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Written by Amali Dissanayaka
Published on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 09:17

Sunday Pol logo*Parallels drawn between Mavil Aru 2006 and Weliweriya 2013
*Force for Unity to take to the streets on Wednesday

Sunday Politics
With Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

“In the aftermath of war, much is being said about ‘uniting’ the country. We are also keen that this country be united, and that all its peoples live in harmony. As President Obama often says “E pluribus unum” – out of many, one. But one of the natural corollaries of unity is that when one is affected, all are affected. You cannot strike my brother, and not hurt me. You cannot take away my sister’s liberties, and not take mine. If we are all connected, we will all rejoice together, and suffer together.” – TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran in December 2011.

The Weliweriya incident on August 1st, from the protests that led to the date and afterwards, if nothing are a clear indication of the growing displeasure of the people towards an arrogant government.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government’s decision to unleash the armed forces on unarmed civilians demanding for their basic right of drinking water has been met with much indignation across the country. The common feeling is that there is a continuous trend of brutal force being used on people demanding for their rights.

The killing of Roshen Chanaka from the free trade zone, the fisherman from Chilaw, killing of prisoners in Welikada and Vavuniya and now two students and a youth in Weliweriya has created an impression that a gun would be pointed at any person regardless of age, cast, creed or occupation if they dare to demand their rights. If one were to look at it with a morbid sense of humour, it could be said that the Rajapaksa government did not discriminate where people fighting for rights were concerned.

It is common knowledge that suppression is a common trait of dictatorial governments and the inability of the Rajapaksa government to acknowledge and address this issue would have an adverse impact not only the administration, but the country and its people.
However, following the Weliweriya incident, the government in usual fashion is now making statements that the military attack was provoked by the villagers demanding drinking water. Given the statements that have been made by members of the government including the head of state, there is no surprise in hearing that the villagers were shot and young ones killed due to their faults.

Among the hilarious comments we have heard are that the head of state who is also the head of the cabinet being unaware of the hike in electricity tariffs a few months back and the statements that there was an attempt by the Media Ministry to surreptitiously introduce a code of ethics to the media without the President’s knowledge.
Be that as it may, whatever comments are made by the government, the Rajapaksa administration would have to take the blame for the killings and the attacks on people including media personnel in Weliweriya.
The iron fist on the country’s media was witnessed following the attack with a handful of private media institutions providing proper coverage of the Weliweriya incident. The media has been suppressed to such an extent that they are unable to even do justice by their colleagues who were injured when attacked by the military in Weliweriya.
The President in his capacity as Defence Minister has so far failed to make any statement on the Weliweriya incident.
President Rajapaksa who usually intervenes and sometimes even personally speaks to parties affected by violence has thus far remained silent. Even the SLFP Gampaha District Leader, Minister Basil Rajapaksa has remained silent.
There has been no comment made on the reason for shooting at two school children and a youth who was on his way home after work. If as claimed by senior members of the country’s defence establishment, shots were fired at persons who were behaving in an unruly manner and attacked the security forces, it would interesting for the entire nation to know how three youths had attacked the security forces.
The military and police have so far been unable to show any evidence to back the claim that the innocent villagers had infact “shot” at the security forces.Sunday P-August 11 2013

Sri Lankan security forces are reported to be among the best disciplined in the region, they are known to carry out their orders without fail. If that be the case, there is then a necessity to safeguard our security forces personnel from destructive elements in key positions in the government issuing orders to the military.


The Rajapaksa government would at some point face the fall out of the Weliweriya incident mostly because of the impact it would have on the Sinhala Buddhists in the country.
The ruling party’s political existence is based on whipping up patriotic and Sinhala Buddhist sentiments. Hence, an attack on a Sinhala village would also be viewed as an action against the Sinhala Buddhists.
Ven. Siridhamma Thero from the Galoluwa Temple who commenced a fast unto death demanding a solution to the water problem faced by the people in Rathupaswela has vowed to continue with the struggle.
Last week he claimed that the people who demanded for water were given bullets and that he would give leadership to the villagers to continue with the struggle.
The Thero’s comment is an indication of the power placed upon Buddhist monks by Sinhala Buddhist organizations operating with state patronage.
Extremist governing party allies, the JHU and the NFF have thus far been tight lipped about the Weliweriya incident. Ministers Champika Ranawaka and Wimal Weerawansa have not come forward to endorse claims made by their governing party colleagues that the villagers had brought upon the attack on themselves through their provocative actions.
The duo have also not expressed support to the Sinhala Buddhist villagers who were attacked and killed in Weliweirya.
The patriotism promoted by the Rajapaksa government through the prominence given to Sinhala Buddhism has now boomeranged on the administration. It is now facing the wrath of the people in the Gampaha District who for the first time are now openly speaking of the plight of their brothers and sisters in the North during the period of the war.

