23 June, 2024


Where Journalists Self-Abduct & Ecocide Is Green

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two is four. If that is allowed all else follows.”__ Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

To mark the Global Climate Action Day, the youth wing of the Wild Life and Nature Protection Society put up a massive mural decrying ecocide.
The President’s environmental-loving soul was lacerated by that unsightly sight. The mural spoiled the environment, he explained. Environment is not being destroyed he said. No one knows environmental protection like I do, he added.

Sujeewa Gamage

Coaxing and compelling people into denying the obvious, the self-evident, is the starting point in any experiment in reality control. The Final Eelam War was a Humanitarian Operation with zero-civilian casualties. Open prison camps in which more than 300,000 civilian Tamils were incarcerated were Welfare Villages. The loss of nearly 15 billion rupees in the Sugar scam is not a loss but ‘foregoing of revenue’. Who needs Oxygen?

Forests are unruly, uncontrollable, wild badlands, like dissidents. They might even be unpatriotic since they obscure the vistas of prosperity and splendour. To protect the environment patriotically, you need proper parks, with neat trees, well-behaved wines, and disciplined bushes.

The Department of Wildlife Conservation is planning a change of laws to enable the sterilisation or killing of wild animals who ‘harm agriculture’. Presidential attention has been drawn by some monks to the dearth of tame elephants. The monks and the Tame Elephant Owners Association want a short and a long term plan to deal with this pressing national issue. Capture elephant calves, tame them through violence, bind them in leg iron, and condemn them to a life of enslavement as perahara fixtures or tourist attractions. Wouldn’t that be a final solution to the human-elephant conflict?

In a history-making development, the head of Sri Lanka’s indigenous people, Uruwarigelage Wannila Eththo (together with the Environmental Justice Centre) has filed a writ petition in the Court of Appeal about his community’s loss of ancestral land. In the petition, he claims that for countless generations, his community has lived in the mountain ranges of Pollebedda and Horikana. In 2020, 6000 acres belonging to this forest reserve had been divided into 15 parcels and sold to 15 companies by the Mahaweli Authority. The resultant environmental destruction will have wide ranging implications, because of its effect on the catchment areas of the Rambakan Oya reservoir, the writ petition warns.

“You cannot have development without destroying the environment,” claimed Minister Sanath Nishantha (he of ‘why oxygen?’ fame). That indeed seems to be the thinking of the current regime. But like our prudish-morality, this anti-environmental approach to economic growth is a residue of colonial thinking, and a legacy of laissez-faire capitalism which believed in subsuming everything to profit.

When the American Civil War broke out, the politically powerful textile manufacturers in England feared that the end of slavery would affect their supply of cheap cotton and tried to get England to enter the war on the Southern side. England’s Factory Act of 1844 banning the employment of children below 9 years of age and Mines Act of 1842 prohibiting women and girls from working underground and introducing a minimum age of 10 for boys were enacted over the objections of those who argued that the legislations would cause a decline in family income, a collapse of industry and massive unemployment. History proved them wrong.

Last week, the skies in Beijing turned orange due to a massive sandstorm and air pollution, the direct result of environmental degradation around the city. As the UN Secretary General warned, humanity’s war on nature is “senseless and suicidal.”

“The ongoing environmental destruction is a worse danger than the pandemic,” Wannila Eththo has stated. If kumbuk trees in Kataragama are being felled to facilitate helicopter landings, if the Wildlife Minister forcibly frees a timber racketeer detained by Wildlife officials, then the message is clear. Ecocide is no accident or oversight. It is Rajapaksa policy. An environment degraded beyod the point of no return might well become the only lasting Rajapaksa legacy.

Tentacles of Repression

On Global Day for Climate Action, the director of the Environmental Police came in person to the Vihara Maha Devi Park to remove the mural decrying ecocide. Smiling benignly, the senior policeman explained that the mural uglifies our beautiful Colombo. “There was garbage everywhere in the city,” he explained. “But after the new government came in there’s no garbage anywhere. No dust. Everything is cleaned, flowers are planted, beautified.” Then he delivered the piece de resistance. “See even this conversation about the environment is happening after our government came”

Our government! A senior policeman, blessed with an abundance of zeal and a paucity of discretion, acknowledging the police’s new role as propagandists for and enforcers of the Rajapaksa regime.

Kings and monkeys.

No wonder the police rushed to question that courageous young woman, Bhagya Abayaratne, for exposing the degradation of the Sinharaja forest.  No wonder the police tried to lock up journalist Sujeewa Gamage, for claiming that he was abducted and tortured. What else can the police do, given their new role, but discredit messengers and turn victims into criminals?

