being a monumental nuisance to anyone trying to grow whatever takes their culinary fancy!  Ever since I remember, villagers who were able to locate porcupine “dens,” would smoke out these usually-nocturnal animals and dispatch them with a club and then, not to waste a source of  very scarce (to the poor) and palatable animal protein, cook the meat in a form that would make it the centerpiece of a meal of rice.  While this practice hardly seemed to make any serious dent in the porcupine population, it did affect some kind of control over their proliferation and provided a dietary diversion to (poor) rural people.  To treat this practice as equivalent to the harvesting of rhino horn for the Chinese market is nothing short of ludicrous and provides yet another example of their absolute ignorance of rural life of these self-appointed guardians of it.

Now it seems that, in the manner typical to the administration of law in this  country, while gang-rapists and murderers of even foreign tourists, roam free until foreign governments “apply pressure,” some Heen Banda and his young son are taken into custody and prosecuted (“persecuted” would probably be the more appropriate term) for being in possession of a dead porcupine and the matter reported in large type with an accompanying picture in “living colour” of those members of the constabulary responsible for the apprehension of these dangerous criminals.  All of this could be considered simply ludicrous if it did not epitomize the manner in which “law and order,” better described as “low and odour,” is practiced in the Debacle of Asia.

Porcupines are just one example.  The other is wild pigs which have become an even bigger menace to anyone seeking to grow anything either at or below ground level.  Here, the stratagem used for their destruction is the setting of snares or “trap guns.”  In fact, those two responses are also applied to the problem of porcupines.

While the term “snares” should be description enough of the manner in which the quarry is secured, a deviation from the main narrative seems required in the matter of “trap guns.”

What these constitute, in simple language, are tubes of hard metal, sealed at one end and with a charge of explosive at that extremity which is detonated by a “cap.”  When the “cap” ignites the explosive, a load of assorted metal fragments which constitute the “pellet load” leaves the barrel in the hope that it will kill or disable the target.  The manner in which all of this is supposed to happen is when the prey disturbs a trip wire, laid across what is believed to be a “game trail” and causes the “cap” to explode upon a primitive “trip-hammer” coming down on it.

Unfortunately, the application of this technology leaves more than something to be desired in that it doesn’t differentiate between the intended quarry and anything or anyone else happening to trip the wire.  And that includes human beings walking along a footpath that has been deemed a game trail by a trap-gun owner.  The evidence in this regard is irrefutable in the number of those living in these areas, in various stages of recovery – the lucky ones – having suffered these “gunshot” wounds!  I’d require another whole column to even begin a narrative of those instances.

In our particular neck of the woods, it is porcupines, wild pigs and, very occasionally, barking deer (Muntjac) that are brought down by trap guns or snared in the manner described.

That trap-guns have, over the many years of their deployment, been a menace in rural Sri Lanka is irrefutable.  However, I’d suggest that they provide a very real answer to the matter of crop protection and, rather than willy-nilly prosecution of the poorest of the rural poor, a nuanced response to the totality of the issue should be sought even though, there is no doubt that the preferred “bludgeon solution” of our current regime fits admirably into their philosophy of “might is right.”

The most serious threat to the production of food of any kind, however, has been the blight of macaque monkey.  A recent headline in one English-language paper bemoaned the fate of several dozen of these found dead, suspected of being poisoned by villagers who couldn’t take their depredations any longer.

Only those who’ve suffered the attentions of these simians can adequately speak to the damage they do to crops, unattended personal property and goodness knows what else!  A little story here that epitomizes the hypocrisy of local supporters of the Mahinda Chinthanaya, Divi  Neguma chapter, would not be out of place.

When some kind of “Grow more food” campaign which those of a vintage able to remember similar initiatives during World War II, was launched locally and there seemed to be more “staff” distributing vegetable seeds than they had packets to distribute, I inquired from one particular local official who could not be faulted in his efforts to display his loyalty to The Regime, in what manner any potential growers of said vegetables were to protect them from the monkeys who had a track record of destroying such when they were barely out of the ground.  His prompt response was that there was a whole scheme to trap these monkeys (and presumably inflict them on some other unsuspecting village in another jurisdiction!)

Out of curiosity, I followed up on this inquiry and subsequently discovered that one “monkey trap” had been deposited outside the office of one of the local functionaries, that it was “not in working condition,” “no one had repaired it” and that, after some time had passed, it had been taken away to parts unknown!

A footnote to “grow more food” in our area might be the fact that a friend had been at pains to bring me, from overseas, some tropical vegetable seeds which were considered “top of the line.”  None of these have I been able to give away, free, to any of my neighbours who very politely, refused my offer on the grounds that they have no intention of feeding the neighbourhood’s  vermin with their labours.

