By Emil van der Poorten –
Today, let me relate a case history illustrative of the seeming hopelessness of the lives of some of our neighbours.
The predicament of Thadi Menika (obviously not her real name!) is not, unfortunately, as exceptional as it might seem to some urban-dwellers. She is in her middle years, widowed for a considerable time and has two of her grown sons living with her in the little house she has on land that she, together with dozens of others, has squatted on subsequent to the collapse of the state enterprise that took over productive plantation land at the time of Hector Kobbekaduwa’s Land Reform. Incidentally, Mr. K was probably the first major political figure to demonstrate what has since become the rule rather than the exception in this country: a very powerful politician motivated by vengeance and sans the intelligence and knowledge to make effective and productive change. Additionally, totally lacking anything even vaguely resembling a moral compass, the economic destruction he wreaked was further multiplied by the environmental degradation that has resulted in this part of the country.
Returning to the subject of this story, while what little land Thadi Menike and her fellow squatters had available to them could certainly not sustain them independent of the poverty-level wages they earned on the adjacent agricultural enterprises, she did, as they used to say, have three meals – thun-vela – of indeterminate quality. Of the two sons resident in her house, one travelled by bus to some urban site or other, to work as a mason’s helper, returning home at night. His sibling was a stereotypical “no-goodnik.” No one ever remembers him doing anything productive. Simply put, he stole because stealing was the only thing he chose to do. His nickname, “Ahinsakaya,” had simply been the product of some neighbour’s very warped sense of humour.
Among his many activities during the time I have been aware of his existence, was terrorizing school girls on their way up a deserted estate road late in the day by leaping out from under a bridge across small stream, stark naked, and, on one occasion, holding a knife to the throat of a little boy who, very understandably, screamed blue murder at the predicament of his female companions. This outrage went un-investigated because the children belonged to a particular ethnicity and chose not to report it to the police because they thought, very understandably (and realistically), that their complaint would be dismissed out of hand by the local constabulary. Subsequently, he slashed a grandmother who, with a stick she’d picked up, was trying to defend her little grand-daughter from this monster’s unsavoury attentions. End result? Case settled out of court because the injured party and her husband didn’t think it was worth risking further harm from a lunatic criminal in their pursuit of justice.
This man raids the homes of his neighbours when they are away during the day trying to earn a living. There is, literally, nothing he will not steal: pots and pans and hand tools which he apparently flogs to the local junk dealer; his neighbours’ pepper, nutmeg and cloves when they are in season and there is an additional element of waste here because he picks whatever is easiest to harvest even if those spices are not mature. He doesn’t mind getting a pittance from a local mudalali because it has cost him nothing to steal. He has even been known to steal clothing and given the fact that peasant families don’t have wardrobes full of finery, that would give “stealing the shirt off one’s back” a whole new meaning not originally associated with that trite phrase!
One of his more recent exploits was beating his mother within an inch of her life when neighbours heard her screaming “Buddhu ammo, mava maranna epa!” By all accounts, the only reason she is alive today is because she succeeded in stumbling through the dark to some neighbor who gave her shelter and protected her from her errant son. When we sent word to her that we would provide her with accommodation if she chose to return from the village to which she’d moved the day after the onslaught, her response was that her son could well visit her wherever she was and we could end up as custodians of her corpse!
As for her son, Ahinsakaya, there is a further demand on his thieving skills now because he has to make good what cash he used to take from his mother.
Want some icing on that little cake? This man who is an ambulatory psychiatric time-bomb was recruited into the army in the final days of pre-Nanthikadal hysteria and trained in the use of assault weapons. “Chagrin” might well describe the feelings of those, such as the present company, who are prohibited from access to so much as a single-barrelled shotgun for protection of crops while a man who gives every evidence of criminal insanity has been provided training of this kind at the expense of every one of us. One can but hope that he doesn’t have the opportunity and tools with which to apply those combat skills. A footnote here would not be out of place: at least three other people with track records rivaling Ahinsakaya’s have had similar training during the same period.
This isn’t just a simple isolated horror story. I can relate several more, perhaps not as bizarre and dramatic, but scary nevertheless for those of us who have to lead unarmed existences in rural Sri Lanka.
