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Saturday, August 20, 2011

grease yakkas.............!!!!

Riots in London, grease yakkas in Sri Lanka and a pattern of growing youth unrest

By Upali Tennakoon |Lanka Independent Published on August 20, 2011 at 12:27 am

The latest terror to strike the already harried people of Sri lanka are the “Grease devils.” Called that for their strange costume with face hood and greased bodies these monsters have started to spread fear in many areas across the

Data from a Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) by Sri Lanka’s health ministry, published in the state-owned Daily News on May 29, revealed that child malnutrition is more than 50 percent in some areas of the East and North, with the national average at a record 29 percent.Photo taken from jdslanka.org

country. Their presence has already disrupted entire towns and the day to day activities of the citizenry and created mayhem across the country.

Serial killer

The terror is said to have started in the Kahawaththa region in the Ratnapura district with the killings of several elderly women by a mysterious serial killer who was later apprehended according to media reports. With widespread accusations against the Police for turning a blind eye to the terror the incidents turned into a media frenzy before investigators finally managed to capture the perpetrators.

Most of these Grease Devils entered houses at night in an attempt to abuse women. Some of them were involved in robberies too. According to some victims, these Grease Devils were wearing only undergarments and had applied grease all over their bodies.

Prevalent in the east

Their presence was most prevalent in seven districts in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. As the Inspector General of Police Mr. N.K. Illangakoon said there were more than 30 reported incidents and 47 individuals were taken into custody. But then the arrests themselves was to plunge the country into further chaos.

The arrests themsleves plunged the country into further chaos

Pottuvil

In Pottuvil, a massive demonstration ensued against the Police, demanding the release of 4 people who were taken into custody in connection with this situation.

Gampola

In Gampola, the Police arrested 5 suspects involved in robberies and spreading fear among the public under the guise of ‘Grease Devils’. There was another demonstration in Nawatkudi in Batticoloa district in order to urge the Police to expedite the investigations.

In some cases the Police blamed rumour mongers for creating wide spread panic about Grease Devils and arrested some of them. The same fear psychosis was prevalent in areas like Badulla, Mahiyanganaya, Girandurukotte, Rambewa, Siyambalanduwa, Alawathugoda, Kanthale, Ampara, Nuwaraeliya, Hasalaka, Ridimaliyadda, Bibila, Nawalapitiya,Kinniya, Muttur and Pottuvil.

Not to be undermined

However, no one should undermine the threat the Grease Devils’ impose upon civil life in these areas. Parents who go out to work on a daily basis were scared to leave their children at home, and women were reluctant to go out alone, fearing that they will end up victims of these “Grease Devils”.

Who are these Grease Yakkas (Devils)?

Who are these ‘Grease Devils’ that emerged so suddenly, sending shock waves across the country? Was it something spontaneous or was this a carefully orchestrated mechanism to create terror?

The Police maintain the grease devils were used to create fear among the citizenry for petty personal gains. The Senior Superintendent of Police for the Central Province Mr. Pujith Jayasundara told media reporters that the public should not be afraid of ‘Grease Devils’ stating that some people were trying to fulfill their evil desires by spreading fear among fellow citizens.

Opportunism

The situation could have gone out of control due to opportunism on the part of some who used the mayhem to unleash their frustrations out on society as well. Certainly SSP Jayasundera also indicated that some elements of the society were using this fear as a smokescreen to carry out sexual abuse and robberies.

Clearly the demonstration at Pottuvil against the arrest of 4 people connected to the Grease devil saga sends a message to society about the background of such incidents. On one hand, it implies that the Police may have arrested a group of people who were not linked to these incidents in any manner. On the other it shows that there are many people who support these arrested individuals and that they are popular amongst the villagers.

London riots

Coincidentally, several days ago, there was a similar sort of turmoil in the United Kingdom as well. Even though it may have seemed different on the surface the core problem is still the same. In Britain it all started following the killing of a youth by the British Police. An independent committee was appointed to probe into this incident and the committee concluded that the youth had not done anything to provoke such an action and the police was entirely responsible for the killing.