When Bhagya Abeyratne appealed to the conscience of a nation with her passionate words on Sirasa Lakshapathi quiz programme, her visibly concerned father expressed his fear that they will not be able live in the village. The police not only questioned Ms. Abeyratne. They reportedly made enquiries about her family in the village, probably in the hope of digging some dirt and using it to frighten her into silence or discrediting her voice.

After his alleged abduction, journalist Sujeewa Gamage was warded in the National Hospital for several days. When he was discharged, the police were waiting for him. He claims that he was forced to consent to a false confession. He also claims that the threats levelled at him included the decapitation of his wife and harm to his young son.

His story indicates a possible pattern. The police tried to get several children to give false evidence against lawyer Hejaaz Hisbullah. This illegal attempt was made in the magistrate’s chamber, in his presence. The revelation was made by the magistrate himself in open court. Police Sub-Inspector Sugath Mohan Mendis informed the Gampaha magistrate that he was arrested because he refused to give false evidence against Shani Abeysekara.

In a letter written to the Human Rights Commission, the lawyer for the jailed poet Ahnaf Jazeem claimed that his client is being threatened to make incriminating admissions. He also claimed that Mr. Jazeem was handcuffed to a chair for the first two weeks of his detention. 

What seems evident is a concerted attempt to use the entire state machinery to discredit anyone who wittingly or unwittingly contradicts the Rajapaksa narrative. This was how Rajapaksa law and Rajapaksa justice worked during Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency. For example, In 2011, Mohan Peiris informed the UN Committee Against Torture, “Our current info is that Mr. Ekneligoda has taken refuge in a foreign country… It’s not something that I am saying with a tongue in my cheek, it’s something that we are reasonably certain of…” But when cross-examined during the court hearing into Mr. Ekneligoda’s disappearance in 2012, Mr. Peiris said: “I have no information that the corpus is alive or not and I do not think the government does either and that God only knows where Ekneligoda is.” This was the man handpicked by the Rajapaksas to be AG, Chief Justice, and is now Sri Lankan’s UN Ambassador.

Once again, public officials are being used as Rajapaksa apologists and defenders, in direct violation of their duties and responsibilities. Once again, discrediting the government is treated as an unpardonable crime. This is the context in which the latest addition to the PTA should be viewed.

The Prevention of terrorism (De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology) Regulations No 01 of 2021 can result in the mass incarceration of minorities and opponents of the government, without even a faux trial. Given its wide scope and ambiguous wording, this gazette can enable the police to detain anyone on suspicion of being an extremist, and to condemn him/her to a ‘rehabilitation centre’ for a period of one year with only the consent of the AG and a magistrate. There will be no trial. In all probability, the suspect will not be given a chance to refute the charges against him/her.

Are the Rajapaksas borrowing a page from the political playbook of their Chinese masters? Is this the Lankan version of China’s Transformation through Education project which has caused incarcerated around one million Uighurs?

The internment might begin with Muslims, but it won’t be long before other communities too fall victim, including those Sinhalese who insist that two plus two is four and ecocide is happening. 

Reality Control

Under Rajapaksa rule, sugar is the bitterest pill to swallow. The rupees 15.9 billion loss – or the foregoing of revenue, as the Treasury Secretary phrased it – is probably the biggest scam in the scam-ridden history of independent Sri Lanka.

According to media reports, the lion share of the ‘foregone revenue’ has turned into a gained revenue for one company, Pyramid Wilmar Ltd, a subsidiary of Wilmar International, a global leader in agribusiness, especially Palm Oil. The head of Wilmar International, Kuok Khoon Hong is a member of well known Kuok business family which owns the Shangri-La hotel chain. Colombo Shangri-La was built on the land that once housed military headquarters. The land was sold to the Shangri-La during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Since the hotel’s opening in December 2017, it hosted several Viyath Maga events including a gala gathering at which Gotabaya Rajapaksa presented his Vision 2030 policy programme.

Last week, the State Minister of Health abruptly and arbitrarily sacked four board members of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority. The NMRA chairman resigned in protest. According to media reports, the NMRA had withheld approval for China’s Sinopharm vaccine, probably on the very sound ground that the WHO is yet to approve it. The board was immediately stocked. The newly reconstituted board bestowed its approval on the Sinopharm vaccine with no delay or ado.

The Rajapaksas might be inept at controlling inflation or fulfilling myriad election promises. But when it comes to taking care of their interests, they never prevaricate. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the opposition.

