Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Implications of the 'Weliveriya Incident'

The Human Rights record of Sri Lanka was marred by another ugly incident last Thursday when residents of the Weliweriya town in the Gampaha District who protested demanding clean drinking water were fired live bullets by Army personnel killing three. The villagers thronged the streets of Weliveriya in protest against a factory in Rathupaswala (thought to have strong links with the government) that discharged chemical waste that contaminated the ground water in and around the area.

The government mouthpieces that keep harping on the military victory of 2009, glorifying commander-in-chief the president who gave the political leadership and the Defense Secretary who gave the military leadership as the main architects of it have gone mute. But we don't see the political and military leadership taking responsibility for the lives that were lost due to excessive use of force to suppress a group of unarmed civilians. 

This can obviously have serious international implications on the country at a time when its Human Rights record is under scrutiny. In the eyes of the international community this can be particularly disadvantageous since the pro LTTE elements can leverage this incident to carry their message forward labeling the Sri Lankan Army as an army of genocide. It makes the Diaspora's accusations that much more plausible when the international community see how the military is using their force against the people of the south. With the Commonwealth Conference and the sessions with the Human Rights Council around the corner, our External Affairs minister does not seem to be helping our course either in reportedly playing it down saying incidents of this nature are part and parcel of life.

Apparently the message that the government is trying to get across to the people is that they are prepared to suppress any uprising against it using full force of the military. It appears that recent developments related to racial disharmony like the emergence of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) are propaganda campaigns by elements connected to the government to shift the focus away from an imminent uprising against the government. But sooner the people of the south are disillusioned with these elements distracting them we can be sure that a major uprising akin to the 'Arab Spring' is not too far away.