25 September, 2020

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“Shootocracy” In Weliweriya – Clear Sign, Decisions Are Made Elsewhere !

By Kusal Perera

Kusal Perara

“These are sons for whom we prayed and offered blessings as war heroes, who are now attacking us, when we ask for water” – Mother of an injured youth speaking to media, after military crushed the Weliweriya mass protest on 01 August, 2013

The savagery let loose in Weliweriya on 01 August afternoon provides every reason to say, important political decisions are made, not by the elected government, but by those who think they have an unquestionable right to decide on what and how they perceive as right and wrong for Sri Lankans. And now, Sri Lankans for them have no difference and include the Sinhala Buddhist constituency as well.

The “Weliweriya protest” as it is now called, was no spontaneous outburst on a flimsy, trivial issue or incident. It is not about few villages asking for clean water. It is about total impotence of an elected government to address a serious concern of its own citizenry. Villagers in about 12 villages along Attanagalu Oya and around Weliveriya, Rathupaswela, Nedungamuwa area, had been complaining about their water wells and bathing ponds gradually getting polluted. They claimed their complaints were sent to district authorities and the Water Board. While nothing worthwhile was being done on these complaints over many months, pollution had increased to a degree, the villagers could not use them for any purpose. Elderly villagers told media they could not even get into their paddy fields as the water leaves an itching on their feet. More complaints had only brought them water barrels, provided by the Water Board.

Villagers had reason to believe the cause for such gradual pollution of their water sources over many years, was the coming of a factory that produced industrial gloves for export. They also believe, the reason for not taking any action to solve the issue was because the company that owned the factory had very strong influence in making the government decide their way. The owners of this company are Hayley’s Group. The major or the biggest shareholder of Hayley’s is Dhammika Perera, presently the Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, who singularly holds more than 48 per cent of the total shares, directly and indirectly. The company, Dipp Products Group claims they share 05 per cent of the world’s general and industrial gloves market. The company claims they maintain all required standards at their factory in question and is not responsible for such pollution. Yet pollution of natural water sources in an area of about 05 sq km, where the factory is, has run bad over the years.

If the company claims they don’t pollute, but the water however is being polluted unending, then there should have been some serious investigations by relevant authorities. They are the Central Environment Authority, the BOI as the approving and regulating authority of export oriented ventures and the Department of Industries, who should find out the actual reason(s) for such pollution and then recommend what should be done. Such investigation should have   kept the villagers informed of all development. Meanwhile alternate arrangements could have been brought into place to provide water as a temporary measure. That would not have prompted or provoked the villagers to get on the streets.

For many months, nothing happened and the people were simply taken for granted. What do people do, when authorities continue to live deaf and blind ? They did what they could do thereafter as any effected community would do. Whole villages came on the streets on July 27 Saturday morning. How the whole issue was handled from then onwards, lacked any seriousness on the part of the district bureaucracy and the political leadership. Their callous disregard for people and their grievances, created no trust and confidence among the protesting villagers. The impotence on one side and the reluctance to take any action that could displease the company, worsened the situation. It only proved, this is no regime capable of working out credible answers for people wanting redress over their grievances and therefore decides  muscle power is the only way in getting protesting people out of the roads.

The first discussions between the protesting villagers, the district leadership and legal representatives of the company, failed as their were no serious intention in settling the issue on a win win formula. On Tuesday, it was one of the most unwanted of all politicians, one who does not know what law of the land is, Minister Mervyn Silva who went to bully the people and have them dispersed. His antics and ultimatums did not get the people out of the roads. He thought the people would accept legal action against the factory and offered himself to lead legal action the next day. The people insisted the factory has to be closed, before they give up on their agitation. Loud as he is as always, Mervyn Silva promised to personally close the factory and immediately too. The company owners knew the law better than Mervyn Silva and compromised to pretend to have it closed but continued work. People too kept their vigil in front of the factory that was provided with over 400 police personnel including the riot squad.

Next day Wednesday, there were no complaints with the police filed and no case against the factory in courts. There were other ways to have the factory closed temporarily, if the government actually wished to have a breakthrough in negotiating with the protesting villagers now growing in numbers. The BOI and the Labour department could have intervened, legally in having the factory closed for any number of days. With no such move by any authority, it was obvious the protest would grow with more determination and defiance. By sheer impulse of an agitated society that is being taken around without answers, the protest gathered momentum and the numbers swelled on Thursday morning. From Weliweriya the protest extended to Belummahara junction, obviously wanting more publicity and more pressure brought on the reluctant government.

That was when the military in truckloads and with baffles was deployed in full battle gear. An ultimatum was given to the people to clear the road within five minutes. Police fired tear gas and some claimed, they fired rubber bullets too. The military then took over, not only the road but the whole Weliweriya and Rathupaswela area as well. They turned the area into a battle field with villagers beaten and shot. Journalists were selectively attacked too and warned they should not take photographs. A repeat of a massacre without “witnesses”, this time in Weliweriya. Some were injured in the attack, some had the memory sticks in the cameras damaged. Police had also taken youth under custody and locked up at Weliweriya police station.

