21 September, 2020

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What Noori Estate And Weliweriya Teach Us

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena -

When will Sri Lankans take matters into their own hands and teach this arrogant if not foolhardy Government some sharp and telling lessons in just rule?

Incredibly shocking pattern of events

This week, one innocent teenager died and more than twenty five civilians were injured as a result of the army shooting at unarmed protestors at Weliweriya who were demanding that water contamination in their area, allegedly by a factory, be stopped. Proportionate and restrained civilian law enforcement is now firmly a thing of the past. Inhumane assaults by soldiers of protestors, journalists and even those who were merely caught up in the unholy melee have been recorded despite the army’s denials.

Usage of live ammunition against demonstrators by the police and the army is a peculiar feature of the Rajapaksa administration and is bolstered by the large numbers of anti-riot weaponry and ammunition which were acquired post-war. Weliweriya, which resembled a mini-war zone during this incident, is only the most recent casualty. We will see far more excesses in coming months. In fact, the ironies in comparisons with a war situation that the Sri Lankan people foolishly thought was over in 2009, crops up time and time again. Just a few days ago, the Chief Priest of Noori, Deraniyagala in the Kegalle District, in detailing the terrorizing of his villagers from as far back as 2008 at the hands of local politicians benefitting from high political patronage, referred to his area as being ‘un-cleared’.

Even with all the brutalities that this country had witnessed during two Southern insurrections and civil conflict in the North and East, there is something incredibly shocking about this peace-time terrorizing of entire villages by a Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman with political patronage and enjoying the support of the local police. Post war, Sri Lanka has become a vast criminal enterprise, run by thuggish politicians where courts of law have little voice and law enforcers have become worse than the law breakers. The murder of a respected senior planter in standing out against thug politicians of Deraniyagala was a distinct marker. Even at the height of the war, these were not normal occurrences.

Responsibility of government and opposition

The Deraniyagala atrocities took place over several years with terrible impunity and with the silence of Government as well as Opposition parliamentarians representing the Kegalle District. The Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister has rejected allegations that he provided protection for sponsoring and protecting former Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Anil Champika Wijesinghe at whose hands these atrocities occurred. Deputy Ministers from the District have also been quick, like Pontius Pilate of old, to wash their hands of responsibility. Yet, such bold violations of the law could not have been perpetrated by a mere Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman without active government protection.
The Kegalle District fields members of parliament who wax eloquent on matters concerning governance whenever it suits them. For instance, one such representative holding Deputy Ministerial rank was prominent among those who signed the impeachment motion against Sri Lanka’s 43rd Chief Justice. He was ill judged enough to publicly brag about this at an extraordinary meeting of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka called in December 2012 to discuss the issue. Predictably he was booed and hooted down in no uncertain terms by an enraged legal fraternity.

Yet his premise in explaining why he signed the impeachment was that he wanted justice and the Rule of Law upheld in Sri Lanka. True enough, these pledges were patently ridiculous and contradicted by the very process of the impeachment which was contrary to all rules of natural justice. And in line with the natural order of things in this regime, this government politician represents the District in which the Deraniyagala atrocities occurred but was presumably blind and deaf all the while.

Systematic and well planned reign of terror

The facts in Deraniyagala speak to a systematic and well planned reign of terror involving rape, gang rape, slavery and extortion of villagers. Police responsibility in aiding and abetting these incidents arise at high levels of seniority. At the time that DIG Vass Gunewardene was arrested for his alleged involvement in the contract murder of a businessman, it was common knowledge that such terrorist behaviour was not limited to one DIG alone. The sequence of events at Noori, Deraniyagala bear this out very well.

So we revert to what has become the commonest theme in these column spaces. In whom lies executive responsibility for what the villagers of Weliweriya and Deraniyagala have had to undergo? President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance that the complaints of the people will be inquired into, rings thin in terms of actual action. Undoubtedly, responsibility for the incidents is at the highest executive levels, with direct command responsibility vested in the Ministry of Defence.

For some years, we have had voices extolling the virtues of the Ministry of Defence in curbing terrorism in the North and East. Yet the ‘war’ has now come to the rest of the country. And the fact that this is through the hand of this government which boasts that it ‘liberated’ its own citizens is richly poetic justice indeed. We all need now to be liberated from our ‘liberators’ no doubt.

Simmering pockets of frustration and rage

The villagers of Weliweriya and Deraniyagala were able to draw public attention to their plight as they are members of the majority Sinhalese community. Tamil communities, which are even more paralysed by the post war militarization of their provinces, cannot protest even this much when injustice occurs.

The Weliweriya protestors will probably agitate for justice for the murdered teenager along the lines of the Katunayaka free trade zone workers, one of whom was also killed by indiscriminate fire by the police a while ago. Both protests will be of little avail. A few officers or local level politicians may be taken to court but the overall spectre of criminal enterprises built on political and police support that haunts Sri Lanka will not be affected. And by natural inference, it appears that this government does not care a hang for its own voters, so sublimely confident are they of their hold on political power in the face of a spectacularly impotent Opposition.

All over the country, there are pockets of simmering tension akin to Weliweriya and Noori which if left to bubble in inarticulate rage and frustration like this, will burst into open revolt one day. This is the pitiable state that Sri Lanka has been reduced to, quite predictably.

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Latest comments

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    impotent opposition, well said Kishali, we did not hear from Ranil of further agitation and seeking for justice at the Weliveriya, what he was requesting was independent inquiry!! dream on ranil, seems he does not understand political ground realities!, still believe he could rise to power in current system, quite evident when other MPs of his party visiting and having discussions with the local villagers.