This is what the total loss of the rule of law has resulted in for people in a vast number of rural neighbourhoods. This is a culture that has become our reality where a primitive “dog eat dog” philosophy has been forced on those of us who have no wish to descend to that level. It has happened because our “rulers” have cocooned themselves with armed security guards and bulletproof vehicles so that they are, truly, insulated from all of this while they engage in wholesale theft from the public purse and we are left to the mercy of the lower level (financially speaking) of Sri Lanka’s criminal brigades.
It’s not going to be easy to turn all of this around but do we have any other choice? It would be convenient enough to shrug off what we, as a society, face and simply hope that time will heal all things and all will be right with the world one day. (Presumably after The Second Coming if you’ll pardon my cynicism) The simple fact, though, is that we do not have the luxury of time in this endeavour. No matter how tough it is going to be, we must insist that our government conducts itself as any decent government should and punish the guilty and set the innocent free. If one were to look for the truth of that old aphorism that “Justice delayed is justice denied,” here it is in capital letters and bold type. This government has to rid itself of those who continue to equivocate in the matter of legal, ethical, and principled behaviour choosing instead bribes in cash and kind, now and anticipated, as do the “insurance buyers.” President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe must act and act NOW, demonstrating that cleansing starts at the top and goes relentlessly down the criminal feeding chain. This is a sine qua non and will brook no delay. And how can you, Citizen Banda or Anulawathie support this essential effort? Join the growing chorus in whatever way you can to compel those in the seats of authority to do their duty by the people of this country. Make your voices heard, if not in print, at least with your neighbor and at the street corner. Only in this manner will we stand a chance of returning Sri Lanka to the land of peace and plenty it can be where people can live in dignity without fear of the neighbourhood thug.
K.A Sumanasekera / June 22, 2015
I nearly fell off my chair while having my Short Black and watching the Ada Deraana Video clips of Yahapalanaya.
The particular one which put me off balance was the one where young Rajitha was addressing the Elite, Anglicans , Vellalas and the rest at the Premadasa stadium.
What a gig. I thought Senior was the Damocles the Greek.
And young Rajitha is going to do in Rajapaksa in Beliatta,
And do all other Politicians in Sirikotha and Darley Road, if they ever give Rajapaksa and his supporters any nominations.
This is s Yahapalanay at its best folks, Watch it if you get time off.
Mr Poorten’s description of old K sounds exactly like that of new K who is in charge of Tumpane now .. Am I Right?.
And new K’s bosses are under the spell of not only Rajitha Senior now, but Rajitha junior as well.
All I can say is good luck to Mr Poorten with his endeavours to seek justice and protect the Dalits from those baddies.
But one thing I like like tell Mr Poorten is calling our village women Big Berthass is not politically correct .
Specially for a Yahapalan supporter who happens to be a Person of Elite origin and at least 2/3 Western.
Emil van der Poorten / June 22, 2015
Will your well of lunatic incomprehensibility flavoured with hemlock NEVER run dry?
Buddhist / June 22, 2015
Every Poson day the huge operation through Vihara control keeps a lot of potential lunatics in check.
Give therapy through true Buddhism.
Get rid of increasing lunatics in robes first.
Amarasiri / June 22, 2015
Emil van der Poorten
RE: The Rule Of Law, Or Lack Thereof, In Rural Sri Lanka
Isn’t is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka?
Isn’t this a Sinhala Buddhist Country, the Dhamma Deepaya?
Mahinda Rajapaksa should take this guy “Ahinsakaya” to the Temple. May be he can be Mahinda Rajapaksa’s body guard.
Peace Lover / June 22, 2015
btw,Athal Sumane may have nearly fallen when he saw the young Senaratne on TV but I actually fell off reading Athal Sumanes nonsense!
Spring Koha / June 22, 2015
Mr van der Poorten
Once again, you lift the lid on the oft-touted scene of serene bucolic life in our blessed island. Sadly, for the peripatetic of us, the story is not fiction but too often replicated throughout the urban and rural scenario of this land. It only takes one bastard to spoil the peace of a community, and there are plenty of bastards around. What we are in short supply off these days is the quiet one; talks little but feels the pulse of the much-maligned people around him, who takes it upon himself to do the necessary, and at an opportune moment despatches the resident miscreant to the eternal fires for which he was bound for anyway. The police quickly close enquiries for want of a suspect, and the people breathe a sigh of relief and intone ‘God is good’.
What we would give these days for a hero like the quiet railwayman, stationed in the Aluthgama of the forties, who tired of the local ‘chandiya’, took matters into his large pugilistic hands, and despatched the never-do-well one moonless night without so much as a word of farewell. After they fished the dead bastard out of the Bentota Ganga, the local coroner said “he died from drowning, and the smashed jaw was from when he hit a rock in the river, and anyway, the man was drunk”. What to do? The local people quietly took to the churches, temples, kovil and mosques to thank the many Gods that looked over that delightful town.
Similarly, the oldest inhabitants of a hamlet in the hills still talk about the time in the fifties when yet another quiet man, whose only passion in life was a good hunt in the woods, rid their peaceful town of a similar pestilence who was making everybody’s life a misery. The pest was found early one morning on a short cut into town, with flies buzzing around a single stab wound near where his heart, if he had one, would have been. The coroner dutifully said “the man was unlawfully killed”. The local O-I-C in a moment of inspiration said “the man had too many enemies, and was asking for it”; they never found the saviour of that community, and the constabulary in their wisdom closed the file after a short while. Rumour has it, hush-hush, that the good Samaritan emigrated, trained as an electrician in old London town, and comes back regularly to take stout and meet his increasingly diminishing circle of old friend and admirers.
Where is our Charles Bronson? Where is our A-Team?
Heretic / June 23, 2015
Emile van der Poorten,
“who are prohibited from access to so much as a single-barrelled shotgun for protection of crops “
No gun permit for crop protection? Any reason given for the objection?
Thanks for the article.
Emil van der Poorten / June 23, 2015
The reason I was given, a long while back, was that the stipulation that no seniors were to be issued licences to possess firearms of any description was on the DIRECT order of the Secretary of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and that it was NOT part of the existing firearms ordinance.
Like all such edicts of the last regime, our current rulers will continue to honour this piece of nonsense while proven criminals run around causing mayhem!
Heretic / June 23, 2015
Emil van der Poorten,
I have seen some kind of an age limit but forgot what it is and where I saw it. Maybe on http://www.defence.lk that I do not manage to access at the moment.
Many banks seem to believe that 55 is enough to qualify as senior citizen.
When I asked about a gun permit a Chief Inspector told me that I need to show that I am wealthy. Wealth would justify a gun for personal protection. As a poor farmer I should try crop protection as a justification like you. The Divisional Secretariat is involved in issuing a gun permit and they are likely to object a permit in my case as I am a known trouble maker.
Emil van der Poorten / June 24, 2015
I have it in writing from the provincial person responsible for the issue of these permits that I was age-barred from getting a licence to purchase a single-barrelled shotgun. However, I am personally aware of the Secretary of Defence issuing a waiver in this regard, though, for obvious reasons, I cannot go on record with the specifics!
My point is, again, why the current Yahapaalanaya government does not dispense with this kind of arbitrary decision, NOT BASED ON LAW, that the previous regime’s dictators have made.
Heretic / June 26, 2015
Emil van der Poorten,
The Firearms Ordinance mentions age as a ground for not issuing permits but does not mention how old is too old nor how young is too young. As you seem to know the minister can grant an exemption according to the Firearms Ordinance. At the moment I believe that John Amaratunga is the minister responsible.
Why don’t you send an application with a letter asking for an exemption?
Heretic / June 26, 2015
Emile van der Poorten,
I forgot to say that having some big dogs usually keeps bad people away. Mongrels are healthier than the imported dogs.
Adrian / June 24, 2015
Emil, This situation also prevails in cities in various forms. The city Ahinsakayas, get their spoils by associating with politicians, police, and other ‘authorities’ who offer protection to these handymen who do their dirty jobs. Police check from them in order issue Police Certificates to go abroad! Local Govt. has so much to do with various land related matters, but those who manage are such Ahinsakayas. Where has all the rights and privileges gone?