Tale of One City / One City with Two Tales
Posted on August 14th, 2013

by  Gomin Dayasri

 Reading political savvy columns in Sunday Times (ST) and Sunday Island (SI) from abroad helps to touch base with Weliveriya. Is it a Tale of One City or One City with Two Tales?  Was it a dress rehearsal for a regime change or a spontaneous outpouring of dissent?

  Look at the end result to determine the origin and intent. People took over the pavements and spilt on to the road.  Protested loud and long and the message reached home. Lives were lost injuries were caused and the military were occupied. Disturbance was on public space and the community-at-large was greatly inconvenienced. Home they went after the discord and stayed at home thereupon. Story ends there on incidents. But the incident has not blown away. Of the two stories which sounds more authentic? Both carry substance, one more than the other.

  Weliveriya Town is definitely not Cairo’s Tharir Square or Tunis’s Kasba Circle. It’s a localized incident that gained greater proximity to the international media than the battle that took place in Belfast days ago between Protestants and Catholics where 56 policemen were injured when Protestants set upon Catholics on a march. Was the road leading to Weliveriya destined to wind its way to Geneva 2014?

   Weliveriya has gained more fame internationally than Arantalawa or Keppitigollawa where the brutality was more gruesome, with infants and baby monks hacked to death, yet the world slept soundly on it. Tweeting was furious on Weliveriya creating an atmosphere of an eagerly awaited Arab springtime for the jabbing fingers? Fast tracking by foreign elements show the extent we are watched. Helping hands from our shores, source selective material abroad, to set up furious responses.   

  Media travel the distance it cares to reach- destination Weliveriya is indeed a choice location. It includes many facets – human rights; exporter of valued merchandise to US; passing glimpse of a Sri Lankan spring; shades of an Mid – Eastern esplanade with squatting crowds at a busy intersection; A state bigwig carries interest; epistles from western embassies; church as a sanctuary; monks and clergymen on show; environmental phases; Political activists and the foot prints of the military.

 Those serial sub plots attract the media that tilt as pro and anti government outlets as they come into the open- switching channels watching both is to remain balanced. Let the public decide since the government can counter through their media outlets. Don’t blame Sirasa or Hiru as they compete to break news. That is their entitlement.

 ST and SI have researched deep and each produced illuminating reports but there is no meeting place for competing trends. They sit poles apart in presenting tales of value. Not a Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward production of a common Watergate. Little bit of this and that need be picked to concoct a cocktail of a better understanding.  Reflecting varied views is the function of the unkempt media. Makes reading worthwhile.

 “ƒ”¹…”Water, Water everywhere, not a drop to drink at all’ is the thirsty quencher. Could it be an over reaction from a misled quarter that did not originally target the supposedly offending company? Animus was more towards state authority. Queer in not keeping to the traditional script: it gives authenticity to the outpouring but also shows the graffiti of political operators on the walls. Government was too late and did too little to quell and thereafter did too much too soon.

  A public commodity denied of its purity turns into potential health hazard, often over looked by over zealous officials at site. They may realize the ensuing harm but did not want to disturb head office: play safe until the Big Boys move to ease tension.  It could have been nipped in the bud without accumulating moss. Don’t tiny acorns cause great fires? End result “”…” its the company that suffers the most. Timely action was the preventive measure; failure caused greater harm. Long wait for the technical reports. Quality Exports are a lifeline.

  The targeted objects on the streets are the state authorities not the company orderlies. There is the current belief: if results are required move Big Foot. He has to intervene and work out a compromise. He did and it clocked to desired precision. Responding swiftly without allowing issues to drag would have brought the same result. Big Foot is required to smoothen any rumbling. If that gains currency street shows are likely to multiply to attract attention.

  A Company cannot close gates at the flicker of agitation – weakness can become infectious. Timely use of the head prevents a spark setting a forest fire. Interested hands are at work if four complaints are lodged against the company in the Magistrate Court and then withdrawn. That is the point to pitch. Who was responsible for making the complaints and for its withdrawal? That needs inquiry to determine whether it was voluntarily or under duress or purely cosmetic.

