Colombo, Disabilities, Human Rights, Media and Communications, War Crimes

We, The Spectator State

A young boy was drowned in broad daylight this week. Though not a single newspaper carried it, I’m told B. Sivakumaran was his name. He was “believed” to be mentally retarded and known for throwing stones at passing vehicles and trains. Approximately 100 people watched him die. One even managed to capture on film the final five minutes of his life.

That five minutes of footage could have been of a possible rescue by one of the 100 or so spectators.  Or, that five minutes of footage could have been shot at the same time a call for assistance was made to the nearest Police Station, by someone present in the crowd. This was the heart of Bambalapitiya after all, and Sri Lanka is not short of mobile phones. But instead, the five minutes of footage shows us the gory, pathetic end of a young life, for no apparent reason.

The spectators watched on intently.

Three to four men surfaced out of the water, as if from nowhere, and began to advance towards the boy, who by then was fast retreating. Two men armed with large wooden poles (more like thick tree branches) continued to advance on the boy, and thrash him, one brutal stroke at a time. The spectators watch on. The boy kept trying to head towards the shore. He even brought his hands together in a desperate plea for mercy. His persecutors however, showed no sign of it.

The spectators continued to watch.

The more he pleaded, the more vicious the attack became. Closer and closer they inched to him, thrashing him unmercifully each time he surfaced. This went on for five minutes, until at last the deed was done. He resurfaced no more.

The spectators watched on, transfixed.

A friend said to me that maybe people didn’t want to get “involved” because they thought it was some “underworld” rift. That’s a damning indictment on us, our society. This video is proof that we’ve reached a point where our “fear” overrides a sense of humanity.

I sense a pattern of sorts here.

The deafening silence on the IDP issue for example. Everyone knows they’re suffering, some even care. But, our “fear” of a “possible” threat to our lives by the “possible” re-emergence of terrorism justifies our silence. Our inaction. Isn’t it strange to have a State half-heartedly respond only when threatened by the International Community to set these people free? Doesn’t it seem strange at all that a Government must be held to ransom to look after its own people? Our paralyzing fear of dissent and our sheer capacity to rationalize the violent fate of those who do dare to is another facet of our ‘Spectator State.’

If cold-blooded murder can take place in the heart of Colombo in broad daylight, in front of a crowd, we can only wonder what happened on bloody battlefields in the Vanni, with no one left to tell the tale.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    This video is terrible.

    But lest we think that this is a malady unique to Sri Lanka, such collective inaction is a known social psychological phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect (

    An example of this effect was sadly demonstrated just a few days back in the USA. (

    So while I only partially agree with how Marisa connects this event to the rest of the events taking place in SL, such as the apathy over the IDPs due to fear of terrorism etc. that does not mean that such fear is absent (and/or capitalized on).

  • AJ Perera

    An even greater evil in this incident somehow seem to have escaped all observers.

    The immediate reaction from the Police was that this mentally unbalanced person threw stones at the police, and then jumped in to the sea and drowned!

    Shouldn’t the Police officer who approved this version of the event for the press need to be taken to task. If the cameraman had not been there, don’t you think hat is the version that would have held?

    The police officer who officially released that version need to be charged as well.

    Also, the media cannot merely regurgitate one version – they could certainly report it as the officail statement, if at the same time they take the responsibility to check with other witnesses to the incident and give their story as well. Otherwise it is not journalism – it reduces to merely a source of Official propaganda machinery.

    Under the cover of fighting terrorism, the country has been bulldozed by the “truer” terrorists!

  • dayan jayatilleka

    Bravo, Marisa. This was our Rodney King moment.

    Let’s not forget though, that the Daily Mirror broke the story and has given the boy’s name today. Let’s also not forget that the electronic media brought the story into the drawing rooms of the nation.

    Now let’s take it from there.