All the “Negumas” in the world are not going to work one whit if accompanied by the persecution of the poor who are trying to protect what crops they have, sometimes seeking also to provide otherwise-inaccessible animal protein for their children.  This is simply cruelty practiced simply for publicity purposes and to salve the consciences of a self-righteous middle-class who don’t give a Tinker’s Dam about their less-fortunate rural cousins and are myopically focused on themselves and their efforts at self-aggrandisement.

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Latest comments

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    1.In cities they have govt jobs for those who have ”connections” who can buy packaged food imported from abroad.

    The rural poor maintain the natural ecology to the best of their ability for survival.

    2.This President refuses to investigate murders of his own citizens and refuses to release reports on corruption, abduction, disappearances and murders. Who will prosecute him?

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      M.Chintanaya? Patriots have to be protected even before the Bribery
      Commission. The Professionals – BASL can hardly raise a finger under
      MRs rule – Judiciary. He is therefore fit to Chair the Group of
      53 Nations once the White Empire.

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    My Lansi mates,who are now on lamb chops, still reminisce out loud how good Goya meat was on Sunday afternoons.

    Specially after doing all the hard work like smoking them out and dashing them around a young coconut tree trunk.

    Surprise it is not on Mr Poorten’s dietary and nutrition list to lift the lot of our Heen Bandas and Heen Menikes.

    At least a few in DJ’s Cosmopolitan Intelligentsia still seem to care about our rural poor,

    By the way ,this “Colombian” bit is a bit misleading although they like the term rather than calling themselves Srilankan, in front of Cemerons and Harpers.

    One of my Western mates who seems not up to speed with his geography, asked me whether this Packer ‘s Casino Colombo is going to be in Colombia.

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      K.A Sumanasekera:
      Colombo Telegraph desperately needs a policy to exclude the mentally aberrant from inflicting idiocies such as your “Koheda Yanney, Malley pol” nonsense from its site.
      Don’t your real estate adventures keep you occupied enough without your having to inflict your emanations from dropping on CT’s pages? Or does your ex-Professor friend and mentor insist that you keep confirming your stupidity?

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      A post where you didn’t mention “Vellala” ; that has to be some record for you.

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    This is the ancestral spirit of the writer writing.

    [Edited out]

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      Look who’s talking! A sinister member of the ‘your father’s not your father but your father don’t know’ brigade. Truth to tell even your mother might not be certain who your father is. After all, incest has been rife in this blessed isle for aeons.
      The point is: who cares where you come from; let’s deal with the here and now. But maybe this concept is beyond the under-developed Kiri Menike.

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      Kiri Menika and Jim Softy:
      This must be a first for CT – the use of pornographic fiction in an attempt to silence someone talking about what goes on in rural Sri Lanka!
      But then, who could ever guess at how low characters like you were capable of going with your fiction in doing the bidding of your “handlers.”
      My one regret is that I have to be unkind to you, the seriously mentally impaired even if criminally so, when I was raised never to be unkind to that category of (sub) human.
      P.S. to “Kiri Menika:”
      It seems like your gender-uncertainty has now led to the use of a female pseudonym. What’s next? Sex-change surgery in Singapore?

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        Mr Pooten

        I was lucky enough t read the comment that has beencensored by CT now.

        Coming rom Baddegama in the South and family connecions in Kurunegala, I have a full knowledge of the two families mentioned in there, though not the colonial history involving South Africa and the Congo.

        I didn’t think it was fiction or pornographic. There were few marriages out o the ordinary though I don’t know your connection to any of those.

        I reject you suggestions here for censorship and criminal activity. After all those are the charges aganst the Rajapakses you push so hardly, white vans and all.

        It will be good to throw some light on that history in your next article if you could.
        Thank you.

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          Agonist:
          Another/the same pornographer hiding behind a different pseudonym!
          If you are so certain of your “facts,” why don’t you publish them under your own name? I’m sure your “handlers” will provide you with the means of defending yourself in a court of law in Sri Lanka or, at worst, sending you to Singapore (at State expense) for treatment, though I really don’t know whether that is a destination of choice for the mentally depraved!
          By the way, Galagedera is neither in the Kurunegala or Baddegama districts, not even in the provinces in which those two towns exist, so your “familiarity” with the place in which we’ve lived for a few generations does leave something to be desired, don’t you think? Or was that yet another failure of your Oxbridge-driven dirty tricks squad?

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            This is an outrageous attack.