Protesting a killing

As a consequence, a large number of youth in that area gathered in front of the Police station to show their agitation against the killing and following this protest a tense situation occurred. Furious protesters burnt down buildings, while

London's burning! Photo taken from Boston.com

others started looting money and goods from nearby shops. Within hours, this turmoil spread across the United Kingdom and some people looted money in broad daylight even in the presence of the Police. Youth wreaked havoc in London severely threatening the stability of the democratic nation.

Frustration

The major reason for the ensuing havoc was nothing but dissatisfaction among the youth. There wasn’t an organization or a specific leader behind this unrest and everything emerged spontaneously. The youth became involved in violent anti-state activities notwithstanding the orders issued by the British government to the police to crackdown on the violence.

Curtailing concenssions will lead to unrest

In the recent past, some of the concessions the English government provided to unemployed youth were curtailed due to various reasons. In this context it is not difficult to understand that the youth unrest in England was merely an expression of frustration at the prevailing situation. The killing of a youth by the Police merely provided the push for the entire scenario to take place.

When a society is ‘stressed out’ due to various socio-economic reasons, it will be displayed in various forms. In Sri Lanka it surfaced under the guise of ‘Grease Devils’. In the United Kingdom it emerged as ‘youth riots’.

Blaming the JVP for the Yakkas

The government, as usual, tried to blame the grease devil phenomena on the JVP claiming that it is the hidden hand behind these mysterious “Grease Devils”. The JVP has already issued a statement vehemently rejecting the accusations. This imprudent approach shown by the government will do little or nothing to solve the problem and will only exacerbate the prevailing situation.

Green light

Moreover it will become a green light for the Police to crackdown on members of the JVP and the public will lose faith in the institution which is established to ensure law and order in the country. Government interference in police activity and its attempt to make Police officers dance to its own tune will result in further distruct of the police force by the citizenry.

Rioting began in London August 6 and spread to several other English cities. Police were criticised for responding too slowly, particularly in London, but eventually deployed huge numbers of officers at riot zones to quell the mayhem. Across the country, some 3,000 people were arrested and about 1,400 of those charged with riot-related offenses. Courts opened around-the-clock for several days to deal with the flood of suspects.

In Sri Lanka, ‘the youth’ have to confront various problems such as unemployment and poverty. There is no transparent mechanism to recruit employees to the government sector. All these factors have collectively caused ‘dissatisfaction’ amongst the youth.

50,000 applicants for 50 jobs

Recently there was a tense situation in Colombo when the Foreign Employment Bureau started issuing application forms for the Korean language test for applicants who seek job opportunities in Korea. Some of the applicants who came to Colombo to obtain applications started a protest against the Bureau to show their agitation about, what they term as the unfair manner in which the Bureau issued application forms. More than 50,000 applicants will face the Korean language test in order to compete for 50 job vacancies in Korea. Little wonder the frustration and desperation among youth!

Poverty rate soaring

In Sri Lanka the poverty rate stands at 12.6 percent. In the estate sector, the situation is even worse since the poverty rate stands at 25.8 percent. If we consider the poverty statistics on a provincial basis, it clearly shows the gravity of this problem.

In the Uva province the poverty rate stands at 23.8 and in Sabaragamuwa it is 20.2% while the poverty rate in Central

Pro government and anti government protesters face off in Egypt. Photo taken from http://reddogreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Egypt-Protesters-face-off.jpg

province stands at 18.2. In all the provinces, except the Western province, poverty rate exceeds the 10% mark. These figures are based on the statistics issued by Census and Statistics Department for the 2006-2007 because those are the “latest” statistics available in the official website of the department.

Jobs jobs jobs

Unemployment of the youth, in the age range of 15-24, stands at 15.7 while the age range 25-29 has an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. 10% of the students who passed the Advanced Level examination suffer from unemployment. 5.3 % of the students who passed the Ordinary Level examination have failed to find jobs. ( 2011 – 1st quarter )

It is no wonder that the youth in Sri Lanka are undergoing severe trauma due to various problems. These frustrations are bound to manifest in several ways and this pattern can be stretched out to any country in the world. These “Grease Devils’ of Sri Lanka should not be taken as an isolated matter but rather as an indication of the far greater socio-economic realities now facing Sri Lanka.

Egyptian unrest

To avoid such outbreaks, the government has to work with prudence and political foresight. If allowed to escalate it could climax in disaster and chaos. In Egypt, dissatisfaction among the youth was the major force that ousted President Hosni Mubarak who governed the country for nearly 40 years.