 There is a lesson to learn. The time is not ripe for a watery revolution to arise from a road show. Try it and come a cropper – dissatisfaction cannot peak in the absence of a stout opposition. Whoever makes the charge of a regime change at the sight of turbulence is an alarmist downplaying reality. Turmoil needs an honest response. If false alarm bells are sounded frequently screaming wolfishly “regime change, regime change” and counter measures are a battering – situation can get complicated. That might gradually grow to reach proportions that create an unexpected regime change coming from the streets than from the ballot box. Reminiscent of Rangoon 1988 where a brawl in a tea shop that led to of a death of a student escalated on to riots with the over reaction of the security services. 

 Undoubtedly at Weliveriya much of it was impromptu and impulsive; as it snowballed undemocratic elements joined the melee to plant seeds of social dissension. Government must act with tact otherwise shady elements are using these opportunities as practice games for their spurious activities. Law and Order must prevail without excesses or minimally.   

 

4 Responses to “Tale of One City / One City with Two Tales”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    There is NO regime change issue here.

    But govt’s own action leads to VOLUNTARY CHANGE of govt.

    Yesterday’s MASSIVE opposition rally shows people are the final decision makers. It has RESURRECTED the DEAD opposition.

    Hopefully the opposition will AGAIN die UNLESS the govt. messes up again.

  2. douglas Says:

    Mr. Gomin Dayasiri: Thank you for opening up a “PANDORA’S BOX”.

    Now we can see the real “Fun”. I will comment later.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    WATER was a weapon for the ltte. Recall that over 1,000 soldiers died of dehydration at Elephant Pass when water was deliberately cut off by the ltte to that area during the protracted war (CBK/Ranil times). Also the Mavilaru WATER cut off event was ltte instigated. People of Lanka should be very watchful and aware of their water supply.

    Questions to ask :

    * Was the Weliweriya WATER event also a TRAP laid on at this point in time prior to CHOGM, with ‘Regime Change’ and ‘Failed State’ in mind for the ‘organizers’ ?

    * What about the CKD issue of 3 Provinces affecting thousands of citizens adjacent to the Central Province ? Another WATER borne event from 20 YEARS ago.

    * Why did 112 JVP fellows become unruly suddenly and get dismissed by the Factory authorities ?

    * How did some 5,000 EXTRA rioters join in AFTER the settlement of the problem with govt. authorities and the earlier crowd almost dispersed ? These LATE arrival rioters were armed with fire bombs & sand filled bottles. The army says that shots were heard fired in the crowd. All this latter events happened in the dark of night/dusk.

    We think this may have been a PLANNED EVENT ! That is why, as Mr Dayasiri so aptly puts : “Weliveriya has gained more fame internationally than Arantalawa or Keppitigollawa where the brutality was more gruesome, with infants and baby monks hacked to death, yet the world slept soundly on it. Tweeting was furious on Weliveriya creating an atmosphere of an eagerly awaited Arab springtime for the jabbing fingers? Fast tracking by foreign elements show the extent we are watched. Helping hands from our shores, source selective material abroad, to set up furious responses”.

    Is all this sudden WATER issues also a distraction to put attention AWAY from the Northern PC elections and the removal of the 13-A ? Do not let that happen. The 13-a must go.

    At the end of the day, CLEAN PIPE BORN WATER to all areas of Lanka is a top priority for any government of Lanka. It is a concern for the entire PARLIAMENT of Lanka, not just for the GoSL. We wish that the Jnt Opposition would grow up.

    All this might have been a good challenge to cudgel our brains with and play Sherlock Holmes, if not for the tragedy of the deaths of three young people. We blame this tragedy on the LATE comers of some 5,000 rioters who were unnecessarily VIOLENT.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Article from the Daily News about the Wells of Weliweriya :

    THE DAILY NEWS – AUGUST 15, 2013

    Killing the goose that lays thegolden egg

    Mevan Peiris, MSc, MBA, FPRI(UK), FIChem, C.Chem (Former President Plastics and Rubber Institute and Institute of Chemistry Ceylon)

    I have read with great concern and sorrow, the reports that have appeared in the newspapers regarding the events that have led to the temporary closure of Dipped Products Plc factory at Weliweriya. This organization began as a joint venture between Hayleys Ltd and Richard Peiris and Co Ltd in the mid 1970s at Kottawa, to add value to raw rubber at a time when the latex based glove making industry of our country was in its infancy.

