The Sunday Leader

Weliweriya Water Protests A Counter Point Of View

It has become a habit to politicize selective events but ignore the core issue. Before everyone is conveniently taken off track by politicized versions what needs to be reiterated is that the key issue was WATER, the people went on to the streets because of WATER and what resulted was because of WATER… or was it? Why are the finger pointers not demanding action from authorities about the WATER? Why has the water been shoved into the background? From the commentaries that abound the shift is focused towards portraying the impression that the Sri Lankan military purposely went armed to fire upon “unarmed” civilians drawing parallels with May 2009 war effort.

If we are to accept this stretch of imagination would the army “intentionally” kill only 3? Using that very stretch of imagination would the OIC Weliweriya and 8 soldiers also have injured themselves when the protesters were very much unarmed and peaceful? Moreover, how could the Defense Ministry which is accused of giving orders to shoot at unarmed civilians have given such an order when Secretary Defense himself was convening a meeting at the Defense Ministry with all the stakeholders on 1 August 2013 from 3p.m to 6:30p.m – would these people not have been witness to such an order to shoot?
Let us look at some of the questions that need to be answered before drawing up biased conclusions.

Is the 18 year old factory the real cause of the water pollution?

Top on this list is a simple question. How many readers are aware that the factory in question has been in operation at the same venue for 18 years? How many complaints accusing the factory have been lodged with the public authorities or the police – did they take action and if not what were the reasons and why did the factory itself not attempt to do its own investigation to prove its innocence or did it, if so where are these findings?

After 18 years the protesters had taken to the streets to demonstrate against the factory for polluting the water and more importantly is it the factory whose waste is polluting the drinking water or some other reason? We shall soon find out: The Universities of Moratuwa, Peradeniya and Kelaniya, the Water and Drainage Board, the Geology and Mines Bureau, Engineering Dept, Central Environmental Authority have all been tasked to find out what exactly is causing the water to be polluted and we will know for sure the cause, so let us not speculate beyond the doubt.

Why did the media not report attempts to burn the factory on 26th July 2013?

We now come to the question of the behavior of the protesting villagers. The defamatory statements that abound across electronic and print media over the entire issue have conveniently left out a very important news item. Why was it not reported that on 26th July 2013 the day prior to the initial road protests some people had attempted to burn the factory and the Weliweriya police had requested CDS to provide adequate security by the army applying provisions of the special gazette notification 1722/17 of 2011/09/06 which gives approval for the security forces to be used to maintain peace. Now this clearly explains why the army was present at the scene well before the protests started.

It also conveys that the army had in no way prevented democratic demonstrations to take place as the people had gone on to the streets on 27th July and thereafter representatives of the villagers had attended a meeting organized by the Gampaha District Secretary on 30th July though the villagers were not satisfied with the meeting which eventually led to the meeting of both parties at the Defense Ministry on 1st August 2013 with all parties amicably deciding that the factory would temporarily close until the reports on the water contamination was received and drinking water would be provided by bowsers.

Villagers of Rathupaswela had dispersed why didn’t the others?

The golden question is if the villagers of Rathupaswela after hearing of the arrangements made on 1st August 2013 decided to disburse and return to their homes why did the protesters of the other villagers not do the same? Rathupaswela village was the most affected by the water pollution while Weliweriya town was not.

Who were spurring these villagers to turn violent and who were the groups drawing the crowds from behind and were these really villagers?

The front end of all protesters having been spoken to had dispersed while it was the backend of the protesters who had begun to get directly confrontational with the police and army in an obvious attempt to provoke them. How is it that suddenly the numbers of protesters had begun to increase even after an arrangement had been reached?

What objective would any protesters aspire to achieve by taking their protests to other areas and attempting to close the Colombo-Kandy road and the Balummahara junction? How or who galvanized 5,000 protesters after 18 years of silence?

What is also left out by media is the fact that 100 employees were sacked over a trade union dispute not long before the water controversy and it is alleged that they were also involved in spurring the villagers against the factory.
Their role also needs to be investigated just as the possibility of army deserters also being used. Not a stone should be left unturned.

How ‘peaceful’ and ‘unarmed’ were the protesters?

By what definition do we call protesters “unarmed”? Former ambassadors and foreign funded local entities now pointing fingers may like to answer if fundamental democratic right to demonstrate extends to carrying any type of items that may harm others – can those carrying petrol bombs, sand bottles be called “unarmed” democratic demonstrators? If the army has to explain why they carried AK-47s, the protesters need to explain how they came into possession of glass bottles of petrol, bottles of sand. Petrol, sand and bottles do not drop from the sky even if stones can be picked up on the way?

Who organized these bottles, sand and petrol and for what reason did they have them in their possession if the protest was peaceful and the protesters were “unarmed”? We can safely say that the protesters were not “peaceful” they were not “unarmed” and authorities need to investigate how they organized bottles, petrol.

These supposedly “unarmed” peaceful protesters had destroyed property and even burnt a trishaw parked near a petrol shed. To organize bottles, petrol and sand there has to be planning – therefore authorities need to find out who these organizations were and who was giving the orders!

Why is the impression being given that the law enforcement authorities did not use water cannons, tear gas and even rubber bullets – all these avenues were very much utilized but for convenience it does not get reported!

What if protesters had taken protests to other villagers beyond Gampaha?

Can people speculate a little further and wonder if the police and army had not been present what could have happened if these “unarmed, peaceful protesters” had taken over the petrol shed, started going to other villagers and destroying property on the way and throwing the bottles and petrol they had in their possession because certain commentators claim that the army should not have come between “peaceful unarmed protesters” in a democracy?
Shenali D. Waduge
To be continued next week…

5 Comments for “Weliweriya Water Protests A Counter Point Of View”

  1. alex pandiyan


  2. People have the rights to protest democratically. The people in Weliweriya, I understand, did a peaceful protest until Army moved in. The law of the land in protected by the Police. Only in dictatorship countries the Army is used to disburse peaceful protest. We need answers to lot of questions. Firstly why the complaints made by the people of Weliweriya have been ignored by this government? It is now proved beyond doubt that the water in the area is contaminated by acid. It is the responsibility of the government in power to listen to the people request. I understand nothing has been done. It is shame on this government. Secondly who ordered the shooting – shooting with live ammunition. If Army treats the majority Sinhala people like this just imagine how the Army would have treated the Tamils during the war The war was conducted without evidence. UN should take a note of this incident. Rajapakses family should take full responsibility of this incidence. I read two statements; one from Nirmal Silva and the other one is from the Army spokesman. Both statements are full of lies. People of this country should now decide.the future of this country. Don’t believe in this regime.

  3. Gota the hero

    They first came for the Sinhalese (70′s – 1st JVP uprising), then they came for the Tamils and now they are coming for the Sinhalese again. Lanka voted them in, now enjoy their companionship.

  4. Perumal

    S H E N A LIES

  5. Mark Waduge

    Now tell me Shenali, if the situation was so worse, what the hell the government was doing till the last moment? People vote a government to address their issues. To develop infrastructure facilities. Not to wait unorganised and unheard till the last stage of a problem and take revenge from people. In any society there are political traps. Governments should be skillful not to be trapped and save their citizens from all those chaos. Finally Shenali don’t lick the military boots of the government. Who knows what will happen to you tomorrow in the banana republic.

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