Kabir Hasheem warns

UNP Parliamentarian Mr. Kabir Hasheem at a press conference told media today that what may have begun as a joke should not be treated as one anymore as it has escalated to seriously dangerous proportions. The Grease Yakka situation

UNP Parliamentarian Kabir Hasheem at the Press Conference

has created clashes between communities and villagers, there has been loss of life and civil society has clashed with police and other officials, Mr. Hasheem said.

He also pointed out that even though this was holy month for Muslims, villagers and women were afraid to leave their homes or to even go to mosque.

Mr. Hasheem reiterated the importance of looking into this matter stating Sri Lanka has one of the oldest police forces and they should be able to take care of this situation warning that more politicisation of the force could lead to suspicion and a lack of confidence in the police. The parliamentarian suggested that community based protection units should be set up at village level and these civil protection organisations should work together with the police and the government agents to protect the communities.

Certainly most of the areas from which spawned these mysterious Grease Devils were some of the most poverty stricken areas in Sri Lanka. As long as we don’t address the root causes for social malfunction “Grease Devils” will appear in different forms and various degrees of fancy dress. It is a phenomena that should be examined and researched by social scientists and an issue that deserves the immediate attention of the government.

Upali@lankaindependent.com

Defence authorities have ordered a crackdown on vigilantes hunting down the so-called “grease yakkas’ after five people were killed and several wounded in the ongoing drama which has reached such disturbing proportions that leave for policemen in the east has been cancelled with immediate effect. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Pujith Jayasundara said the situation had gone out of control and stern action would be taken against those found taking the law into their hands. He, however, conceded that the police must share part of the blame. “These so-called “grease yakkas do not exist but the scare has been built up by different persons and groups with ulterior agendas. These persons include illicit gem miners, loggers, poachers, thieves, perverts and to a lesser extent common pranksters,” DIG Jayasundara told the Sunday Times. He also said senior police officers in the affected areas had been ordered to fan out into the villages and allay their fears. “This is something that should have happened in the first place. But it was not the case, and as a result the problem was allowed to develop into a full blown crisis, causing deaths, hatred, fear and a lack of trust in the police,” the DIG said. He said senior police officers had also been requested to work together with religious heads and form committees with respected elders and other individuals. “The fear needs to be overcome and everyone should work towards this end,” he said. The DIG said so far 47 persons involved in this scare drama had been arrested. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse also warned people against taking the law into their own hands, adding that the police must also take part of the blame for the current situation. Meanwhile tension was running high in Pottuvil in the Amparai district yesterday after one man was killed when police were forced to open fire on an unruly mob that had begun to stone the local police station. The protesters were demanding the release of three persons taken into custody on Thursday night. They were a part of a larger group that had attacked a group of army and police personnel who were mistakenly thought to be night stalkers or “grease stalkers”. Meanwhile two men were hacked to death inside a tea estate at Haputale after they were suspected to be grease yakkas while another youth was electrocuted while giving chase to a suspicious person in Kandy. Another man was hacked to death by a woman at Amparai after he tried to pull a “grease yakka” scare on her while she was sleeping at her home. A senior police officer was yesterday rushed to the East following protests and mounting tension at Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil after a man died in a police shooting. DIG Pujith Jayasundara was sent from Kurunegala to defuse the situation in the area, officials said. DIG Jayasundera had been successful in arresting the serial killer who hacked to death three women on an estate in Kahawatte early last month. PHOTO: Police in Sigiriya yesterday arrested a man who, according to them, fitted the description of a grease yakka.They said he was wearing a balaclava (face hood) and a pair of gloves and had applied grease on his body. Among the items found in a bag he was carrying were women’s underwear, the police said. Text and photo taken from The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka 14 August 2011. See original at http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110814/News/nws_02.html Pic by Kanchana Kumara Ariyadasa

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ranil ‘can’t win elections’ a myth:

Ranil ‘can’t win elections’ a myth: Replacing UNP leader will be a dangerous experiment

By Upali Tennakoon |Lanka Independent Published on August 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Is there value in ousting Ranil?