    The venture began to produce gloves for the export market without any foreign technologists assisting, and has since then, grown to be the world’s fifth largest producer of household and industrial rubber gloves, in the world. During this journey, Dipped Products Plc (DPL) has expanded operations to Weliweriya and Hanwella, generating employment to many Sri Lankans and has made a major contribution towards earning a good image for Sri Lanka in the global market, as a centre of excellence in rubber glove production.

    DPL has even been able to set up factories in other parts of the world and can be considered to be one of the best examples of how Sri Lankans can by their own capabilities, with little or no assistance from foreigners, become a global giant. Needless to say, during this period responsibility has been displayed by this organization. I have very recently supervised an undergraduate research project of the waste water disposal system at DPL and write this article with first hand knowledge of DPL practices, in the fervent hope that it would contribute towards solving the prevailing problem of national importance.

    Rubber products

    An article dated August 4, 2013 written by my good friend, Professor O A Illeperuma, titled, “How well water in Weliweriya area is getting excessively acidic due to leakage of acid from a far off factory,” appears in the internet, and such headlines only serve to mislead the public more, and add to the confusion. I am at a loss to understand how Oliver has come to the conclusion that there is a factory leaking acid as he has not named the factory nor elaborated on it in the article. I am sharing my knowledge of the inside happenings of DPL and with forty years of experience in rubber product manufacture in other organizations, so that people in the area of Weliweriya, politicians, scientists and the public in general, would be able to understand the situation more meaningfully.

    The recent uprising of the people living in the area of the DPL factory at Weliweriya is related to their well water being acidic at a level far below the accepted norm of acidity levels of drinking water. An excellent, comprehensive study of the acidity levels of well water, of the entire Attanagalu Oya basin, carried out by R S Wijesekere and C Kudahetty of the Water Resources Board, is available for study as part of the proceedings of the workshop on challenges in ground water management in Sri Lanka, 2011.

    The map on pH variation of this basin presented by these two authors is very revealing. PH is an index which measures the acidity level and a value of less than 7 indicates acidity and lower the value greater the acidity.

    Weliweriya belongs to this geographical basin of 727 square kilometres, and is a very small area located at the very southern border of the basin centrally placed on the southern border. It is clearly seen that most of the area in the entire basin is acidic, and the entire central region of this wide basin, running all the way from the southern border to the northern border is more acidic than the two sides.

    The authors have concluded by saying “pH values of shallow groundwater in the basin show uneven distribution throughout the basin.” Their study reveals pockets of extreme acidity to exist scattered, and even pockets of extreme acidity (ph 4-5) and alkalinity (pH 7-8.5) are seen to exist adjacent to each other as next of neighbours at an equal distance from the DPL factory.

    Waste water treatment plant

    They have also concluded that the well water is acidic in many localities including Minuwangoda, Weediyawatta, Gampaha and Weliweriya. This study clearly shows that the high acidity in well water is not a characteristic of water at Weliweriya alone, but that of the large Attanagalu basin in varying degrees. Therefore, the problem prevailing at Weliweriya has to be evaluated not a isolation but in the context of its geographical setting. A latex based product manufacturing factory is very different to a latex based dry raw rubber manufacturing factory, in the character of the latex used. In a dry raw rubber factory the latex used is the plantation field latex, which is a dilute latex having a slightly acidic pH of about 6.5 and formic acid is used to coagulate the latex, which is made highly alkaline (around pH 10) to maintain its stability.

    It is absolutely essential that the alkalinity of the latex and that of its mixes be preserved until the rubber in the latex is gelled or coagulated to form the products. In the dipped glove manufacturing process practices by DPL, the gelling is done by the use of environmentally friendly divalent calcium ions and not with acids, although it could be done using acids as well.

    Research findings

    Therefore, what the people of Weliweriya and everyone else must know is that, at the DPL factory at Weliweriya, acid is not used to gel or coagulate the latex, and that the process operates with alkaline mixes of latex and not acid mixes. The only acid that is used in the factory is a small amount to clean the ceramic formers of any contamination. This water is neutralized by the factory before being released to the waste water treatment plant.

