Bharatha – Folk Hero?

| I. S. Senguttuvan

(October 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Popular etiquette requires speaking ill of the dead is to lack in courtesy and taste. I have no intention to depart from this tradition. But when it involves a tribute – editorially, to boot – to one identified with crime, violence, gangsterism and drug-running then it is time the public is not taken for knaves or granted. It is only an ignorant society that goes out to glorify crime. It is the responsibility of civil society, therefore, to call a spade a spade in instances like this.
What is worrisome is if and when the President told some Ministers who met him in the matter “Duminda is not my man – but Gota’s” this is clearly admission there are two sources of ultimate power in the government – one “elected” while the other certainly not.

Bharatha came from the slums of Wellampitiya – whose father was a low level Trade Union leader of sorts. Admittedly, that is no crime or socially infra dig. Bharatha took over from his father and built a fortune by the time he died. It is not only in Chicago where Trade Unions are controlled by racketeers. How a Trade Union man comes to own a fleet of Pajeros, super-luxury cars and send his children to costly overseas education is baffling even in a country where the Tax authorities – the guardians of society in the matter of accumulation of illicit wealth – remain selective, pliant and corrupt. One welcome feature in the handsome Bharatha was he was made of a friendly demeanour and easily gained friends and supporters.

The Kolonnawa Electorate and area since the late 1960s and 1980s saw T.B. Illangaratne and D.S. Samarasinghe (?) representing them. Serious crime and drugs were never a problem at that time. The late Weerasinghe Mallimarachchi made Kolonnawa his turf during the Premadasa era as District Minister when drugs were becoming part of the social lexicon in the area. The Police then had some control over the nascent drug traffickers although the more influential politicians often used their clout with the local police in favour of their delinquent supporters. But matters took a drastic turn durng the time Bharatha was a political force – not merely in the area but in the adjoining Borella and Wanathamulla turfs too – established drug infested areas. He continued his supremacy in the area in favour of the political parties in power and, therefore, his aberrations were ignored. It was singularly unfortunte for Bharatha that Duminda Silva abandoned the UNP and joined government ranks. The reason being obvious.
The seeds of the enmity began with Deshamanya (sic) Duminda Silva promoted as Organiser for the Kolonnawa District in a political culture that knows no gratitude but only respects sheer muscle power. While political control of the area was the chief reason for the mutual acrimony, domination of the very lucrative drug trafficking trade is equally a cause of friction between the two warlords – both commanding large private armed with licenced and unlicensed firearms under the very nose of the backboneless Police. Ven. Sobita Thero, the politically active priest, is in record at the valedictory stating there are over 500 drug dens in the area. There is clearly a lot of drugs changing hands in the area. The gruesom killing, therefore, was not in the interest of the voters but more in the interest of preservation of the drug business. What is discouraging is there is also wide speculation a senior Minister of this government with interests in the area also has his hands tainted with the drug trade.
What is worrisome is if and when the President told some Ministers who met him in the matter “Duminda is not my man – but Gota’s” this is clearly admission there are two sources of ultimate power in the government – one “elected” while the other certainly not. There is a fear here if, like in Pakistan, if the army is now in a pre-dominant position in the running of the country.
The question is whether this regime hears the voices and feels the tears of thousands of mothers in the Kolonnawa/Mulleriyawa area whose children – should be going to high-school, University or working in offices and factories – whereas they have become incurable drug-addicts due to these type of political leaders upon whom this government confers the hallowed title of Deshamanya. There are similar mothers all over the country. Several middle and upper class families in the country were destroyed by their children taking to drugs. Some from the better schools caught by the Police for house-breaking and stealing. It is a menace that should have been addressed by any government that has taken upon it to serve the people.
Sadly, this government has failed in its duty to protect the people from the scourge of the drug menace. On the other hand, it can be accused of encouraging the drug trade.
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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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