The opposition’s inaction means that some issues go unchallenged, while in others fringe elements are filling the vacuum. For example, the ultra racist Sinhala Ravaya is rapidly taking over the ecocide issue. The monks went to Sinharaja to visit the land Bhagya Abayarane talked about and are leading the protest against the alleged construction of a road through Rumassala to a hotel owned by Dudley Sirisena. If this process continues, the oppositional space too will become Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist and not truly Lankan. Quite apart from the undesirability of such an outcome from a national point of view, an abiding lesson in Lankan electoral history is that the UNP has never won any national election without minority support. That would be true of its offshoot SJB as well.

The politicised monks might cavort in the oppositional space, but when it comes to election times, they will go with the Rajapaksas. Their allegiance to Rajapaksa politics seems way greater than their adherence to the Buddha’s teachings. When Medagoda Abayatissa thero was asked about ongoing militarisation, he began his answer by saying, “The Lord Buddha ensured the discipline of monks through a total military training” (Ravaya – 31.1.21). In trying to win over such elements, the opposition is likely to stay silent or respond just marginally to some of the most damaging of the Rajapaksa measures such as the proposed extra-judicial internment of suspected extremists.

In his review of Alan Mikhail’s God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, his Ottoman Empire and the Making of the Modern World, Charles Saravan emphasised Islam’s history of openness and tolerance. This extended beyond the Ottoman Empire. For example, Muslim Granada and Cordoba had about 12 synagogues each at a time Jews were bloodily persecuted in the rest of Spain. This history is something both anti-Islamic extremists and Islamic fundamentalists deny. The best way to counter Islamic extremism lies in this history and not by interning any Muslim who says something unacceptable to a bigot of another religion.

The new gazette, by enabling mass internment, will create new breeding grounds for extremism. And nothing would serve the Rajapaksa project better. That way, Sri Lanka, like Orwell’s Oceania, will never lack enemies, and will ever be susceptible to the false promises of self-proclaimed deliverers.

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Latest comments

  • 17

    Dear Ms Gunasekara,
    People of this country are eternally pathological memory losers, they pave the way alleged high criminal s to their return. As of today nothing is achieved for the benefit of the masses in the country. Buggers have proved that arr in capable of handling even small issues like keep control the prices of daily needs. Nor have they contain ed the virus from spreading, they were barbaric to go for forced cremation s of Muslim Covid deaths, they put people’s injustice fighters in jail. This president for all his deliberately committed high crimes should long have been jailed if justice prevails in this country, UNHRC over to u u have not yet made the decision!!!!😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉

  • 15

    Sri Lanka molded by the Sinhalese Buddhist majoritarian leaders since independence is swirling down the death spiral: This is our achievement in 73 years!

    Sinhalese Buddhist masses, and others too, are foolishly lead by these wicked pipers down the precipice.

  • 6

    In short
    Sinhala Buddhist haters have no voice in the society now.
    Mangala Samaraweera had to withdraw from election to avoid humiliating defeat.
    Ranil W got 1.7% less than AKD.
    It’s high time that you mind your own business.

    • 14

      S. C. Passqual

      “It’s high time that you mind your own business.”

      As far as TG is concerned she seems to be minding her own business brilliantly for a long time. Being an active Columnist it is her business to dig dirt in Gota’s field. However it appears that Gota has failed to carry out his duties as defined by the constitution. Instead the man just loiters, talk nonsense, threaten innocent people, visits Vihares, ……………………..
      Hasn’t he got anything better to do?

  • 14

    S. C. Passqual

    “It’s high time that you mind your own business.”

    As far as TG is concerned she seems to be minding her own business brilliantly for a long time. Being an active Columnist it is her business to dig dirt in Gota’s field. However it appears that Gota has failed to carry out his duties as defined by the constitution. Instead the man just loiters, talk nonsense, threaten innocent people, visits Vihares, ……………………..
    Hasn’t he got anything better to do?

  • 14

    There is some truth in what the writer says although there is a slant and over emphasis on certain things. However the biggest question is , after a great fight, with great hope, when Rajapakses were removed in 2015, how did they come back so strongly in 2019 ?

    One name. Ranil Wickramasinghe.

    This cunning , selfish and empty man has the UNP in his slimy grip and the Colombo middle classes totally fooled.

    He pretends he has the answers. Every time he comes to power, ends in total disaster.

    Still , he remains leader of UNP and has now appointed his nephew the deputy leader of the UNP.

    Why not write about Ranil, the curse on the nation ?

  • 12

    TG, you have sumed up the current happenings in SIrcular’s Lankawe. Buckle up this is just the beginning, there is plenty more to come. The people here boast about millions who voted for Mr.SIrcular. The same will not have anymore opportunities to vote them out. Rajapaksas are here to say. Soon few will get to streets with their issues and that will be their “Judgement Day”. So lets wait.