Almost simultaneously, a collective of villagers were taken to Colombo Fort to discuss the water issue with the Secretary Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, at his ministry. Why should Secretary Defence intervene ? Why not the Ministers in charge of Environment, Industries, Health and Economic Development ? The answer would tell, such is how this Rajapaksa regime now runs the government. If one would remember the brutality with which protesting workers in Katunayake FTZ was treated in May 2012, this is a more upgraded, fierce version of that attack.

Both incidents that shocked the ordinary people with death and serious injuries to dozens, had the stock answer, “provocation by vested groups”. Quoted by the government Informations Department, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the people were satisfied with the solution offered but “certain vested elements provoked the villagers into needless confrontations” and they were, “political motives (that) provoked some of the residents to stage protests.” If one may ask for clarifications a simple question would be, after many months of complaints on pollution of water sources, do people need external political motives or vested interests to provoke them to agitate and demand for water ? Isn’t it a right the people have to agitate and protest in society that is considered democratic ? One more issue. How can the Secretary of the Defense Ministry decide to close a factory, temporary or otherwise ? From where does that power comes ?

Post war Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa regime has nothing to offer to the people but elections, that too held with public funds. It proves it can not find credible answers to even local issues the people want answers for. Parents in Moratuwa closed up the Galle Road, wanting the transfer of Prince of Wales College deferred and the school was almost at a standstill with the new Principal unable to assume duties for over a fortnight. At Rawatawatte, the Galle Road once again was blocked with over 4,000 carpenters agitating and actor minister Jeevan Kumaratunge treated with flying water bottles, having gone to settle the protest. In Laggala, Matale district MP Lakshman Perera had to fast track his return, having gone to pacify the angry people who had stopped all traffic on the main road, after a tripper transporting sand from Mahaweli river knocked a mother and a son dead. The villagers claimed there were 14 run over before by trippers transporting sand. Anamaduwa school teacher’s issue and Deraniyagala Noori Estate murder were other major issues that brought villagers on to the street and still keeps the anger fuming.

None of these issues were satisfactorily settled. They are being dragged on. People have lost faith in the police, their investigations and the judiciary. Most recently the Bar Association of SL conceded that political suspects (and there are too many now) are given preferential treatment even when granting bail to them. Bail often is granted by Magistrates. That concludes the judicial system is corrupt and politicised to its lowest bench.

Such a bankrupt and corrupt regime can not be expected to play democracy with protesting people. But what should demand serious social attention is the fact that, it is no more the Tamil North and East the military keeps an alert on and in operation. But here in the South as well and over the Sinhala constituency too. The fact that it is the defence establishment that now holds discussions and decides issues and all relevant ministries have been pushed to the backbench, is serious enough an issue for any “patriot”.

Weliweriya will thus be a “path breaking” intervention in civil life, here in the South. All, if not most political and policy decisions are being made and implemented by the defence authority, no matter how the patriotic South accepts it. More will get added as the regime fails in its promised delivery. Now what if Tamil citizens in the Vanni eat “paalchoru” and light firecrackers after Weliweriya ? Well, its the same army under the same high command they would say. That essentially is the issue the South would have to now grapple with, to find answers for.

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Latest comments

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    Could this happen in Lanka?

    Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to protest against the treatment of a young army conscript who died after being punished for misconduct.

    Some 18 army officers, including a major-general, have already been charged in connection with the case. The defence minister has also resigned. – BBC

    • 0
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      The JVP, having completely lost political support of the public, has began a series of uprisings”, using university students (J’pura and Sabaragamuwa), where they block roads, traffic, and create incidents of utter public disruption in the hope of reaping from anarchy.

      There is a pollution problem, and you see it all over our streets, with motor
      vehicle exhaust, diesel exhaust etc in an utterly over-densely populated urban environment where residential zones and commercial zones have been intermingled
      since the days of Premadasa and before. But most pollution problems develop slowly and with the connivance of the public itself.

      The way these “protests” have got staged in Gampaha and Weliweriya, at university campuses, and how roads and trains are blocked, with petrol bombs deployed, etc suggest that all his has nothing to do with environmental pollution. Were the wells acidified by political agitators in gampaha to create the incident? How was the US embassy so bast and ready to condemn the incident, while when people protested against oil leaks from pipelines, the state troopers cracked down with no uncertain force.

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    No. Tamil citizens of the North and East will not eat ‘paalchoru’ and light fire-crackers. They will not rejoice about the pain of fellow citizens in the South. They will just hope that the Sinhalese villagers will now understand what the Tamils have gone through in the past.

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      There is no need for Tamil citizens to hope. The Sinhalese villagers already know all about these matters. They lived (or died) through the military crackdown in the Eighties when thousands were killed. When it comes to rape, torture and murder, the Governments of Sri Lanka have never discriminated on the grounds of race.

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    “it is no more the Tamil North and East the military keeps an alert on and in operation. But here in the South as well and over the Sinhala constituency too.”

    Exactly! As long as it is the North and east that are the target it is fine for Kusal and the Sinhala Buddhist Fascists. The Fascism is so deeply ingrained that Kusal and many of his so called liberal and leftist friends are not even aware of their own fascism that seeps out of their work and can be smelled from miles away.

