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Rathupaswala Reignites

By Waruni Karunarathne - Picture by Saman Kariyawasam

Venerable Theripaha Siridhamma Thero

Rathupaswala, Weliweriya was up in arms last week, not just over the water issue but also over the monk who had campaigned on the water issue but later turned tables and spoke in support of a controversial gloves factory in the area.

The monk, Venerable Theripaha Siridhamma Thero, who according to some villagers was in hiding allegedly after signing a contract with the factory, returned to Rathupaswala last Monday neither with a welcome nor with displayed hostility from the villagers.

On his arrival to the Rathupaswala Galoluwa Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Vihara, TheSunday Leader inquired from the monk the reason for his disappearance and alleged accusations against him.

“I never abandoned the people in Rathupaswala or our fight. I only paid a visit to a temple in Gampola for a short while. If I have done anything to betray the people, they would have known it eventually. I have nothing to fear, as I have done nothing wrong.

People can be convinced and manipulated through different means. At times like this, they tend to believe all the rumours spread by numerous parties who plot to divide the community. Right now, people may not be with me, but I am still with the people.

If they do not agree with the terms of the contract, we can void the contract terms,’ said Siridhamma thero.

However, he said, “We will have to look at the problem from both sides. And we will have to use strategies to solve problems without creating conflicts”.
Even though his tone of voice has altered and diminished compared to the initial stage of the Rathupaswala struggle demanding access to clean drinking water and immediate closure of the factory, the monk assured that he was ready to stand alone in this fight, even if the people do not stand alongside him.

The day before his return to Rathupaswala, Ven. thero issued a media announcement declaring his return to Rathupaswala. “I made the media announcement so that people could gather around and stone me if they still thought that I had done anything treacherous. But nobody threw a single stone at me,” said Siridamma thero convincingly.

He arrived to Rathupaswala in the morning and walked from Balummahara Junction to Weliweriya Kanthi Public playground with only about 70 people watching him alongside the road, detached from his march.

According to some villagers, halfway through the march, a group of people who were not Rathupaswala villagers had joined the walk in support of the thero, who they believed were affiliated either to the controversial factory or to a certain political group.

Reportedly, a police squad was present at the incident and they kept about a 100 metre distance from the monk. According to Siridamma thero, he had never requested a police squad. Waliweriya police claimed that a police jeep with about 5 to 6 police officers was deployed in the area, only to avoid any unpleasant occurrences because a villager has warned the police of the possibility of people gathering with stones in their hands. Nevertheless, a villager stated, “Nobody will assault anybody who is in a robe. People in this country respect the robe no matter what is covered by it. Besides, we are not stupid enough to get into a conflict unnecessarily.”

While Siridamma thero denied any affiliations with the government or any other political parties, some villagers still have doubts whether he would act with the best interest of the people. “Since he has returned, probably those accusations are wrong. He was there with us initially to gear the fight. But we cannot yet decide which side he is on now, after all that happened.”

Following the incident in which Siridamma thero signed the contract with the Venigros factory on his own accord allowing the factory six months time to continue, it was debated whether he was influenced by any political or other means. When questioned Ven. thero about his decision, he said, “My only motive was to give a solution to both the parties without causing further disparities. It is not possible to please everybody when taking decisions as such.

As a public representative, I had to take the decision wisely.”

When The Sunday Leader visiting the factory, the security guard told the journalists that the factory was closed and there were no signs of operation. In the contrary, some villagers were unsure whether some parts of the factory were still functioning.

However, the Weliweriya police confirmed that the operations of the Venigros factory had been discontinued. The police added that the villagers in the area were frantic to assume that the factory continued its operation. According to the police, some villagers tend to invent stories.
The villagers also stated that the government had taken necessary measures to give a pipeline to the area.

‘The problem is that we have to pay initially Rs. 18,000 plus few other expenses to get the water line,” said a villager expressing his reluctance to buy the water line because they had already spent a large amount of money on digging their wells.

‘They should consider giving the water line free of charge not only to Samurdhi benefiters but also to other houses that are affected by this polluted water problem,” added the same villager.

