Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00
The village of Noori in Deraniyagala has stayed in the headlines for the last few weeks as the venue of a plantation manager’s death but it will enter history as one of the few places where the people have decided to stand up against criminal, repressive and violent rule.
The superintendent of the tea estate, Nihal Perera, 71, was hacked to death by a group of people who were reportedly against the measures taken by the estate manger to curtail corruption and wastage. The Police believe a group of five assailants backed by a local politician had attacked Perera and two others. Perera died of his injuries and the cap was blown off years of criminal and violent activities in the area.
Reportedly, the former Chairman of Deraniyagala Pradeshiya Sabha Anil Champika Wijesinghe and other ruling party politicians were alleged of interfering with the management of the estate. There are also allegations that when previous threats were reported to the Police, no action was taken.
This week ,the villagers of Noori gathered together to publicise the untold tales of rape, arson, murder and other forms of victimisation that they had endured for years under Wijesinghe. Many were the heartrending stories that unravelled, of mothers keeping their daughters at home for months on end to protect them from being abducted and raped, of raped women being denied justice, of fathers being thrown in jail on trumped up charges because they dared to complain against Wijesinghe. The tally of crimes is long and clearly implicates the police as well as Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister Mahipala Herath.
Security has degraded to the extent that the villagers have appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to station a permanent contingent of Special Task Force (STF) officials to protect against reprisals and begin investigations into an endless list of serious crimes. So frightened are they that they dare not question the most powerful people in the land why no justice was given to them and why a politician of the ruling party was allowed to terrorise them for so long.
With the tragic death of Perera, it was no longer possible to hide the atrocities being committed in Noori. Like Kahawatta, the excesses of the politicians finally burst into the national limelight. Yet, it is clear that there are many other questions that should be asked for not. For example, where were the police? Why is their complicity in this being swept under the carpet? What about the political elite in the province who assisted Wijesinghe? What is being done to bring them to justice?
Part justice is not real justice. Accountability cannot be limited to one crime. From offspring that cannot find a toilet on an airplane to tying public officials to trees, the many crimes and transgressions of politicians and their cronies would fill a shelf of books. But no matter how many times they intentionally break the law, there are no consequences – or so they like to believe.
But there are costs. These costs are felt by a society which has lost its value system, corroded its integrity and stolen equality away from the weak. It is felt by the victims, in the past, present and future. Most of all, it is felt by a society that has no faith in itself to fix these problems.