When a political party faces a series of defeats over a considerable period, there is a tendency for

Ranil an 'experienced and thoughtful leader'

internal conflicts to occur. The UNP, the main opposition party which was expelled from power in 1994 is still struggling to come out of that chasm for nearly 17 years. There is a general perception that the Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe cannot win elections. Everybody talks about ’ousting Ranil’ and bringing someone else in. Is this really going to work? Will Mr. Wickremasinghe’s prospective successor overcome all the prevailing troubles and turn the UNP into a victorious party?

Real revamping or useless talk

I think it’s high time to discuss these matters in a thoughtful intelligent way. The internal conflicts within the UNP which were prevalent for quite some time now, have intensified after the landslide defeat the party suffered during the recent local government elections. After the defeat, many people said and wrote many things about revamping, restructuring and resurrecting the party.

A pragmatic approach that benefits the UNP is needed

Some of these suggestions are very useful and some are not. And we must admit that some of these suggestions indirectly serve the intentions and political well being of President Rajapakse and his government. Therefore, the UNP needs a

Sajith Premadasa: Popularity waning?

pragmatic approach towards this problem. That pragmatic approach should benefit the party, country and the citizenry. These reforms and changes should not be based on jealousy and hatred. Instead, they should strengthen the unity among the leaders, members and supporters of the party.

SLFP was in opposition 17 years too

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was also in the opposition for 17 long years from 1977 to 1994. During this time, the party was plagued by various internal crises. Quite naturally any political party has to face such internal conflicts, when it languishes in the opposition. This is a common reality for any political party in the world. Therefore, in order to avoid such rifts, these parties make various kinds of reforms and changes from time to time so that they can strengthen the party mechanism to regain power.

Replacing leader only an experiment

Therefore, the United National Party also needs a change. But what is it? Is it just ousting the party leader or something deeper and more productive than that? Replacing a leader will always be an experiment. For the UNP, this is not a time to invest too much in experiments because if they go wrong it will only serve to worsen the prevailing crises within the party.

The Sarath Fonseka experiment

The United National Party did a ‘great’ experiment by supporting the common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka in the 2010 presidential election. But at the end of the election, the common opposition candidate couldn’t even secure the

Karu Jayasuriya (R): 'Widely respected'

vote base which the UNP leader had in the presidential election in 2005. This risky experiment hurled the UNP supporters from the frying pan into the fire. It was totally a failure.

Fragmented

That is why the party should be very thoughtful when it is making drastic changes? Can a leadership change alone solve all the troubles that haunt the party? The UNP is now broken into many pieces. A large number of party supporters are inactive at the moment and they have adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy. There is another section of supporters who are still engaged in party activities, regardless of all the vicissitudes.

Enemies of the leadership are serving the enemies of the party

At the same time, there is another section of party activists whose behaviour is very detrimental to the party and its future. They are the people who criticize the party leader publicly and spread the idea that ‘Ranil cannot win elections’. Most of the people are engaged in this because they have ulterior motives and at the end of the day they are serving the enemies of the party. Sometimes, some of them might not be intending to pull back the party by their criticisms but anyhow that is the ultimate result.

We need a leader with different ideas to that of the ruling regime

It is quite obvious that the party leader has a huge role to play. Mainly, he has to unite all these factions and garner their support in all the activities of the party.He should have the knowledge experience and decision-making abilities. At the same time, he should have an alternative plan to address all the unaddressed socio-economic problems of this country which will be a vital factor for his success.

He should be an ‘out of the box’ thinker who can introduce new methods and solutions when it comes to addressing problems. His approach towards such questions should not be coterminous to that of President Mahinda Rajapakse, which is already proved to be ineffective. People have no use for a leader who seeks to implements plans and policies similar to Mr. Rajapakse’s.

Politically astute, internationally savvy

He should be a leader who can move along well with other nations and a person who can muster the support of the international community.In addition to this, people should recognize him as a leader who doesn’t give false promises on which he cannot deliver.

JR was labelled an imperialist too

Once, the late president J.R. Jayawardena also had the ‘imperialist’ and ‘anti-sinhala buddhist’ label and therefore he didn’t have much support from the grassroots level. But in 1977, he stormed into power with an overwhelming majority and established one of the most powerful governments in Sri Lanka’s history.

History repeats itself and the party can definitely make this happen again. That is why the party should be united and focus on its plan to regain power.