The Sunday Leader also noticed some irregularities in the temporary water supplies in some areas. “One water tank is shared by several houses.
There have been days they did not refill the tanks. When it is empty, we go back into using well water as we have no other choice,” said another villager.
Another village woman added, “We buy bottled water from the shop for drinking. For bathing and for other activities, we have to use well water, which cause skin irritations, especially the kids get rashes.”

Even though the factory is now closed, negative environmental impact made by the factory might prevail for several more years.
Therefore, people must understand that immediately after the closure of the factory, they may not be able to go back to drinking well water in the area.

Despite the fact that the government has already set pipelines to resolve the problem, people claim that it is not a feasible option to use pipe-borne water. To get access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right.

It is essential that the government takes necessary measures with the assent of the people to provide a solution.

Venigros Denies Any Liability

Venigros management has consistently denied any liability claimed or otherwise for the low pH content of the water in the area. In fact the company also draws water from the same water basin, which is 770 Sq KM in extent, as pointed out by The Sunday Leader several weeks ago.

Sources at Venigros have stated that the water they draw in has a pH content of 4.5.
This content is insufficient for their use, necessitating the use of their purification plant. \The company equipment requires a pH content of at least 7.5 in their manufacturing process.

The waste water that is then pumped out, has a content of 7.0. The water basin in question is also shared by at least 15 other companies within a 12 km radius and also includes businesses all the way up to and including Negombo and the Katunayake Industrial zones.

According to a report commissioned by the Water Resources Board, the problem is an inherent one in which the water basin is affected by the large numbers of businesses that draws their water from the same basin of 770 sq KM and the attendant waste that is pumped out by the significant number of businesses including hotels, guest houses and factories in the area.

8 Comments for “Rathupaswala Reignites”

  1. Gota the hero

    Is it just me or all have noticed, that all these skinny monks appear to be really doing what they are supposed to be doing and the fat ones are always causing mayhem? Just like the fat one above in this article.

    • Guru Samy

      “skinny monks appear to be really doing what they are supposed to be doing and the fat ones are always causing mayhem? ”

      Friends, there is a Sinhalese teaching ” Ballata Aithi Wedai Boruwa Koranna Yanawa wagai, (The dog`s duty is keep safeguard the boss, but Donkey`s duty is transporting the goods of the boss) if this situation going on what is happening to both the dog and the donkey, and ultimately whole thing get messup.
      (1) What is the duty of Buddhist Monks or any Cleargy????
      (2)What is the duty of the lawenforcement inclueding the police and Militery???
      (3)What is the duty of Magistrates,Judges, andAttorney General??????

      As those Authority Institutions are in this country, not approching to this incident, the outer world must have to decide either those institutions are paralized in this country by some other over head institution/ power, or there are no such institutions operating in this country at this time.

      The answer is with the citizens.

    • DMR Gunawardene

      Good observation my friend. The fat ones are the biggest rabble rousers. They are greedy.

  2. Pradeep

    In Buddhism, there is a belief on retribution. The present Hayleys management maybe feeling the affects of this theory!!!

  3. Nawaz

    At least the monk has realized removing the factory is not a good idea in the wake of fabricated event by JVP and other NGO at Rathupaswala. The villagers will be harmed by removal of this 700 jobs factory from the area. Rathupaswala is known to have water with more acidity due to the nature of the soil. The soil exhibit a red texture due to this fact. All of a sudden the acidity to rise as JVP and UNP agitators claim is not a fact.

    • Indrajith Fonsicker

      @Nawaz
      Don’t talk rot..Are jobs more important than peoples lives? You know that the Venigros rubber plant exudes chemicals which induce cancer. Where is the companys loyalty to people of the area. Money and corporate greed have no place in compromising the more important health issue.

    • wickram

      There are no any politics. 85% vote were given to Mahinda Rajapaksha party. Not only Rathupaswala erea, More than 20 villagers are suffering from water crisis.(more than 200,000 People) Otherwise, Rathupasswala areas population is less than 2500 people. We are fighting for our fundamental right and to protect our natural resources.

  4. Joly Seeya

    Thero’s M BENZ was reapired and given FOC by DIMO last week.

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