SRI LANKA: Meethotamulla tragedy to be duplicated at Muthurajawela?

by Basil Fernando

Dealing with the Meethotamulla waste dump has now become a major national problem for Sri Lanka. At least 30 persons have lost their lives due to the collapse of the waste dump. Many others might have died or suffered serious diseases due to the existence of this waste dump polluting the entire environment over a long period of time.

The problem now, is where to dump this mountain of waste. It was not long ago that people in the Ja-Ela Negombo area organised protests to prevent a waste dump being created in their area. Realising early on what could be brought into their midst, the people had sufficient sense to come together and prevent a disaster in their vicinity.

The next location suggested for the waste appears to be the unfortunate Muthurajawela area, which was once one of Sri Lanka’s greatest paddy fields, yielding the best of rice to feed the population. The area is now a waste land, due to the Hamilton Canal, which while built to provide water for the paddy fields, did not take into account the tides bringing in salt water from the sea at times. Over a long period of time, the salt water destroyed one of the best paddy fields in the country.

Subsequently, there was a discussion of creating gas from whatever has become of this paddy field, but nothing ever materialised towards this end. Since then, there have been many misadventures attempted in this area, the latest being a waste dump.

Muthurajawela villagers and community leaders, including Catholic priests in the area, have come forward to protest so the creation of a waste mountain within their vicinity. What is alarming however, is the attempt to use national security laws against those trying to protest against the waste dump in the area. The use of national security laws means suspension of ordinary laws that prevail in the country, particularly regarding arrest and detention. This means that persons protesting against their environment being polluted will be punished by arrest and long detention under special laws in order to quell the protests.

This demonstrates the abnormal mentality of Sri Lankan administrators, who easily decide that what cannot be done under normal laws should be done under special laws. Thus, environmental pollution, considered a crime against the community by civilised society, is seen in Sri Lanka as a normal matter. Furthermore, the extraordinary powers of national security laws are to be used to ensure that this routine matter is settled as per government wishes. It is clear that Sri Lanka’s very reasoning process is being perverted. Perverted laws are only inevitable then.

Why is reason being treated so lightly in this country now? Has the political system gone so wrong that it cannot do anything in a rational manner?

An enormous disaster looms ahead of Sri Lanka if this process of abandoning the law and reason continues, and if the butt of a gun is used for everything. Placing the power of the gun in place of reason can only bring about disaster, from which the people may not be able to walk out.

In these tragic times, some force must arise to defend the reason and wisdom of the people against the irresponsibility of administrators and politicians.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-022-2017
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Campaigns : Blasphemy Law in Pakistan
Issues : Environmental protection, Right to health, Right to life,