Can’t please everybody

There are some leaders who say “yes” to all the elements and struggle without being able to deliver on their promises. The UNP leader should be someone who has a backbone and therefore he must behave like a true leader. This doesn’t mean that he should act like an autocratic and totalitarian leader who suppresses and crushes all dissident viewpoints, but he should have the ability to pay attention to all voices and make the best and ideal decision in a straight forward manner. Basically, he should be a leader to and of everyone.

Who will lead and who is suitable?

Given all these circumstances,necessities and conditions we can analyze the leadership hopefuls of the UNP at this moment.

Karu Jayasuriya

Mr. Karu jayasuriya is widely regarded as a good gentleman. he is characterized with many good and magnanimous qualities. He is a man of principle and has already rendered a great service to the party. In the same way, he is indeed a popular leader among the public. He’s widely regarded as a person who doesn’t give false promises. Even as a person, he has many great qualities and I too can stand by this fact.

But, if he’s elevated to the leadership at this moment, it will possibly jeopardize his entire career as a politician. What if he fails to deliver the desired results? Then he will be downgraded as a leader and hence the party will lose one of its greatest assets. If he becomes the leader riding the crest of an ‘anti-Ranil’ wave he will surely be a hostage of the anti-Ranil elements in the party. Because they are the ones who elevated him to the leadership and this will not help the betterment of the party.

Sajith Premadasa

Mr. Sajith Premadasa is the other hopeful for the party leadership. He is widely considered as a popular leader. But there has been an erosion of his popularity too due to some of his recent activities. It is Mr. Premadasa’s duty to protect his popularity by his deeds. Otherwise he will also have to face the very same destiny. Sajith Premadasa has a huge response from the grassroots level. In the same way, he has the support from youth elements too. These two factors are essential to bring back the party to power. Therefore Mr. Premadasa’s support is vital for the party to battle against the Rajapakse regime.

Ranil Wickremasinghe

Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, on the other hand, is an experienced, intellectual leader who has gathered a lot of experience as a deputy minister, cabinet minister, prime minister,party leader and a leader of the opposition. He has come across so many vicissitudes and faced numerous challenges. In the early days, Mr. Wickremasinghe played a key role in J.R. Jayawardena’s cabinet as the Education minister and no one in the present UNP has that advantage. In addition to that. Mr. Wickremasinghe has a huge acceptance in the international domain.

But, there is a widespread speculation, even among the party members that Mr. Wickremasinghe cannot win elections. We should analyze that point deeply.

RW can’t win elections – a myth

In the recent local government election, the government received 4296207 votes. The UNP received 2360922 votes.

Ranil got more votes individually in 2005 than the UNP as a party in 2001 and 2011

In the presidential election in 2005, Mr. Wickremasinghe as an individual exceeded this number and he obtained 4706366 votes. In that election, a percentage of 73.73 voters cast their votes. This ( 4706366 ) even exceeds the number of votes that the party obtained during 2001 general election ( 4086026 ), with a little margin. Even in that election, a percentage of 76.03 voters cast their votes and the UNP secured a clean victory.

Stolen election: President Mahinda Rajapakse won the 2005 presidential election with the slimmest of margins amidst wide scale violations of laws and the deliberate disenfranchisement of nearly half a million voters

In the presidential election in 2005, Mr. Wickremasinghe was defeated with a thin margin of 180786 votes. President Mahinda Rajapakse won that election obtaining 4887152 votes. As independent political analysts say, Mr. Wickremasinghe almost won the presidential election in 2005, in spite of the label which was pasted on him by the opposition as a ‘Pro-LTTE’er.

Tamil Tiger deal and disenfranchisement

Mind you Mr. Wickremasinghe nearly won despite the fact that Tamils in the North were not allowed to vote and nearly 350,000 voters many of them from ethnic and religious minorities traditionally voting with the UNP in the south were deliberately disenfrachised by striking them off electoral lists.

Mr. Wickremasinghe nearly won even though at the very last moment, the LTTE prevented the people in the North from voting and it turned the entire election result on its head. There were more than 200,000 votes in these areas and these votes could have easily made the difference. There is a widespread speculation that the LTTE made this move, as the result of a dirty money deal.