    • 0
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      you don’t see an important fact here !How could we expect for him to change all these or agitate because if you think about what happened to the opposition today you realize how pathetic is the situation in it ! 65 senoior UNPIERS crossed over stating various reasons but you and me very well know what has really happened! most of them are well off with power and wealth after a few years! what happened to some of the key figures in JVP, socialists party and SLMC ? they also crossed over !and even if you have 100 elections you and me know what would be the results ! Don’t we ? you and me are aware why previous election commissioner had ‘AATHATHIYA'(stress). So I am sorry for my prediction, There won’t be a regime change for the next 100 year or so, and all the friends/associates /businessmen who is getting benefited from this regime will only say everything is fine and country is flourishing !

  • 0
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    These protestors clashed with the wrong people.

    Why these areas don’t have good drinking water? Because all good drinking water is wasted in Colombo City which is now occupied by aliens!!

    This is the real reason. Fix this problem first.

    They robbed your good water. Go after them!

    • 0
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      Mulliyawakal, Since you know so much could you please give leadership to bring the real culprits to book, and bring relief to these suffering poor.

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    A silent revolution through the ballot box is in the offing. The simmering anger among the people will burn all those who wield power today. I hope the people are presented a real alternative. Such circumstances come about rarely. JRJ was considered a desirable alternative to the disastrous Sirimavo regime, but turned out to be the Devil incarnate and accelerated the country on a course to where we are today- in the abyss. The Rajapakse regime is proof that unscrupulous and immoral politics always plays out the way it is now. DS ‘s, SWRD’s, Sirimavo’s, JRJ’s and RP’s governments were all steps in the downward direction our country has been driven, to reach the abyss we are in today with the MR government.

    I am beginning to think that something is wrong with us as a people, to have repeatedly permitted this decline to take place. Fortunately, MR has taken this decline to such depths of utter decadence and immorality that the people are shocked and angered to the extent I have not sensed before. The Internet and the mobile phone cum camera technological revolution, definitely has accentuated the degree of awareness of the people.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      I agree with you. Despite 40 years in politics Mahinda Rajapaksa does not understand what his duties are as President. He is of low intellect and it is unlikely that he can improve. I am not optimistic about a silent revolution through the ballot. My fear is that we may never have Presidential and General Elections again!

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    The Timber business by felling trees in the Kegalle District has been happening for a long while. It is also no secret that it was not only the work of the Chairman Pradeshiya Sabah, Atha Kota, but had much higher involvement of the Chief Minister Mahipala Herath and the top notch Police in the district for transporting the timber that were felled. This time round they felled the trees of an Estate reserve coming under the Management of an American Company, looked after by Nihal Perera the affable old planter who was killed because he stood in the way. The killing of Nihal Perera would have fallen to the same category like the Noori Estate labourers who paid with their lives and property for having reported such incidents before, as the Police informed who the complainants were to the perpetrators of this large scale Timber Racket that has been going on for the last fifteen years or so. This time round unfortunately for the Gang headed by the Chief Minister Mahipala Herath of this Timber Racket,who otherwise would have swept Nihal Perera’s murder also under the carpet, probably blaming on the Tamil labour of the area claiming of their early LTTE connections would have done so, but the American Company pressed for an investigation with the media in attendance. The flood gates opened and the whole village came out, led by the the village Buddhist priest and the Poosari of the Kovil and the whole story was splashed in the papers. IP Prabath Deshabandu who was posted as the OIC Deraniyagala did an honest job in revealing to the media as to how the Police high ups have been turning a blind eye for this Timber Racket operation to continue. The obvious deduction is that they would have been well looked after by the Chief Minister obviously. Now this same Police Officer for having done his duty, unearthing the villainy committed for a long time, has been transferred with immediate effect to a remote station at Padiyatalawa. This is obviously after this Police Officer had closed an illegal Wine Store in the area belonging to the main suspect of Nihal Perera’s murder, the Chairman PS(Atha Kota). Therefore going by this transfer of the Police Officer, it is doubtful that the Chief Minister Mahipala Herath led gang will be held accountable, as quite a number of Senior Police Officer’s holding Office now and in the past will be exposed. Hence it appears there is tremendous pressure notwithstanding the American Company’s demand for Justice, might go the same way as for the suspects of Shiek Khurram the British National murdered at Tangalle.

    Who is this Chief Minister Mahipala Herath? In the late ’60s he was working for the Co-Operative like how Mervyn Silva who is also a Minister in the MR govt. He had a Push Bicycle to get about. Then he joined the UNP and worked himself as a strong Politician by mere thuggery from the money he made from the Co-op. Then he crossed over to the UPFA where he rightfully belong as the Party is headed by the Chief Thug/Rogue/Murderer in the country. Today Mahipala Herath is one of the richest in the country with a swimming pool in his mansion in his home town Kegalle. He has been saved from being convicted on many a charge of arson and thuggery by none other than the present CJ Mohan Peries when he was in the unofficial Bar then. This has led the Chief Minister to be a very good friend of the CJ now. Not only God knows of crimes committed in this country but also God helps these Bastards to escape the Law as God’s man is there Heading the Judiciary. Way to go Sri Lanka.

    • 0
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      Gamini,

      Well written and thank you for doing so.

      As a wife of a planter I can tell you from experience many of these planters are at risk whenever they try to stop the illegal cutting down of trees in estate property, encroaching of estate lands, etc. Usually many of those who are guilty of these crimes are some way or another related to a politician or will run to a politician seeking their help to shut the mouths of these planters.

      My heart goes out to Nihal’s family and if something is not done soon about these type of crimes I dread to think how many more planters will face the same plight.

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