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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

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


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.


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.


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

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.


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

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.

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 Pic by Kanchana Kumara Ariyadasa

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