2011 LG election voter turnout

In the recent Local Government election, only 65.57% voters have cast their votes. Those who did not make it to polling stations stand at 34.43%. It means that in the recent LG election, 4524291 (more than 4 and half million ) voters have not come to the polling stations. This even exceeds the number of votes which the government had obtained, by a margin of 200,000 votes.

The UNP needs 2 million votes to be formidable

If the UNP can get another 2 million votes out of this 4.5 million, then the party would be in a formidable position. These ‘missing votes’ actually belong to the UNP. The task remains ahead if the UNP is to regain this ‘lost’ vote base. It is crystal clear that Mr. Wickremasinghe still has the ability to form a government.

There was a move by the party seniors to oust him from leadership in 2000 but, one year later, in 2001 he was able to form a government. He almost succeeded in 2005 too. Nevertheless we have to admit that Mr. Wickremasinghe also has some faults which need to be addressed.

Need to be addressed

First of all, the party should be strengthened at the village level.In 1977, Mr. J.R. JAyawardena strengthened the party at the village level by collecting membership fees and making the villagers stakeholders of the party. All the MPs and organizers extended their fullest support to the leader. With this decision, Mr. J.R Jayawardena was able to resurrect the village level supporters.

Through out the party history, the UNP faced a few disastrous defeats, particularly in 1956 and 1970. Both these times, Mr. J.R. Jayawardena was the unshakable power which kept the party together without letting it fall apart. He made a strenuous effort to revive the party after devastating defeats and he succeeded on both occasions. So, it is not impossible for the present leaders to repeat this.

Only unity will help the UNP now

The UNP needs nothing but unity; the unity among its leaders and the unity among its supporters. The government has lavishly provided all the ‘raw materials’ and ‘prerequisites’ for the party to be united and forge ahead to form the new government.

The government survives because of UNP conflict

The government still survives without any trouble thanks to the numerous internal conflicts within the UNP. The government makes its utmost efforts to trigger the animosity between the UNP leaders and make these internal conflicts perpetual. So it’s high time the UNP leaders understood this situation.

Cake now cheaper than bread!

Sri Lanka is submerged in debt and all our resources are being exploited by foreign countries and they are making huge profits out of all these deals. Cost of living is sky rocketing and the government has fooled all the government sector workers by giving false promises about salary hikes. Even a loaf of bread has turned out to be a luxury food item. Amidst all these problems, how come the UNP remains silent?

That’s what the common man asks.

Even the common man should have uncommon opportunities

The UNP brought out a true revolution in 1977 and as a result of that, ’the common man’ could afford to buy a television, refrigerator or a vehicle. But, the party could not explain this reality to the public, in a convincing manner. How can anyone forget the enormous hardships we all had to face during 1970-1977 era. As a result of this, people rallied around the party and took the initiative to form a UNP government.

It is true that Mr. Wickremasinghe as well as the UNP, have to confront various problems and most of them generated from “within”. These internal knife jabs are more vicious than the attacks they receive from the outside( the government). But once everyone understands the reality, it would not be so difficult to resurrect and revive the party. All leaders should be wise enough to address the ‘core problem’ without clinging on to those less important, superficial matters.

If they cannot opt for the obvious right choice which is visible before their own eyes, it is nothing but sheer ignorance and misfortune and petty personal agendas and personal grudges. Then no one should bother about the party anymore.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mr President, Enough is Enough!



By Upali Tennakoon |Lanka Independent Published on August 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Our leaders often speak about media freedom and right to information. At the same time, they utter a lot about the safety

Uthayan news editor Mr. Kuhanathan receiving treatment at the intensive care unit of the Jaffna Hospital
of journalists and safeguarding journalism too. They try to appear as the messiahs of journalism and journalists. In a context such as this, it is strange isn’t it that journalists get murdered and assaulted in broad daylight?
Then there is a big question mark about the perpetrators of these attacks. So far, the Police Department has failed to trace the perpetrators who carried out these attacks against journalists and media institutions. The latest in a series of such incidents is the news editor of the Udayan newspaper in Jaffna, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan was attacked last week by two people who arrived on a motorcycle.
Critically injured
He was traveling to his residence after work and they had attacked him using iron bars. As a result of this attack, Kuganathan was critically injured. He was rushed to the ICU of the Jaffna hospital and thankfully survived. This is reminiscent of the way Lasantha Wickrematunge was attacked and killed in January 2009.
This is not the first nor the last attack against media. We can still recall similar sort of attacks which took place during the recent past. Some journalists were killed; some were injured and some barely managed to escape certain death. The attack against Kuganathan is just the latest incident. It will surely be replaced with another one in the near future.
Can we expect justice from this government?
The Free Media Movement (FMM) carried out a demonstration against this attack at the Lipton circle. Many articles have been written and many statements have been issued on this incident. Sooner or later, all these articles and statements

