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Rathupaswala: The river of tears

2013 Nov 05

Thousands of families in the village of Rathupaswala are still facing a major crisis over their basic and life-saving need of drinking water – more than a month after the issue stormed into the national and international headlines following an  attack on innocent people by an yet  unidentified armed group.

Last Tuesday a group of villagers were given an opportunity to tell their horrifying story on a TV programme, and what came out was a river of tears with conflicts within conflicts, confusion within confusion, double games and deception. One villager said the crisis was so dangerous and desperate that he wanted to just leave the huge plot of land where he had been cultivating for decades, take his family and go into some unknown wilderness where he believed life would be safer.

The crisis over the alleged pollution of the area’s ground water by a powerful company which had water-tight connections with politicians in high places has affected even the sacred area of religion. The villager said the two temples near the controversial factory were virtually deserted because few if any people went there as they were disturbed over the failure of the monks to speak out on their behalf. The villager said the monk from a temple in a nearby area had initially joined them in their protest, but now he also appeared to be playing a double game because a powerful figure in the company and high-level politicians with vested interests were alleged to be throwing millions to buy over people. The villager said an agreement that has reportedly been signed by a representative of the company and a person who claimed to represent the villagers  but it was not worth the paper it was written on because the villagers had not been consulted and had not agreed to on any such deal. Under this alleged agreement the company was to be given six more months to operate in the area before moving out, while it would make arrangements to provide tap water to the villagers whose wells had been polluted.

The villager said many of them might be dead in six months at the rate the pollution was going on, because now the well water could not be used even for toilet purposes. They said that for generations they had got fresh water from their wells, and they were not prepared to pay for tap water supplied by the Water Supply and Drainage Board.

What is happening at Rathupaswala is one of the most polluted instances of the corruption, hypocrisy, deception and plunder of the people’s resources in almost every sphere of life. We see the malignant corruption of cancer destroying so much in the life-or-death health service, the education service, the economy and so many other important areas.

With what is left of the free media being threatened or intimidated further, the government media seemed to be abusing public funds for the worst form of party political propaganda in Sri Lanka’s history. The stooges and sycophants are degenerating to sickening levels. With little or no regard for the laws of defamation or the high principles of professional journalism they launch personal attacks on those who do not agree with the policies of the Rajapaksa regime. With such prostitution of journalism with the independence of the Judiciary being seriously damaged and with little by way of accountability or transparency in the executive and legislative arms of the regime, it is not only Rathupaswala but democracy itself that has been polluted to dangerous or deadly levels.

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