Year Later: The brutal murder of an environmentalist

The collapse of the judiciary in present day fatal Sri Lanka

* Ketheeswaran Thevaraja no more – [December 3, 1983 – December 31, 2010]
* Current Sri Lanka negated of acceptable law and order
| by Sunalie Ratnayake
( January 09, Illinois -USA , Sri Lanka Guardian) With the dawn of the 2011, we get to hear another utterly devastating occurrence from Northern Sri Lanka. It is non other than the brutal murder of a 28 year old environmentalist, namely Ketheeswaran Thevaraja, who had been actively raising a forlorn voice against the illegitimate “sand excavation” that had been forever taking place in his parish, which he had loved with all his heart and soul.
In due course, he ended up paying the ultimate price of “death”, for the love for his land, for the wholeheartedness for nature, for the sake of righteousness, for the knack and nerve to stand up against all odds, in a land like no other.
Thevaraja who was actively voicing his displeasure, with regards to the ongoing unlawful sand excavation in his native soil, was also a well known figure amongst a certain preferred portion in the ever eminent facebook community, especially amongst people who had similar concerns, people who had a love for nature, people who had a vertebral column to stand up against injustice of many a nature, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, age, locality, edification and so on and so forth.
Especially, Thevaraja was well known amongst Sri Lankan journalists and activists, including the ones in exile, and deals by and large in the cyber world (those not being able to operate their vocation genuinely from their motherland, due to obvious reasons in present day Sri Lanka), apart from Thevaraja’s antagonists who had known him too well, due to them continuing to be actively involved in pilfering the environment to attain illicit bucks, despite the valiant voice of this young man, raised against their brazen acts.
The corrosion of the soil he belonged to (due to profound sand excavations), as well as the highly recognizable corrosion of the ‘law and order’ in his soil, both uniformly troubled Thevaraja‘s young heart. And that was in the Northern Districts of his motherland, Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Peninsula. A native of Kudaththanai East, Thevaraja had been living in Vanni, and resettled in his village following the end of the Vanni war.
Reports indicate that the vigorous Thevaraja who had been shot on the head by gunmen that entered the house he was staying on that fateful night, had made a honest living as a postal worker in the region of Vadamarachchi in Jaffa peninsula. Despite being a straightforward ecological activist, no other unambiguous reasons seem to come into view, for him to undergo the viciousness of a cold blooded murder.
The John Lennon T-shirt and Thevaraja
Thevaraja’s facebook profile, which still exists up to this moment indicates albums uploaded by him, with pictures that depicts the environmental damage caused by illegal sand excavation in his village. In addition, there are pictures of himself clad in a black T-shirt on the vicinity of the excavations, a T-shirt which has the print of a picture of the renowned English musician John Lennon of the Beatles fame, with a mike in his hand.
As a matter of fact, John Lennon too was eminent for his forthrightness in making statements on all significant arenas, civic matters of grave concern, a man who spoke his mind, void of fear. Likewise, his music depicted a rebellious nature, and a prickly wittiness. Following his untimely death by murder, while announcing that there will be no funeral for John, his wife Yoko Ono made a statement ; “ John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him.”
Sometimes in life, there could be strange connections between certain entities that seem to be inconsequential, and often overlooked, just as Thevaraja’s facebook photos clad in a black T-Shirt of John Lennon, Thevaraja’s ideologies, John Lennon’s philosophy in life, John Lennon’s sudden termination with four gunshots, Thevaraja’s sudden termination with gunshots on his head, though lives poles apart on the phase of the earth, the forthrightness of them both, and so on and so forth.
The Gloriosa Lily
Moreover, his facebook page portrays pictures of him clad in the aforesaid black Lennon T-shirt, holding the “gloriosa superba” lily and posing for the camera, giving significance to the red and yellow blossom, as if it was an indication of heroism.
The lily has more to it. Gloriosa superba is a protected plant in Zimbabwe, due to same being the national flower of the country. It is also the state flower of the Tamil Nadu state in India. Moreover, it was the national flower of Tamil Eelam, and as such was displayed by and large during the festivities of Maaveerar Day. Furthermore, it is the gloriosa lily, which is held by Lord Skanda a.k.a. Lord Kataragama, Murugan Katirkaman, Kadirkamam, Subrahmanya, Kandasamy, Kadiradeva, Katiradeva, Katiravel, Kartikeya, and Tarakajith, a lord of high veneration amongst many a Sri Lankan.
In Sinhala the lily is widely known as “Niyangalaa”, a flower of which the name alone (despite the fact of it being the flower held by the much worshiped Lord Kataragama) tend to give utter “panic” to many a Sri Lankan.
In my case, at a time I did not have a clue about the aforesaid facts, I always found it to be a beautiful and rather fascinating flower, which I often merrily plucked on my excursions to the Athugala in my mother’s hometown Kurunegala, and pompously brought to Botany class in school.
I also recall in my teenage years, on a trip to my father’s village Hanguranketha, I had him stop the vehicle by a cascade on the roadside, which had Niyangalaa plants booming with flowers, and I plucked a few plants from the vicinity, took them home and tried to breed them in a pot, which obviously did not work.
However, my point is, even if I was educated at that time, with regards to the numerous aspects for which this particular flower stood for, I would have still seen it as an attractive creation of nature, and it would have not freaked me out, for I shall have no intentions whatsoever of gulping it at any given point.
It is a flower that contains colchicine and related alkaloids, and are therefore dangerously toxic if ingested. Therefore, the fright of the lily alone, (fed and engrossed in the minds of many) may have forced for many to grab the wrong end of the stick, with regards to Thevaraja’s posing with same.

