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