  • dayan jayatilleka

    AW Perera says ” truer terrorists’. Now hold on. Let’s get some perspective here. In his recent essay on Pottu Amman, DBS Jeyaraj writes of how a dissident brought to him tied up and in a gunny sack was personally pounded to a bloody pulp by him with an iron rod, while still in the gunny which he finally dashed against a tree.

    Nobody videoed that death. Nobody wrote about it. It wasn’t on the TV news. No one was arrested. We know about it now that Prabhakaran and most of the Tigers are safely dead.

    “Truer” terrorists? C’mon man, gimme a break. This what’s wrong with the civil society types: way over the top.

  • vivimarie

    I will not dare watch the video. It is unbelievable, totally and completely unbelievable how anyone can stand and watch. Well, the person who filmed it, at least got some evidence. Which is more than what the others did, who stood around watching. What is it with the contrasts and contradictions of this country and its people? When you have a flat tire or your car wont start, many kind people come over and offer help, people just walking along the road, three-wheeler drivers, anyone. Wasn’t there even one person there who called the authorities? Or maybe s/he did and there was no response? Will we ever know?

  • niranjan


    “This video is proof that we’ve reached a point where our “fear” overrides a sense of humanity.” I sense a pattern of sorts here.”

    I sense a pattern of sorts as well. It tells us something about the society we live in. Someone this morning dismissed the event by saying that “the person who got kiled was a troublesome mad man who had been pelting stones at a train.”

  • mahaweliraja

    and, as always, the killers will end up going scot-free… is there no shame in Sri Lanka? this is not a problem of the government being too authoritarian (though it has proven to be very authoritarian indeed), this is not a problem of the police doing as it pleases (though the police has shown that it can indeed do very much as it pleases). this is a fundamental problem in Sri Lanka’s collective psyche. Jailing one policeman, or replacing one government by another will not do. what Sri Lanka needs is a change of heart.

  • the optimist

    Hang on don’t blame the guy who videoed it. Who are you supposed to call when the cops are the perpetrators of the crime? The person who was videoing this was taking a huge risk by doing so. And I think they should be applauded for gathering proof of the crime committed. Evidence which will hopefully lead to justice. (Unless the government decides that the victim was throwing stones as part of an LTTE assault on the infrastructure of the country or that he was in some other way linked to the LTTE in which case I’m sure the police officers involved would get a guard of honour and a medal on the Galle face green for their heroics)

  • justice

    The incident and the initial police response if taken in to context of the recent police brutalities(Beating of the student ,the Angulana incident) shows how the society in general has lost values.It’s a lack collective conscientiousness that even the public who were spectators of the incident didn’t act.
    Street justice should never be encouraged or applauded be it the Rodney King incident in LA ,Pottu’s beasty act or SL police brutality,Rule of law and due process should always be upheld.Police cann’t act as advocates,jury ,judge and executioners.Hope the society looks at it objectively rather than through the narrow ethno-religious lense.

  • Police and other peapol who has government protection like Mervin Silva and his thugs do this kind of crime without any fear.

  • yapa

    This cruel act can not just be considered as a bruitality of a single person or two, definitely it is an pathetic indication where our society stands on today. Our society has deteriorated to the extent that people have no sense towards a human life. There are many in society who consider violence as a good means to heal some social problems. We Justify beating a driver and burning the vehicle when it is met with an accident. We justified and appriciated the way the police irradicated the underworld in the recent past. So the problem can not only be credited to the account of some abnormal individuals in our society. The entirity is suffering from some precarious ailment.

    However, the biggest problem we are facing is finding the exact place where the root cause of the problem is lying. Accorng to my understanding, diving into political philosopies is one of the effective ways to findout the root causes and remedies to many social problems.

    According to Aristotle, justice is the bond that keeps society together. Unity will not remain unless the justice is maintained. So this proposes that if somebody wishes harmony in society, he must ensure that the whole mechanism of society built on the foundation of justice. Undoubtedly this somebody is nothing but the government.