    • 0
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      crazyoldmansl:
      Till I read your post against Kusal I didn’t realize how appropriate the name under which you write was!
      No SANE person can detect anything racist in Kusal Perera’s article. Where on earth did you read in the racism or is it simply abuse because you have some personal axe to grind with this man?

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        I may be mad, but you I know are no fool. “it is no more the Tamil North and East the military keeps an alert on and in operation. But here in the South as well and over the Sinhala constituency too.”

        Kusal and his friends, most of whom think they are saints and have got used to being treated as such, suffer from this deeply ingrained sinhala buddhist fascism. As long as it was “the Tamil North and East the military keeps an alert on and in operation” the world was hunky dory. Bot now that “here in the South as well and over the Sinhala constituency too” the bullets have begun to rain, our sinhala buddhist saints have suddenly begun to feel the pain.

        Sorry if your heroes have begun to fall. There was a time when I thought they were made of steel too. They are the hidden fascism that soaked the left, yes even the supposedly greatest of them helped seat fascism in power.

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    Those who were blind to the harrassment of Northern Tamils must open their eyes. The monster they created has now outgrown its masters. It will take some doing to bring it back into the kennel.

  • 0
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    well said taraki, they proved that time and time again, just sinhalese has very short memory as they are suffering from Patriotic Amnesia

  • 0
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    Gota is a BAYAGULLA who left the country in fear of Prabakaran

    Gen.Fonseka won the war.

    Family rule claims the credit for winning the war.

    GONTHADIYO. UNEDUCATED BAFOONS FROM THE RUHUNA TARNISHING THE IMAGE OF OLD RUHUNU HEROIC GENERATIONS.

    Elected parliamentarians look the other way, because if they try to go away from the govt.they will be taken to custody over their misdeeds which they were allowed to do during the past few years and before. Now the biggest BAYAGULLAS ARE THE UPFA PARLIAMENTARIANS.

    MAGA HITIYOTH THO NASEE, GEDARA GIYOTH AMBU NASEE. for MP’s.

  • 0
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    Well-written except the last two line? Non of the Sinhalses were happy about the death of innocent Tamils. If there were fire crackers only was because they felt terrorists were treated as they expected. Kusal should understand that. Even Weliveriya people never say they are not happy about destroying all the terrorrists in LTTE.

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    Kusal Perera,

    My friend start spreading the news as to who is running the country and who is taking orders from who.
    If what the Thero said is to be believed then it is clear that BBS are running the country.
    BBS are giving orders to the Army and the Army are carrying out their orders. Up to now it was Sinhalese on Tamils But now it is

    Sinhalese on Sinhalese

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    It was inevitable, that this regime would turn their goons against their own….for they are those that do not tolerate any kind of dissent, criticism, and simple protests. They brutally murdered the Tamils up North, in the guise of war, and blamed it all on the terrorists, they allow the Muslims to be harassed and have their businesses attacked, so what is there to prevent them from protecting their financial interests, by shooting on unarmed people who only asked for clean water….nothing.
    Open your eyes Sri Lanka, we are stuck with a Mugabe style government, and worse. For even that tyrant Mugabe, does not have over 200 family members in his government, in every prestigious post, to cover each other’s behind, and help rake in the rupees.
    The latest riot gear that this regime has armed itself with, is in anticipation of such protests. It was put to use in Weliweriya.

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    Kusal has written well and pertinently. The people were grateful to MR and gave him an overwhelming sanction at the ballot box. What our people did not understand was that those who won the war are those who can necessarily restore the peace. We now have peacetime armed forces far too bloated and starved of action and who will revert to type regardless of the situation faced. Drunk on wartime success, and because of the uniform incompetence of the ninety odd ministries,the defence secretary has now taken on the job of handling everything from urban development to environment affairs. Give the poor man a break!

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      Spring Chicken,

      You are illiterate man. You haven’t understood what the poor man Kusal has written and give some credit to his intelligence which you lack.
      He has written just the opposite to what you have written.

      the defence secretary has now taken on the job of handling everything from urban development to environment affairs. Give the poor man a break
      You are right give the poor man a break from looting.

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    It should not have gone this far. The politicians didn’t prioritize people’s drinking water problem as the high priority. They were concern about the election in the North and opening a harbor. I honestly can’t believe this has happened while Colombo is fighting against the world in relation to war crimes. Especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay is about to visit Sri Lanka. Is it too much to ask little sensible politics in the Indian Subcontinent? I am extremely disappointed.

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    The law enforcement bosses should watch & learn how such situations are dealt with in other countries. South Korea, Japan, Europe etc. This was a matter for the Police – not the army and definitely not for commandos. The new riot gear worn by the army is a clear give away. They are prepared for such incidents. Perhaps this was dry run to test out equipment, methods and tactics. They were just waiting to go in to action. Too bad that Weliveriya citizenry were the guinea pigs for the experiment. a Govt which tolerates the likes of Dr MP cannot be expected to do justice. People will resort to taking the law in to their own hands more and more. Just wait and see.

    Congratulations Kusal for your fearless comments.

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