For the want of clean drinking water
Posted on August 5th, 2013

Michelle Alexander

01st August 2013. Villagers from Weliweriya took to the streets protesting the lack of clean drinking water. The alleged source of the contamination is said to be from a well known factory.

The army was brought in to quell the protests and things took a drastic turn for the worse. Three people have already succumbed to their injuries; two of them were just teenagers. It is also being alleged that those who escaped to a nearby church and sought safety were attacked by masked security personnel. The church priest and a nun were alleged to have been threatened as well.

Venerable Theripaha Siridhamma Thera, who was involved in the protests, stated that he has received death threats due to his involvement, but says he will continue. He has carried out fasts unto death campaigns before, hoping to gain the attention of the relevant authorities on the issue of water contamination in Weliweriya, to no avail.

Before laying the full blame on the soldiers themselves:-

  1. Who gave orders to bring in army units to quell a civilian protest?
  2. Who gave the orders to use live ammunition in a civilian protest?
  3. Were senior officers incapable of keeping control of the army units that were brought in to control the protests?
  4. If indeed there were earlier complaints of water contamination in Weliweriya, why was no action taken to resolve the issue?

This incident may have also caused irreparable damage to the prestige of the SL army. The public’s continued respect, love and support of the army cannot be maintained when the public sees members of the armed forces brutalizing the very people they are supposed to defend. Without this social support members of the armed forces could become very vulnerable to those who wish to hold the SL army accountable on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Furthermore, episodes like Weliweriya will only give credibility to the claims made by NGO’s and Human Rights groups of the abuses that were allegedly committed by the army during the war.

The protestors of Weliweriya weren’t terrorists demanding a piece of the country. They were ordinary people demanding a very basic right.  The right to clean drinking water. All they were given was blood. The authorities have no one but themselves to blame for this tragic turn of events.

 

27 Responses to “For the want of clean drinking water”

  1. . Says:

    Weliweriya protests:
    FOOTAGE SHOWS ARMY WAS ATTACKED
    Petrol bomb story, credible
    Outsider involvement clear

    Video footage indicates clearly that the protests in Weliweriya on Thursday were anything but peaceful. The accompanying photographs reproduced here as screen shots from a video filmed by a private broadcast station indicate that persons dressed in civilian clothes carrying large poles beat up army personnel and provoked them.

    The first photograph shows a man (circled right) aiming a blunt weapon (pole) at a soldier from behind. The next photograph shows youth carrying poles confronting army men in the background. The Police and army have claimed that these protesters also threw Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) at them.

    The Sunday Times political columnist makes reference to this claim though he is unable to verify independently that such weapons were used.

    However, the photographs show clearly that violence was aimed at army personnel. The claims made by police about petrol bombs are, in that context, taken as credible by most political commentators, including the Sunday Island political columnist who has noted the use of petrol bombs.

    All of these indicate that interested outsiders provoked the army. Hospital sources said that three civilians died as a result of the clash, but autopsy reports indicating the cause of death were not available at the time of going to press.
    – See more at: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=local/footage-shows-army-was-attacked#sthash.O9C7668Y.dpuf

  2. . Says:

    WELIWERIYA: AGENT PROVOCATEURS, AND NOW, VULTURES …

    ‘It is not as if they used Molotov cocktails’, writes an overexcited columnist now on a regular mission to sabotage ongoing redevelopment efforts after the war, while another equally childish operator states — lachrymose and almost visibly frenzied — that it was not petrol bombs that were used but clothes ‘dipped in fuel’, as the army in Weliweriya was shooting willy-nilly, Thursday last week!

    So assuming that the army was shooting, the answer was to provoke them further by throwing fiery missiles — alright let’s not say petrol bombs! – Instead of attempting to, as quickly as humanly possible, escape the line of fire?!

    It is understood that persons who have personal grievances with the regime and others who want to be instant journalistic heroines — ethics be damned – will make use of the incidents last week in Weliweriya to further their own transparently self-aggrandizing ends.

    But, to take leave of one’s senses in doing do and come out with utter unmitigated drivel of the nature that’s referred to above, shows a rare order of bankruptcy — a terrible and frightening level of partisanship and self-motivated crassness among our commentariat.

    The narrative they have begun to build around the Weliweriya story is diabolical, but also silly in its element. It’s diabolical as it leaves no room for fairness, ethics, or judging the incident on its own merits. Transparently, facts are damned, as damning the regime is the sole consideration here.

    The crux of the narrative is that it is a military state that prevails, that brooks no peaceful protest on legitimate civilian concerns. It is a short step from there to the next unbelievably self-serving assertion, which is that if they could do this in the Sinhala majority provinces, they would have done so in the North with the minority Tamil population during the war’s last stages as well!

    People may have self-seeking motives that drive them to malign the army, and brand it as a force of evil that treats human beings as being expendable and at best — collateral. That’s almost nakedly transparent – the ethically challenged would stoop to anything.

    But, in the unholy hurry to establish the impossible, to leave all appraisal of facts behind is not merely negligent and unbecoming — it is also absolutely hilarious! It is clear from our front page photographs that the men wielding long poles set upon soldiers, and started savagely beating them from behind. The footage of that is crystal clear, and can be seen frame for frame, by logging on to the You-Tube footage preserved from a private broadcast station’s real time videography of the unfolding events.

    It is noted that the beatings of army men took place before, and not after the army charged into the crowd, tear gassing the assembled. The political columnist of the Sunday Times stated as did many others that the army ‘claimed’ that Molotov cocktails were used.

    Let us look at the truth of that. The Daily Mirror, by no means pro-state or pro-army, stated on the first day in its little front page graphic chart accompanying the lead story, that petrol bombs were used by the protestors. The Mirror wouldn’t have erred on this occasion as it has no reason to, and besides, there was no subsequent correction to that story about such missiles being aimed at the soldiers.

    The story of needless and gross provocation of the army is authoritative and incontrovertible under the circumstances. Now, armies are known to use tear gas and water cannon, but which army in the world would not defend itself when set upon with incendiary bombs — and when assaulted with blunt weapons by ‘peaceful protestors’?

    The fact here is that provocation was the operative word. They say it was a mini war out there, but all armies when invited to a war through acts of calculated aggression, respond with aggression as armies do fight wars and are not trained to either bite the bullet — or slink away, tail between legs, in ignominy. None of this is material to our pundits who see an instant Arab Spring moment in the unfortunate events of Weliweriya. In the proper context, these are not journalists and commentators, they are, to use plain language, bare-fanged ghouls and pitiable vultures.
    – See more at: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=editorial/weliweriya-agent-provocateurs-and-now-vultures#sthash.Zq7ywpRr.dpuf

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    In future if Sinhala people want BASIC needs like water and if the govt. is not giving it, they should get TNA, US ambassador and NGOs to protest with them.

    Then the govt. CANNOT shoot them!! Then the govt. will WORSHIP them.

    In SL might is right.

    A very sad situation.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    We want to know :

    (1) How was the water polluted ? the factory owned by Hayleys have pointed out that they kept the effluent water within the rules of pollution. Water was regularly tested for pollutants.

    (2) Why was the water polluted at this point in time ?

    (3) Why protests at this point in time ?

    (4) Who authorised the protestors to throw petrol bombs etc ? These are acts of VIOLENCE, not peaceful protests.

    (5) The President has already emphasized the need for clean water due to the CKD issue. Why not take this chance to provide clean water to ALL cities and suburbs, even though it is a long term project. Pipe borne water to all households would be a wonderful idea. Would CHOGM chip in ?

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    The real problem is NONE of the above Fran.

    The real problem is WATER. This is only the TIP of the iceberg of what is to come. With a MASSIVE population in CROWDED GHETTOS in Colombo, more and more water will have to be pumped OUT of the Kelani river basin DEPRIVING people living in this areas good ground, pipe and river water.

    Pollution impact INCREASES when the volume of water reduces.

    Peolpe have a RIGHT to clean drinking water.

    Water resource is LIMITED. We need a proper way to distribute it.

    Govt. takes EXTRENE CARE not to attack Tamil and Muslim protestors. They only attack Sinhala protestors, prisoners, etc.

    And also mosque burning protestors, protestors throwing stones to shops are NOT attacked.

    e.g. There were many violent Muslim protests. In one they CHOPPED a policeman. NOTHING happened to them!!

    Give water to people to solve the problem.

    Don’t get distracted with PRO-GOVT, ANTI-GOVT this and that.

    That is NOT the problem here. Give people water!

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    I agree Water is the issue. But it has been turned into some sort of ‘political gain’ stuff by various interested parties. That part has to be cleared up first and the Water issue addressed. In any case, govt. is now delivering bowers of Water to that area, so there is no need to panic re Water.

    As I said before, the Water issue was paramount due to CKD matter earlier which had gone on for over 20 YEARS and no one even brought it up as the country was so engrossed with the ltte terror. So now let us be thankful that the terrorism is over and the WATER ISSUE can now be addressed seriously.

    We are all of pipe borne water for every household in Sri Lanka – a long project, to be sure. A start now is a good idea.

  7. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Just my point of view:-

    Was there one politician in the midst of the Protestors, to speak to them and give them some assurance that their lack of Drinking Water Problem will be solved post haste. Defence Secretary, I believe has already addressed the matter, and relief was coming. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR THAT AREA, WHERE WERE YOU ? Where were you, MP, where were you.

    The Civilian, Law and Order Enforcement arm of the Government~~~ THE POLICE~~~has hitherto been so humiliated and ridiculed, by members of their own Force, and at many times by scoundrel politicians and their kith and kin, who even assault and slap Police Officers, who have been brought to their homes. THE MORALE OF THE POLICE FORCE IS AT A VERY LOW EBB. There appears to be no confidence in them by the very Government too. Sri Lanka needs an IGP who can PISS on the SCOUNDREL POLITICIANS, and tear them to pieces, and also take severe disciplinary action against any member of any rank, who has breached the sacred Police Code. There should be a change of heart in the present IGP.

    It is not fair to treat the army with cake, and the Police with Masala Vadai. Both institutions must be treated with GREAT DEFERENCE. THEY ARE BOTH PROTECTORS OF THE SRI LANKAN POPULATION, AMONGST OTHERS. Army is trained to kill, and the Police to maintain Law and Order.

    The Government MUST find the so called ‘third hand’ gang and ensure that they are convicted.

    As Lorenzo say, the aforesaid is NOT the problem here, GIVE PEOPLE WATER.

  8. Dilrook Says:

    Using violence is unacceptable by both parties. Three deaths have been reported which is excessive use of force. Police, not the army, should have been called in. Attempts must have been made to peacefully quell the protests.

    Otherwise as the writer says, this incident coupled with many others become grounds for suspicion for excesses during the war.

    At the same time Duminda Silva, Malaka Silva and many other criminals must be punished. Otherwise that too conveys the wrong signal of killing with impunity to the international community.

    Thirdly the legal, investigating and policing systems have been manipulated. Impeachment of the former CJ, transfering out government forensic officers who looked in to the Matale mass grave and violence by government connected parties have also alerted the international community.

    Unfortunately all these signals have been sent out to the world. The problem is these crimes translate to further concessions to separatists enforced from the human rights body and accepted by the ruling clan in a desperate attempt to save its skin.

    I have experienced these challenges in attempts to convince reasonable anti-Sri Lankan human rights activists. They refuse to admit the good citing these danger signs. In a court if crimes can be proven beyong reasonable doubt, that is sufficient. Same approach is taken by certain human rights activists who are more sensible and open to discussion.

    We should also develop a group of community and religious leaders to go between parties to quell these situations.

  9. Kosala777 Says:

    a good analysis but don’t agree with this:

    “Without this social support members of the armed forces could become very vulnerable to those who wish to hold the SL army accountable on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Furthermore, episodes like Weliweriya will only give credibility to the claims made by NGO’s and Human Rights groups of the abuses that were allegedly committed by the army during the war.”

    Everything else is true

  10. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    I know you wouldn’t, just mentioning. PLEASE don’t take this personally.

    So what has happened to the CKD matter? NOTHING!
    People fear the same or WORSE. These 2 incidents (I’m sure there will be many more now) may be the BHOPAL of SL.
    And we are trying to put an Endian COAL plant in SL!!

    But when it comes to the KKS cement plant, the govt. LISTENS to the minorities (though NO health hazard at all)!!

    Why this double standards?

    IF a similar thing happens during,
    Navi Pillai’s visit?
    CHOGM?
    Pope’s visit?

    Then what? Govt. will NOT use FORCE just to show to the world.

    I know for a fact how Tamil businesses in Biyagama, Kelaniya and other parts in the region ROB water for bottled water and beer. Ground water is LIMITED. When ground water reduces, it becomes polluted more.

    I can say with 80% certainty the CKD problem and other SL’s BHOPAL problems will not be resolved anytime soon. People who didn’t die from army bullets will die from BHOPAL.

  11. Chanaka B Says:

    Weliweriya should not and must not be linked with the alleged war crimes attorcities against the Army. They are two events that are poles apart.

    Army did not kill 40,000 or a lesser number of Tamils in the North (it was a war period anyway). This was a civil dispute.

    By saying these we may be giving ammunition to enemies

  12. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    Re clean WATER, action has been taken by GoSL and plans already made to rectify matters through various Committees and organisations. This is in regard both to the CKD issue as well as the Weliweriya issue. Any results coming out of actual ACTION taken should be made PUBLIC immediately. This is the weakest area of GoSL – not reporting back to the public the good work done and results achieved. Sri Lanka must aim for pipe borne water for every household. The PCs must get involved in this project.

    Please remember that the CKD problem is an old one from about 20 yrs ago. It is pointless blaming this govt. for CKD when the event started way back. We have to blame MISUSE of artificial fertilisers, weedicides & insecticides (FWI). Frankly, I think this where the so far useless PCs can step in and educate the public on the proper use of FWI.

    I have already written in that I am against use of substandard COAL from anywhere. There are healthier ways to generate energy such wind & solar. Even in the west, the battle is for the same clean energy that we all desire.

  13. Fran Diaz Says:

    P.S. : Will CHOGM chip in for clean, pipe borne water for Sri Lanka ? Call it making amends for colonization, at least in part.

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    re Pipe borne water :

    Water must be cleaned at the source before being piped out. We have addressed this problem before on the Lankaweb. The Reverse Osmosis (RO) Method is the best known method, even to serve entire cities, and Heavy Metals that causes CKD also is removed by this method. This RO Method is applied in some parts of USA.

    The entire Parliament of Lanka needs the advice of a honest and trustworthy Science Advisory Committee, on an ongoing and permanent basis as Lanka adds more and more manufacturing plants, and also re use of safe/safer fertilizers, weedicides and insecticides in the Agricultural sector.

  15. callistus Says:

    Fran Diaz, the answer/s to your questions :(2) Why was the water polluted at this point in time ?

    (3) Why protests at this point in time ?
    Because 100 JVPers were thrown out from Hayleys for disruptive acts a few days before. The NGOs saw the opportunity, the LTTE diaspora paid.

  16. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thanks for info, Callistus.

  17. Fran Diaz Says:

    Callistus,

    Do you know why the JVP folk were dismissed from the glove factory ? Also, why 100 ?

    Also if anyone else knows the answers to the above, pls respond.

  18. Fran Diaz Says:

    Govt. Minister has stated that 112 people were let go by the glove factory (no reason given). He also said that they have to find out whether these people were involved in the riots.

  19. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    But the 2 DEAD teenagers were NOT working at DP plc.
    They were not Tamil terrorists either!
    They didn’t shoot or throw bombs either!
    They are innocent until proven guilty.

    (In SL now it seems there is a different law. IF you are NOT an Endian group, you are guilty until proven innocent. IF you are an Endian group you are innocent EVEN proven guilty!!)

    Does that mean the army killed the WRONG persons and let the REAL criminals get away?

    I don’t think anyone has been ARRESTED yet.

    Remember a Tamil youth was brutally killed in Bambapiddi a few years ago? It was caught on camera. The police officers who drowned him were arrested.

    Why double standards this time?

    BTW the army had SMASHED private cameras in Weliweriya. What was that for? Was there anything to HIDE?

    Were they from the PSD?

  20. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    More and more news is coming out re this incident. We ought to wait till the Army report on this is out.

    We do not know whose bullets killed the 3 people as both sides were firing. Who did the first act of violence ? Certainly NOT the Army. First act was the petrol bombs and firing of a gun done against the army by some folk in the crowd, and that too AFTER the talks were completed and some sort of settlement arrived between the Govt. and the parties with grievances (JVP and one other). What does this mean ? It means that some folk WANTED VIOLENCE, a RIOT, to use as a tool to cause trouble for the Army & GoSL. I can think of several reasons for that, the main being to discredit the Army and GoSL, prior to NPC elections & CHOGM. Also heading for Eelam.

    Those who STARTED the acts of violence ought to be caught and prosecuted.

    All this reminds me of the Riots of 1983 – planned and executed for Tamil EXODUS to the west. We were there and we can piece the events together to reveal the truth of matters.

  21. Fran Diaz Says:

    Govt Report on the incident :

    Gunfire was directed at the soldiers –Govt.
    TUESDAY, 06 AUGUST 2013 17:17

    The government said in Parliament today that a section of the protesting crowd in Weliweriya hurled petrol bombs at soldiers, prompting them to take action for self-defense and the safety of public property.

    In response to a statement made by opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the August 1 shooting incident in Weliweriya, Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva said though some protestors left the place upon request by the security authorities  on that day , there were others pelting stones  and hurling petrol bombs at the soldiers on duty.

    “There are reports that gunfire was directed at the soldiers by someone from the protesting crowd.  There is a broad investigation now underway. They were also engaged in the acts of damaging public property,” the Leader of the House said.