  • 8

    Sad thing is all these critics of the present regime never strive to promote a single opposition to contest against the Family (and its party). While supporters of the Family are bound together, others are going in different ways leaving the path clear to the former.

  • 3

    “The Final Eelam War was a Humanitarian Operation with zero-civilian casualties. Open prison camps in which more than 300,000 civilian Tamils were incarcerated were Welfare Villages.”

    There was no Eelam war in Sinhale/Sri Lanka. There was a military operation to eliminate a bunch of Tamil terrorists who massacred Sinhalayo for three decades using suicide bombers, claymore bombs, multi-barrel guns and chemical weapons in order to establish a separate State for the descendants of Dravida coolies brought by colonial rulers to Yapanaya.

    Hypocrites do not want to accept liberating about 300,000 Tamil civilians who were kept as a human shield by LTTE is a humanitarian operation. If the Sri Lanka Army shelled the area where LTTE was taking cover using civilians they could have finished LTTE earlier saving many live of ‘Ranaviruwo’ but that could have caused a large number of civilian casualties.
    Telling Tamil civilians were incarcerated in open prison camps is a blatant lie. All the Tamils who surrendered to Sri Lanka Army were provided shelter, food and clothing. When they were in the human shield, they did not get food because LTTE cadres consumed the food meant for civilians. One UN Official had told Sri Lanka Army should be given a Gold Medal for the way they took care of Tamil civilians.

    Dumbos misinterpret the military term ‘Zero-casualties’ which means minimum casualties.

  • 6

    The biggest crisis facing humanity is global warming. We are living in the sixth mass extinction. Already a severe drop of 75% insects has been recorded. Many species are going extinct by the day. The Siberian Artic ( now the typical Sinhalese idiot will laugh as this is so far away that it does not concern him) is on fire. This is a peat fire that never goes out and cannot be put out. It started burning when the Artic experianced a heat wave with temps in the 90Cs. The temperature anomaly in the Artic circle is 20C above normal. IN 2019 140 Mega tons of CO2 were released for the year form these Siberian fires. In 2020 the figure went up to 204 Giga tons of Co2 but not for the whole year but for the months of June and July alone. In the decade of the 1990s 89 Billion tons of ice was lost per year averaged from Greenland and and Antartic. In the decade ending 2010 that number went up to 510 Billion Tons per year. These are not just stupid numbers they are real and based on data painstakingly collected by scientists. These increases are not linear but exponential. What that means is they are accelerating faster and faster.

  • 5

    The most recent IPCC report as well the the UN secretary generals landmark speech do not sugar coat this issue anymore. They are stark and urgent warnings. There is another catestrophy unfolding in the Artic. it is called Methane. Massive plumes of Methane have been observed escaping form the sea floor in the relative shallow waters off the Siberian Artic where there is not more ice and the oceans temperatures are quire warm. Methane is also escaping from the land where the permafrost is melting. Huge craters pock mark the landscape where Methane bombs have gone off. Methane is 84 time more powerfull than Co2 in the first 20 years at trapping Heat in the atmosphere. A Methane wale is slowly moving down for the Artic to cover the entire globe. A large body of scientist now believe that we have crossed the point of no return and that no matter what we do we cannot reverse out of this calamity. Others still remain hopefull. It is in this backdrop that the nutters including the chief nut carry out the destruction of Sri Lanka’s forrests.

  • 6

    On one hand they have saddled us with so much debt that importing food in a crisis may not be possible. On the other side they build hotels in wild life sanctuaries. A global food crisis will come very soon. Starvation and death awaits us. 69 million imbeciles voted for a bunch of retarded clowns at the very moment enlightened leader ship was required. So I suppose they richly deserve what they are getting.

    • 7

      Look at the pathetic cop, what a shame, this bugger should remove his uniform and go about in an amude. Shameless fool, bub sucking for survival. Ideal partner to Blind Eagle and Parangi HLD. Converting Buddhist paradise into bum sucking morons without the ability to think on their own.

      • 7

        [One UN Official had told Sri Lanka Army should be given a Gold Medal for the way they took care of Tamil civilians.]

        Moron Blind eagle, even you too deserve Gold medal for your lies and stupidity.

  • 5

    Ecocide that’s been happening in SriLanka is a huge tragedy that’s been unfolding. Now we have the Rajapaksas back at it to resume and accelerate the tragedy!

    This is yet another prime area of lawlessness in this country!

    Here’s a must see discussion with a panel of our top environmentalists (scientists and lawyers);

  • 7

    Orwellian predictions sound so eerily familiar, even if he was writing in the 1940’s of a hypothetical future world in the West. Are Sri Lankans doomed to destruction by their own hand?

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