Unlawful Sand Excavations
The ongoing illegal sand excavation from dunes in Jaffna, by politically affiliated parties have caused severe damage to the environment, which in turn had caused it to become a significant public issue in the recent past. It is also noted that pro-government paramilitary forces supported by the EPDP (Eelam People’s Democratic Party) is responsible for this scheme. In the name of Maheswary Foundation, the sand dunes are scooped by politically backed contractors run by the EPDP’s pro-government paramilitary forces in the Jaffna peninsula.
Speaking of blessed features of nature that Sri Lanka holds, Vadamarachchi depicts a stretch of well recognized sand dunes, which is an exceptional geographical attribute in the Jaffna peninsula. The Northeast winds deposits the sand in the Jaffna peninsula, which is initially dragged by the transportation of sediments (in this case, sand), at an angle to the shoreline, along the coast, and this littoral drift or longshore drift transports the sand from the Indian subcontinent towards Jaffna.

A sequence of homicides
Not only the 31st night murder of Thevaraja, that occurred considerably with the patronage of the current regime’s interested fractions, but it can be significantly noted, even by the most biased or unbiased fragments, that there had been a sequence, as per the homicides in the country’s northern Jaffana Peninsula, during the weeks that just happened to pass by, in the latter part of 2011.
These vicious cycles of incidents further adds to the trepidation of a so-called “free” and “peaceful” land. Where is that ‘liberty’ quite often than not, mentioned in government-backed-news-media, as well as the same being a frequent limerick uttered by government politicians and their enthusiasts, to a mere row of microphones on press conferences, or on political propaganda podiums, or on so-called political debates in TV ?
In point of fact, what kind of connotation does the word “peace” hold in present day Sri Lanka ? Or, freedom, peace, democracy, justice – are they meager words that happen to withdraw into thin air, within fractions of seconds, and with the occurrence of each new murder, hooliganism, intimidation, oppression, “illicit verdict” in courts or “gangster act” outside courts and much more ?
The blind-eye of the Rajapaksa Brotherhood
Does the accountable authorities, and the “Rajapaksa Brotherhood”, whom most prominent authorities are under in present day Sri Lanka, (and them being the critical decision makers of the land) even stand up, in aspects of truly implementing perceptible freedom, democracy, justice and peace in the island ? Following two years and eight months of winning the war against the blood thirsty LTTE, even today the Rajapaksa Brotherhood and their benefactors are blowing the trumpet, and the same obsolete whistle of winning the war.
What about the aftermath ? What about post-war aid to the innocent masses who already suffered a crucial providence for nearly three decades ? Where are they to turn to for facilitation ? They are not asking too much, but a mere means of living a decent life, just like any other ordinary citizen. Are these Tamil people, who are also part and parcel of Sri Lanka, some kind of joke to the preeminence ? Are their pleas an unheard echo in a far away abyss of banshee ? If so, why ? Is the Sri Lankan government that merciless ? Don’t the operators of the government have hearts that beat, pulses that throb, feelings that sense,, consciences that comprehend, or in the least, brains that work in the right direction ?
Not all are blind
Despite the wishful thinking of the Rajapaksa Brotherhood and their ardent adherents, it should be well noted that not the entire populace is blind or dumb, or at least not at the same time. Thus, a noteworthy throng living both in Sri Lanka and overseas can evidently see and understand what truly is taking place behind those fraudulent masks of bamboozle. It’s just the sheer fact, given the circumstances, that those not blind, yet living in Sri Lanka cannot open their jawbones, and voice out the reality (quite often than not, as the views of the citizenry opposes that of the government), in apparent fear of their lives. In order to do anything, an individual should first be breathing and alive.
True enough, we no longer experience the apprehensive bombs and blasts in public situates. We no longer hear the engines and gyratory propellers of TIGER planes roaming in the night skies of the city. True enough, the elimination of the LTTE after nearly three decades of absolute suffering is more than a blessing to a thrice blessed isle, and we perceptibly know whom to be grateful for same. After all, we are no ungrateful nation, yet, the current state of affairs does not by any means confirm that Sri Lanka is a peaceful and free land, where it‘s masses can live happily ever after.