Deja vu?

Nevertheless, the Weliweriya incident on August 1st brings a feeling of déjà vu.
The parallel is the Mavil Aru battle in 2006 where villagers in the area were left without water when the LTTE shut the Mavil Aru anicut.
It was the closure of the Mavil Aru anicut and the water shortage faced by Sinhala farmers in the area that prompted the Rajapaksa government to engage in a humanitarian operation to first open the Mabil Aru sluice gates and to then continue to liberate the country from the LTTE.
Looking back at the final phase of the war, the entire operation was prompted by the closure of sluice gates of the Mavil Aru anicut and people demanding for water. It is this reason that defence analysts say that a key blunder made by the LLTE was to deprive people from their basic requirement water.
Interestingly, seven years later, the same government and military that fought to provide water to the people unleashed brute force on unarmed civilians who were also demanding for clean drinking water.
If parallels are drawn between the closure of the Mavil Aru sluice gates and the demand for drinking water by villagers in Rathupaswela, while the actions of the Rajapaksa government has been hailed for its actions in 2006, the latest situation in Rathupaswela has been the opposite.

Force for Unity

The continuous attacks carried out by the Rajapaksa administration has prompted the opposition political parties to form a broad alliance to fight for justice.
Force for Unity (Samagi Balawegaya) has been initiated by the main opposition UNP and is backed by other opposition political parties, civil society organizations, professional bodies and trade unions.
Under the theme of “enough is enough,” Force for Unity is to hold a massive rally in Colombo on Wednesday (14) at 2 pm.
This time around the organization has decided to hold a protest campaign that would be different to the usual protests organized by political parties and movements.
“We always organize protests where we hold placards and disperse after making a speech. That should not be the case. People have had enough and it is time that we all start showing our frustration,” UNP MP Harin Fernando said.
He explained that the government should not be allowed to think that the protest would only be one where people will hold placards and disperse.
Fernando’s sentiments were shared by all organizations that are to participate in the 14th rally.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that while the Weliweriya incident would form the basis of the campaign that is to be carried out by the Force for Unity it would be an inclusive campaign that would enable representatives from all sectors to join the process.
However, the success of the campaign would be further deepened if the JVP also joins in the campaign. Political differences apart, the greater need now is for all forces to join to win democracy and rights.
The JVP speaking of its decisions to form an alliance with the SLFP to form a probationary government and later the UPFA said that it was based on the need to defeat the greater menace faced by the country in the form of terrorism.
The party’s decision to form the UPFA and support President Rajapaksa assume office has nevertheless been successful since the LTTE was defeated and the war ended.
However, now the issue is get the country back on track by putting in place democracy, good governance and human rights.
The JVP would therefore have to now think again about its stances, especially where the current issues are concerned.

HR concerns

The timing of the Weliweriya incident would also pose a problem for the Rajapaksa government at the September UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva and at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo this November.
It is learnt that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay who is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on August 25 is expected to also probe the latest incident in Weliweriya.
Pillay is to present a report on her visit to Sri Lanka and the progress made in the country at the September sessions and the Rajapaksa government has so far failed to make any solid progress despite several attempts to implement some ad hoc decisions in a bid to please High Commissioner.
As for the Commonwealth Secretariat, the actions of the Rajapaksa government have undoubtedly added to the woes of the Commonwealth officials who are trying very hard to remain positive about holding the CHOGM in Colombo.
The United States meanwhile has expressed its concern over the shooting incident in Sri Lanka that resulted in the death of three people, and communicated its concerns to the Rajapaksa Government.
“We are concerned by recent violent incidents, including shootings in Weliweriya, Sri Lanka. We are particularly concerned by reports that people seeking refuge in a Catholic church were attacked there, there is never any excuse for violence attack particularly in a house of worship,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has been quoted in the media.
The United States offers its condolences to the family of the deceased and injured and continue to urge all sides to exercise restraint and respect right to people protest, she has said.
“We communicated our concerns as well to the Government of Sri Lanka,” Psaki has said in response to a question on the killing of three unarmed civilians by the Sri Lankan army.
It seems that the Rajapaksa government that successfully wiped out LTTE terrorism from the country should now consciously turn the searchlight inward.
“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it,” said Naom Chomsky, perhaps a quote for President Rajapaksa and his government to consider for the sake of a nation.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 09:17