    Besides, he refuted allegations by Mr. Wickremesinghe that those who entered the church premises in the area for safety were targeted by the military.

    The Leader of the House said it would be investigated whether another party provoked this crowd to be violent.

    Weliweriya victims
    TUESDAY, 06 AUGUST 2013 17:52

    Compensation is to be paid to the family members of those who died and injured in the Weliweriya incident on the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Government Information Department said.

  22. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    ONLY Nimala Siripala de Silva says that!!

    There is NO evidence of anyone firing at the army or police.

    LTTE cadres fired at the army, KILLED the army, etc. but they were rehabilitated, not killed.

    People SAW army shooting kill their kith and kin. There are MANY youtube videos. People and priests clearly identified the army attacking the church, telling them filth and assaulting them.

    In my understanding, some people who ACTUALLY WERE THERE say people were shot at as if they were TIGERS.

    This is different to 1983. In 1983 the army was not involved in violence.

  23. Fran Diaz Says:

    Lorenzo,

    Even the Defense Secretary says that “missiles were thrown at the Army”. I think this is true, else the army & police would not have retaliated. It was not just gunfire in the dark but petrol bombs as well – lethal.

    I also think that the Police & Army have been instructed to cut short any possibilities of rioting ahead of CHOGM. There are plenty of troublemakers in Lanka sponsored by outside sources. Also, earlier self inflicted wounds have been made by some Tamils to discredit the armed forces of Lanka and gain refugee status abroad. Under such circumstances, it is natural for the public to assume that there was intent by some unscrupulous elements to cause Riots and it was not a simple protest over water. The polluted well water too appears suspicious to me – all arranged to be so ? Nothing can be ruled out at this stage.

    Sorry, but all this has happened too close to CHOGM date.

  24. mjaya Says:

    Lorenzo, a police DIG said the same thing about the Army being fired upon and petrol bombs being thrown. This was a day after the incident. As Fran has said, the whole incident is very very fishy.

    We have to act very wisely!!

    Lets see what the results of the pollution tests say……

  25. Lorenzo Says:

    CURFEW imposed in Grandpass after Tamil and Islamic groups clashed seriously injuring 2 police officers yesterday.

    Why the army is NOT shooting at them?

    Why this APARTHEID?

  26. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    He NEVER said petrol bombs, shooting!

    Missiles can be ANY object thrown. That does NOT give army the right to SHOOT TO KILL, SMASH cameras, fire at a church, assault a nun, tell filth to clergy, etc.

    Why they are NOT doing it in Grandpass?

    Why Welieriya gets one treatment while Grandpass gets a BETTER treatment only a week later?

    Because if the army touches a Tamil or Muslim rioter the govt gets into hot water.

    The ARMY is scared to kill a SINGLE Tamil or Muslim rioter no matter how many police OFFICERS are injured!!

  27. Lorenzo Says:

    This is where the army SHOULD have SHOT DEAD the rioters.

    But they DID NOT. Why? Because the riot was between a Muslim group and a VIOLENT Sinhala group (not Tamil as I mentioned before).

    Why shoot only UNARMED SINHALA CIVILIANS and why NOT shoot armed racist terrorists burning mosques and injuring Imams, nuns, etc.?

    At least now ACCEPT the country is in trouble because of this DOUBLE STANDARDS!

    “Sri Lanka police imposed curfew until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow in the Grandpass area of the capital Colombo to control a tense situation erupted earlier in the evening after a mob attacked a Muslim prayer center.

    Police riot squad and the Special Task Force have been called to control the tense situation erupted following the attack on the Muslim prayer center (Masjid) on the Swarna Chaithya Road in Grandpass by a mob earlier in the evening.

    The clash has injured four people including two police officers, local media reported. However the Police Spokesman Superintendent of Police Buddhika Siriwardena said he was not aware of injuries to police officers.

    The Imam of the mosque has reportedly been injured seriously.

    Local media reports said that an extremist Buddhist group last month demanded the mosque which was adjacent to a Buddhist Temple to be moved and the Muslim religious leaders have agreed to do so.

    Meanwhile the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has called on Muslims in other areas not to get agitated and remain calm.

    Meanwhile Twitter was abuzz with reports that a Buddhist Temple under construction in Chavakachcheri area of Jaffna has been attacked with grenades around 8:30 p.m. local time tonight.

    However, there was no official word on the incident yet.

    Tensions has been growing between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka with the rise of extremist Buddhist groups and the government’s laid back attitude towards taking actions against them.”

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