            I can only assumethat you have mistaken me for someone else, in your paranoid state of mind. I never said Galagedara is in Kurunegala, but there are people in Kurunegala who know about Galagedara. I have no idea of an Oxbridge-driven tricks squad.

            Throwing abuse at people or threatening them when you are confronted with facts is a sign of cowardice.

            Your behaviour is much worse than the accusations you keep throwing at the government and the present rulers of the country. Imagine how you would behave if you get hold of an ounce of political power!

            The question here is do the Winter-Pooten conncetions of the sort referred to exist? Your answer might help throw some light on the real reasons behind your failing attempt to ride the high-horse of morality and correctness.

            Come clean if you can please.

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              A-Gona-is:
              If it wasn’t for its blatant stupidity, your piece of self-righteous indignation might even have been considered funny!

              The key word in your tirade of “Throwing abuse at people or threatening them when you are confronted with facts is a sign of cowardice” is “FACTS” and it is patently obvious that you wouldn’t be able to recognise that commodity even if it bit you in that part of your anatomy where what passes for your brain resides.

              If you consider my response “threatening,” I wonder what your evaluation of white vans would be. But then, so much as a reference to “law” would be considered a threat by those who have distinguished themselves by a total disregard of the very concept.

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                This man is an idiot of the first order. The most ridiculous part is tht he insults everybody else as an idiot!

                So you can threaten to break the law because “they did it first”? You stinking hypocrite!

                This proves that your problem is “winterpoo” in-breeding that has suppressed bain growth.

                Abuse from dishonest idiots working for foreigners from within Sri Lanka is the greatest reward the honest Sri Lankans receive.

                Rot in your Halgolla poo-hole.

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                  A-Gona-is:
                  The very word “facts” seem to draw even more intemperate responses, but then what can one expect considering the source.
                  You seem to have a particular problem with the term “Law”, but then so do your handlers and one cannot expect (rotten) fruit to fall far from the tree that bears them.

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                    [Edited out]

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    So, what Mr. Emil vander pooten says is because they are the rural people – the world is co complicated and these rural villagers do not know what they are doing – don’t prosecute them.

    So, Mr. Vander Pooten, where should be the cut of Line ?, Only sinhala Buddhists should be prosecuted, Only the urban people like you should prosecuted, Only the Lansies like you should be prosecuted ?

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      Softy – as usual, you got it all ass-backwards. Is it a genetic problem or are you being obtuse intentionally? Or maybe your blind allegiance doesn’t allow you to comprehend the content of the post?? Whatever it is, spare us your nonsense – please.

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    while I have sympathy to what Emil is saying I find it amusing that he would take a broad swipe at the Rajapaksas when this obviously cannot have anything to do with them ..

    And to be honest I dont think it is fair to pillory him just because of his dutch or burger roots . He has a right to his opinion as much as anybody else .

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      Spring Koha:
      Thank you for one of the few comments on this column that indicates a knowledge of the subject!
      The comment about the “pension fund of the local constable” piqued my curiosity, though, because I didn’t quite understand EXACTLY what you meant!

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        Dear Mr van der Pooten, having stirred your curiosity with my tactless but relevant remark, I owe you the courtesy of an explanation. As you may appreciate, in the context of a Sri Lankan village setting a little generosity amongst neighbours at festival times is much appreciated and we all benefit. Of course, no favours are asked and none expected. But if I practice a little bit of ‘pest’ control of my own in the local woods, no jobsworth creeps out of the bushes reciting an antediluvian law to get on my wick, and for that I am grateful. Yes! Some may scream ‘unfair’ but in defence I am happy to back a revision of the law that will allow ‘the common man’ the freedom to indulge in a bit of the same (and free our police, as we all rightly wish, to pursue the perpetrators of real crime).

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    Dear Mr van der Poorten, you do plough a lonely furrow. Just horrible bad luck doing something ‘good-sensical’ when some God-forsaken jobsworth pops up to spoil the show. I, myself, am not averse to a nice bit of curried jungle fowl, and from time I go out with a couple of ‘catchers’ to bag a nice wild-boar. I must admit that I went off muntjac after having read bedtime bambi stories to the children. (Don’t even ask about the emotional scenes that ensued after we watched ‘Watership Down’ with the children and had to admit that we had partaken of rabbit stew on occasions.) Down south, it is not too much of a problem – at the moment – our obligations to keep the food chain are carried out with discretion and mindful of the susceptibilites of the indigenous. I might add that I make an occasional contribution to the pension fund of our local constable – but I cannot help it if philanthropy courses through my veins!

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