Five Colombo-based media organizations held a protest campaign at Lipton Circus, Colombo against the assault of Uthayan newspapers News Editor Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan in Jaffna. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa talking to foreign journalists on the same day said the attack on Kuhanathan was an isolated incident and a petty crime. Since year 2000, six employees of Uthayan newspaper including two journalists, Raji Varman and S.S.R. Sugirtharajan, have been killed. But the Sri Lankan authorities have not arrested a single person to date in connection with the killings.
will be swept and hidden under the carpet of the ‘past’.
No serious investigation had been conducted so far. No culprit had been captured and brought to justice. The Police have not traced a single clue. In this backdrop,media freedom organizations are carrying out demonstrations urging the government to apprehend the culprits who are responsible for these attacks.
This too shall pass
Given the track record of the government in this regard, can we expect justice from the government and its leaders? The attack against Kuhanathan is merely ’another incident’ for them. Therefore, quite obviously, the government will adapt a ‘this too shall pass’ approach to get over this situation just as they did in all the similar cases, in the past.
As we all can clearly see, the government doesn’t take such incidents seriously. During the recent cabinet briefing, the Media minister Keheliya Rambukwella mockingly said that he can’t do anything about these attacks except to visit the victims bearing offerings of oranges and king coconut.
Distant dream
Amidst this culture of impunity, the number of attacks against the media is rising rapidly. Journalists in the mainstream media do not seem to have understood this threat. Whenever there is an attack, it is just another incident for them and they do nothing more beyond superficial reporting. All of them are drowned in the darkness that has spread across the country by the government. In this context, Freedom of expression is only a distant dream for all Sri Lankans.
Proven modus operandi
The government and its leaders must be enjoying this “congenial” atmosphere. All the media institutions are being tamed someway or another and there is no one left to raise voice against the malpractices and misconduct of the government. A large number of journalists are compelled to live in exile but the government does not seem to be bothered about it. All the dissident voices have been silenced and the people who sing hosannas to the government are given various kinds of benefits and privileges.So the leaders can rule the country without any pressure from the media.
No wonder it has proved to be a successful modus operandi. The government y knows that silencing the media is the best way to “solve” all the un-addressed problems of the country. If journalists get beaten by goons from time to time , it is nothing but a huge shame on all the leaders of this government.
Humans or devils?
Basically, President Mahinda Rajapakse, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the Police Chief and all the ministers

Media Minister Mr.Keheliya Rambukwella: During the recent cabinet briefing, the Media minister mocked the media stating that he can't do anything about attacks on journalists except to visit the victims bearing gifts of oranges and king coconut.
of this regime should be ashamed of themselves for engendering this situation across the country. I wonder whether they have metamorphosed into devils because they don’t feel ashamed or disgusted about this loathsome culture of impunity.
Only devils can bear this much of disgust and shame but not humans. Therefore, our so called leaders act in the very same manner.
In this context, I think we need to discuss a bit about the so called investigations into attacks against media, conducted in the past. Once the President openly said that it is impossible to conduct investigations into these attacks because the journalists who were victimized by the attacks have fled the country. This jocular statement itself shows the lack of seriousness of their approach towards this problem.
Ridiculous statements
Then what about the cases where the victims were killed by the perpetrators? Should the murdered victims appear before puppet investigation teams and testify? These kinds of silly statements do not suit a democratically elected leader of a sovereign state. Perhaps President Rajapakse might be thinking that he has won everything just because no one questions his behaviour or exposes his ridiculous statements. But Mr President! If you think that way, I say, it’s a fatal