    There is one other step in the manufacture of dipped gloves that could generate acid. Since, the gloves are based on natural rubber they have a high degree of tackiness. Therefore, the standard method adopted is to treat the manufactured gloves with dilute chlorine water, to make them smooth. After use, the chlorine content in the waste water is eliminated by a chemical treatment that renders the waste water from this operation alkaline.

    Quite apart from what has been stated above, what is of greater importance is the quality of the water released to the environment by the glove factory, more than the operational dynamics within the factory, which have been spelt out in this article merely for greater understanding of the reality which prevails within a latex based dipped glove factory.

    In the recent research study I supervised, based on measurements taken over several months, the waste water disposed to the environment was found to be alkaline and close to pH 8, which is well within the standards for waster water effluent release and as such the water released is certainly not acidic. This would mean that in relation to hydrogen ion content which causes acidity, the factory has a very clean sheet.

    Further, at Weliweriya, the waste water after treatment is released to the middle of a fairly large adjacent coconut plantation owned by the factory so that the coconut trees would assist to purify the water to an even greater extent.

    There are also other relevant factors to consider in respect of acidity in the wells around Weliweriya and in the greater part of the Attanagalu Oya basin. It has been reported that, below a certain pH level, trivalent metal ions of aluminium have the capacity to convert water molecules to hydrogen ions that generate acidity.

    The aluminium is present in all types of soils. The contribution of aluminium becomes highly significant in acid soils, and the Weliweriya soil is one such soil. Between the acid range of pH 4 and 6, the AL3+ trivalent ion can progressively extract the OH radical from water to generate 3 H+ ions per aluminium ion. It is also believed that the presence of ferrous/ferric ions in the soil can also contribute towards acidity.

    Pipe born drinking water

    Fertilizers can also generate acidity. Obviously, there are other factors as well, and one such factor is decomposition of organic matter.

    The research findings of the project supervised by me indicates that the waste water treatment plants installed at both Weliweriya and Kottawa are highly effective in removing the oxidizable organic matter in waste water and the water released to the environment is well within the tolerance limits stipulated by the standards for chemical and biological oxygen demands.

    Detailed atomic absorption studies were also carried out to estimate the metal ions in waste water discharged by the glove factory. The only metal ions of any significant quantity were sodium, potassium and calcium ions. No dangerous metal ions were released to the environment.

    The people of Weliweriya have good reason to be disturbed by the acidity levels of their well water; so also people of other areas having a similar problem.

    Results of research studies already done on well water of this region, suggests that, the prevailing low acidity is not an outcome of acidic materials released from a single production factory but due to a basket of factors covering a wide area of a geographical basin.

    We need to recognize the problem faced by the people of Weliweriya and other areas with due respect, and it is indeed a problem which needs attention, and I believe that a solution has to be found by way of an investment by the State to provide pipe born drinking water to people of this area. This article is written, in order to enlighten the people of the greater area of Weliweriya that a solution to their problem does not exist in closing down a factory that is not releasing acidic waste water. Such an exercise would be like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

    International markets

    It is a great pity that the production factory is right now not in operation. It must start as soon as possible, as otherwise the international markets will lose faith in DPL, which has so far made an immeasurable contribution to the growth of the rubber product manufacturing industry, purely by native enterprise.

    It has to be understood by all that, Rome was not built in a day. DPL is the creation of a long period of hard work and strategic planning to be a global giant and cannot be allowed to decay in this way.

    I am certain, that the patriotic citizens of Weliweriya will cooperate to permit DPL to resume operations if the people are informed of the true facts of the situation.

    This article is a small contribution made with that intent, by one who has been involved in rubber product manufacture for more than 40 years in three of Sri Lanka’s biggest multi-product factories. It is my considered view that the Dipped Products factory which is releasing treated alkaline water, with minimum organic matter and harmless metal ions, in no way is responsible for the wide spread well water acidity now prevailing in the Attanagalu Oya basin.

    It is also relevant to note that, DPL being very conscious about sustainable development, is not incinerating or dumping any damaged defective gloves and instead is exporting the waste gloves as well.

    I sincerely hope that government will move effectively to implement a pipe borne drinking water supply to the acidic zones of the Attanagalu Oya basin, as there may not be another method by which the problems the people of these areas are facing can be solved permanently.

    – See more at: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/killing-goose-lays-thegolden-egg#sthash.qVUH2HgB.dpuf

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2018 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress