By Emil van der Poorten –
I make no apologies for the seemingly melodramatic title of this column because it is all that will fit from the fuller version which, in turn, is a paraphrasing of the very famous one by Pastor Niemoller in historically similar times and which should read in its entirety:
“First we asked that our EPF savings not be embezzled and we were shot; then we complained about the adverse impact of the increase in kerosene prices on our livelihoods as fishermen and we were shot; then we asked that our drinking water not be poisoned and we were shot. What other crimes are being created to justify our executions in the future?”
If confirmation be needed of the ruthlessness of this regime, the events at Weliveriya provided it in spades! A turbulent but, by all descriptions, non-violent demonstration of local people – thousands – against contamination of their drinking water was met with what can only be described as a show of force not simply intended to “show who’s boss” but to instill terror.
When was the last time that you heard of a battle-hardened unit of the army being called in by the police, arriving in armoured personnel carriers, wearing bandannas across their faces? One might be tempted to proffer the suggestion that white hoods, a la the Ku Klux Klan, would have been more appropriate given the conduct of those in uniform, but, one hardly needs to proffer advice about “improving” such
techniques to this lot.
These are forces completely and absolutely under the control of the President’s brother, Gotabhaya, and for yet another member of his family to be engaged in discussions with representatives of the protestors while the assault was being launched has a very simple message from these monarchs parading as saviours: to defy us and ours is to do so at peril of limb and, literally, life.
Insofar as pollution of drinking water sources is concerned, my neighbourhood has suffered for ten years because of an unauthorized and illegal garbage dump that the local Pradeshiya Sabhawa continues to use, depositing in it all the garbage generated within its jurisdiction, inclusive of hospital wastes. The effluent from this environmental catastrophe empties into the headwaters of the Deduru Oya but is concealed from view in such a manner that those who consume this water downstream are unaware of what the water they use for EVERY domestic purpose contains. A recent question in this regard in the national legislature resulted in a deliberate half-truth being placed on the record with the intention of concealing the reality of the prevailing situation.
Additionally, the icing on that morning’s (“Daily Mirror”) cake was that the same issue that carried an extensive report on this act of terrorism at Weliveriya had a paean of praise to J. R. “Yankee Dick” Jayewardene by a relation of his, a generation or so removed. It ended with the statement that the late President would be looking on with unalloyed joy at what his successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was doing to carry forward his “vision” for Sri Lanka. To quote his exact words,
“My take is that the course being charted by this present successor to the Presidency Mahinda Rajapaksa would meet with his approval – his vision and dream being carried forward for Sri Lanka to retake its place at the very top of all nations.”
While some might consider this a statement of simple bombast and unmitigated nonsense in the interests of adding to a past litany of sycophantic claptrap, I tend to agree with the sentiments expressed because “the Weliveriya incident” certainly does carry forward the (Fascist) agenda of J.R.J. and by the most appropriate of his successors, one who makes even the late R. Premadasa look like one of the Maggie Thatcher’s much-reviled “wets!” I wonder, also, whether the author of that puff piece remembers a conversation he had with me in the lobby of the Mount Lavinia Hotel in, I believe, 1985 after he’d left a senior position to which he’d been appointed by the elder Jayewardene. He told me at great length how disastrous things had become under the self-same President. But then I suppose time lends luster to events that were not so lustrous at the time they occurred!
However, it is also one of Sri Lanka’s less well kept secrets that this particular family has not fared too badly under the Rajapaksa Regime with one of JR.’s grandsons serving as our head diplomat in Malaysia, a position to which he does not bring a wealth of qualification or experience. There are also other members of that clan displaying their (well-rewarded) loyalty to the caricature of a “Democratic Socialist” government in Sri Lanka, reinforcing the message of their support to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.
A comment about political terminology might seem appropriate in closing. If “Yankee Dick” could use language such as “Democratic Socialist” in a constitutional construct that, at the time it was promulgated, was adversely compared to that which Charles de Gaulle visited upon France, there is certainly nothing wrong with the present incumbent of the President’s throne in Sri Lanka characterizing what he practices as “democratic socialism.” And, speaking of “socialism,” didn’t Herr Schickelgruber aka Adolf Hitler call his party “National Socialist,” too?
Is further comment about the “Sri Lankan condition” necessary in these circumstances?