By Dushy Ranetunge –
It was a sunny Thursday morning in Havelock Town, as my wife and I opened the front gates of my property to take our vehicle out to go on some errands. Before us were a line of vehicles blocking the private road.
Maithripala Sirisena had come to town. Havelock Town. I explained to a gentleman who was about to park yet another vehicle that this was a private road, and if he was to park, I would regard it as trespass and will have to let out the air of his tyres. He obliged and removed the vehicle, but there were just too many and I could no longer leave the blocked private road.
It seems the commotion was over the opening of a campaign office for Mr Sirisena and several neighbours expressed their displeasure as to what was going on.
We approached Mr Sirisena and requested if he could spare us 2 minutes. He kindly obliged. I explained to Mr Sirisena, that the road he was participating in opening a campaign office was a private road and that all the properties in this road had a legal covenant written into the deeds stipulating that all the properties within the private estate could be used for residential purposes only. Therefore I explained that if an office was to be opened, that he would be abetting in the breach of a legal covenant.
Rajitha Senaratne then commented that the property had been an office before. I conceded that was so, but that we had expressed our opposition to that “use” as well, and that we expected higher standards from Mr Sirisena as per his campaign promises.
Rajitha Senaratne’s comment was worrying. If a new Sirisena administration was to breach legal rights of citizens within the country, would Rajitha Senarate defend such breaches on the basis that such breaches have happened in the past? Not a very promising comment by a politician presenting himself to the country aspiring higher standards and accountability?
We explained to Mr Sirisena that we were not opposed to him and that we supported him and that we would welcome his success at the pools, but was only opposed to the breach of the legal covenant and trespass on a private road by a large number of vehicles.
Mr Sirisena was apologetic and gave an assurance that they will be leaving by 12.15pm and we thanked him and left. Those in his entourage were kind and moved some of the vehicles to facilitate our exit.
On our return at about 1pm, several vehicles were still in the close, and without warning or provocation one of the political entourage started being abusive. I stopped my vehicle and got down. A politician convoy that started rolling minutes later was blocked. The abusive man now got into my vehicle and tried unsuccessfully to move it. He seemed somewhat confused sitting in my drivers seat and staring at the dashboard, unable to start a keyless entry automatic vehicle. While I walked up to the tinted glass BMW to speak to the politician hiding inside to complain about the abusive behaviour of his staff and demand an apology from that gentleman of quality, he had started being abusive to my wife and grabbed her phone as she was about to photograph him.
My wife, a lawyer and a lady of formidable character, had punched the man and grabbed the phone back. This had been a response that he clearly did not expect and he was lucky. This gentleman of quality was not to know that my wife has received and continues to receive training by the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) in the United Kingdom with specialist techniques to deal with aggressive bahaviour.
She refused to move from the middle of the road, adding to the blockage caused by my vehicle and preventing the convoy from leaving, until an apology was received.
It seems to us, that there is no difference between these Sri Lankan politicians. They are quite happy or may I say ignorant in trespassing onto clearly marked private road with an entry barrier, which has a restrictive legal covenant and block the lawful residents from leaving their homes, but when it comes to them wanting to leave, everyone is shoved aside.
Some of the political entourage were being apologetic and called for that gentleman of quality who had been abusive to return and apologise, but he had got into a vehicle and fled the scene.
The politician hiding inside the BMW did not get down or try to address the issue, while his confused entourage were blowing hot and cold. It was amusing that we saw several instances of people being abusive and apologetic at the same time almost like a duel personality.
I saw and heard another gentleman of quality commenting in Sinhalese that this will be the last time we travel down this road, insinuating in a very Sinhalese rural manner that we will be killed or disposed of. Intimidation seems to come naturally to these champions of democracy. I found the comments and behaviour amusing, making me wonder if there was any difference between the mindsets of rural Hambantota and rural Polonnaruwa.
I inquired loudly if this was the new Sri Lanka that Sirisena was aspiring to?
While we abhor the rampant corruption in this society that we live in, void of any respect for women’s rights, minority rights, human rights, respect for judicial independence and good governance, a society that I would not want to bring up my children in, it would be a serious mistake to get carried away with Sirisena as the panacea to our problems.
For me the only attraction of Sirisena is that unlike the Hambanthota incumbent, the Polonnaruwa aspirant will be far more vulnerable in Parliament. Other than that it would be a mistake to have faith that Polonnaruwa will deliver on its promises any better or worse than Hambantota.