Inefficient, brutal, sycophantic: There has been an outcry in Sri Lanka against police brutality. There are regular deaths in detention - the government admitted in 2009 that 32 people died in custody that year alone. Decades of war have left some police officers feeling they are not accountable. The Police force has become a waste of public funds and a complete disgrace and utter embarrassment to its once dignified stature and to the memory of the officers and gentlemen of integrity who were once a part of that respected department
mistake.
I think it is essential to discuss about the role of the police. In most of the countries, Police and other law enforcement bodies conduct investigations without wasting time unnecessarily for clues or testimonies. All they need is an incident. When there is an incident they will start investigations and as they move along with that process they will find clues and testimonies.
But in Sri Lanka, this is happening the other way round. Here, victims have to appear before police and testify and provide clues. If things are happening in this manner, there is no point in feeding such a shameless ‘Police Department’ with millions of public money.
Tamil media has it worse than Sinhala media
The plight of Tamil journalists is even worse than that of the Sinhala journalists. Some of my friends who are working as Tamil newspaper editors have personally told me about the hardships they have to confront on a daily basis due to various factors. Their situation is pitiful and perilous. Journalism, for them, is a walk on a tightrope, between life and death. This situation was prevalent during the LTTE era but quite surprisingly it has not changed a bit even after the military defeat of the LTTE.
Pressure from all sides
During the period of war, their necks were squeezed by the LTTE. In the aftermath of war, Tamil journalists in Sri Lanka are pressurized by various groups and elements such as the EPDP and other Tamil political movements in North and East, the government and Tamil paramilitary groups connected to it, Army Intelligence units and perhaps the elements who represent the Tamil diaspora.
There were various instances where the distribution of newspapers in the north was obstructed by certain groups. Both the LTTE and the government forces were engaged in such two penny acts. The LTTE suspected that these journalists were supporting the government covertly in the same way the government suspected them about supporting the LTTE.
Trapped between lions and tigers
They were trapped somewhere in between the ’Lions’ and ‘Tigers.Even today, their situation remains the same. They cannot think or act independently. Sometimes they might be the only group of journalist in the world who confront such a dreadful situation. In Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country, the journalists are aware of the possible threats and flash-points. But in Sri Lanka, the situation is entirely different and you don’t have even a single clue about your ‘enemies’.
Apart from this, many groups and elements are reluctant to raise their voices on behalf of the Tamil journalists mainly because of the label that has pasted on them as ‘LTTE supporters’. So, anyone who speaks in favour of these handcuffed journalists will probably be named and defined as a ‘Pro-LTTE’er.This has silenced media and most of the civil movements from discussing matters pertaining to the Tamil media and journalists. I wonder whether there is a way to escape this unfortunate situation.
Risky armour
On the contrary, most of the LTTE leaders who carried out brutal attacks against civilians over the past two decade, have now become the pets of this regime. They are given all the privileges including ministerial, chief- ministerial portfolios and other benefits. Some of them serve as the advisers to the top officials of this government. Quite surprisingly, no one defines them as ‘Tigers’ just because now they have become lap-dogs and perhaps stake holders of this government. Still, no one understands the risk of this ‘amour’ but when they do, I am sure it will be too late.
All in all, we need to find a solution for all these problems. First of all, there should be unity within media circles pertaining to matters regarding the safety of journalists. Without taking this first step, there will be no way of ensuring media freedom in Sri Lanka. Not to mention the way the Egyptian state media personnel reacted when the then government of Egypt suppressed and curbed the people’s right to information in a decisive moment.
Turn those iron bars around
It indicated their frustration and disappointment with the functioning of the state media in Egypt. That can happen in Sri Lanka as well. We cannot believe that the media people in Sri Lanka are entirely happy about their working atmosphere. Most of them are carrying on their work just because they need a way to make ends meet. Now Kuhanathan is assaulted. But still, we have a role to play. All the journalists should rally around immediately to prevent repetitious attacks against media and journalists. If we do, then we will surely be able to turn those ‘iron bars’ the other way round.
A call to arms
The Free Trade Zone workers of Katunayake were strong enough to resist the blood-sucking pension scheme which was brought forward to siphon off their funds. Journalists have more power, energy and dynamism. So why can’t they come forward to stop these attacks? They should form a new movement which has the power and the strength to resist these attacks in an unshakable manner. Now it is high time to bring forth all our strength and say Mr President, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.