The beginning of a fear-provoking era
People, especially those who like to be happy in their dreams, and daydreams quite often that not, must wake up from their slothful slumber and comprehend the reality beneath the icing of the cake. Now, once again, the machinery of the state have started to operate at a rate, where at times I wonder whether history is repeating thyself.
There was a time in my childhood, way before I even had thoughts of turning into Journalism, or never even had the wildest dreams of writing on behalf of those who had no voice of themselves, a time where the machinery of the then regimes devastated my island, especially the south, slaughtering prospective youth like mincemeat, for obvious reasons of shielding themselves, and grasping into perverse “power”.
Numerous significant journalists, activists and many more customary individuals that engaged in their daily routines started to abruptly disappear, and their stock-still bodies, following profound torture, were later found on seashores, or treetops or hanging from high tension wires and bridges, or charcoaled to death on tyres.
Now I fear, as if to whether such agonizing history is unveiling, repeating itself at a significant rate, and in the watchful eye of yet another so-called democratic regime.
Not only the murder of Thevaraja, but also the recent murder of a foreigner in Tangalle, in which the core suspect (Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, Sampath Chandra Pushpa) notably happens to be a high-flying member of the current ruling alliance, is yet another revolting act that adds an apparent black mark to the judicial system in the country.
It is not yet another sadism against tourists that may influence a dwindle in the tourism industry of the island, but it also demonstrates the departure of Law and Order, where criminal mobs ecstatically happen to enjoy the ostensible impunity, with the total patronage of the current regime. Why couldn’t the police arrest the prime suspect, until he surrendered himself a few days ago ?
As per the surrender of the aforesaid suspect, the Hong Kong based AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission) in their statement disclosed the following : “Due to the publicity this incident has attracted Chairman Vidanapathirana surrendered to the police. On assurance of anonymity, a policeman explained that such surrenders are nothing but a game. All the conditions of how to deal with the situation and the manner in which the surrendering suspects are to be released are all prearranged, he said. The whole process of criminal investigations is so manipulated by the government politicians that in many similar incidents the suspects have escaped any criminal punishment.”
Apart from the foreigner’s murder in Tangalle, and the Thevaraja episode in Jaffna, there have also been a number of continued abductions and killings from various other parts of the island, as of late.
As stated above, other than the incidents highlighted in this article, the fact should also be noted that there have been ample other examples in the most recent past, where unabashed violations of law had occurred, yet the government enforces, which I call a “dumb-eye-effect” to each and every case, which otherwise should be of grave concern. When shall this lunacy of the state’s machinery operators come to a standstill ? When shall Sri Lanka attain the true meaningful essence of freedom, peace, law and order ? The truth is out there and it indeed is disturbing, with the passing of the hour.
PICS COURTESY OF THEVARAJA’S FACEBOOK ALBUMS, AND SRI LANKA GUARDIAN PUBLISHES THEM IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIS FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN FOR A NOTABLE CAUSE ( Click on the image to an enlarge )
Thevaraja is no more, but it’s not going to be the end of oppression in the land like no other. God only knows, who the next victim may turn out to be. Thevaraja loved the soil he was born, and was nurtured in. He loved the nature and the humankind, and worked and prayed for the betterment of same, in his own simple capacity. The least we could do is to pray for him, and pray for a next victim to not emerge. And for the repellent nature of the present day governance to change.
Sunalie Ratnayake could be reached at sunalie.secretandbeyond@yahoo.com or sue@srilankaguardian.org

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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