    The tool of a government to regulate society is the Legal System and hence the key to harmony is a just legal system based on the aspirations and the needs of that society. We know that we have our doubts about our legal system. Threfore many evils of our society could be attributed to our basic law ; ie to our constitution. It is also a known fact that we have formulated our constitution not to be fair to all but to the advantage of then ruling party. This bias in the constitution is the main cause of many social ills, as per my understanding.

    So in my opinion, to oday the main responsibility of the intellectuals in the country is to bring about a dialogue to dicuss the ways and means to replace the present constitution with a fair and just system. This is an enormous and long term task we know. But short term patches to the wound is not the cure for it. Not leaving aside the importance of short term remedies to the day to day issues, our focus should not be taken away from the long term goal.

    A just legal system along with propre implementation of the Rule of Law would definitely solve most of ailing problems in society. Many other politcal refinements can be introduced to nurse the healing society.

  • AJ Perera

    Here you go again Dayan, slick as ever, trying to divert attention from the issue.

    The point of the note is that when Officials responsible for maintaining law themselves become lawless, and the institution protects them, they become an even greater evil — for instance a cop robbing a bank is more evil than a bank robber doing it!.

    My concern was that in the present incident the public/official focus is on either the cop who beat the guy, or the one who video taped him – the greater evil lies in the spokes person/police official who made the following statement, as appeared in the press:
    “Earlier today the victim had reportedly thrown stones towards the Bambalapitiya police before jumping into the sea and drowning, the police spokesman quoted the Bambalapitiya police as saying.”

    The greater evil lies in tolerating such Officials/Institutions, and until that gets corrected, we are downhill on a rather slippery slope.

    Now, try to focus on the issue rather than hunting down a word in isolation for convenient nitpicking so as to divert attention, and thereby protect the “truer terrorists’!

  • nandasena

    We should appreciate the person who took the video and the Daily Mirror for publishing it, knowing well the would be consequences for doing that it in a country where freedom of press is non existence!!!

    I hope the Govt. will not come out with a version that this guy was carrying explosives!!! The usual fiction which is released when any innocent person is killed by the “valiant forces”, especially Tamils!!!!

    DBS’s article on Pottu Amman is what DBS has heard from “some source”. He is not a witness to it or does not have a proof!!! It could have come from some anti LTTE sources!!!

  • Kannan


    You don’t seem to get it. This is about individual conduct and basic moral code. Prabakaran and Potu were products of a sick society where laws did not matter. I don’t see a difference between the brutal conduct of security forces and the Tigers. It is time that both Sinhalese and Tamils reflect on what type of society they want their children to inherit. We seem to get defensive and call out each others action instead of being self reflective. As a Tamil who was displaced due to the state sponsored pogrom in 1983 and seen my own community justify violence have come to the conclusion that in many ways the Tamil and the Sinhalese attitudes mirror each other on all the negative aspects of human nature. It is time that both communities work towards building a society where the weak such as this poor mentally challenged man has a dignified place. Until then shame on us all.

  • Arun Nathan

    There should be national reconciliation between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. This is the only way we could bring dignity to Mother Sri Lanka. I am reflecting on the days when I was serving as a Govt. officer both in Sinhalese and Tamil speaking areas. What amount of respect I received from both communities. Bad politics has doomed the country. We should respect every individual as our brothers and sisters. Hatred, Jealousy, Anger for each other brings doom to the country.
    Thanks for permitting me to post my comment.

  • I agree with Kannan in his diagnosis of the syndrome that is driving both the Tamils and the Sinhalese. There was a time when both communities lived in harmony. Even now if the Sinhalese agree to a sharing of power under a Federal system, there is hope of a redemption. The recent acrimonious behavior of the Sri Lanka Army towards the whole Tamil community reflects Hitler’s holocaust. When the Tigers surrendered in the Vanni , Nadesan and his companions were shot down mercilessly. To what depths have the Sinhalese descended, when they have lost their humanity! I remember how brutally the JVP were butchered under the Bandaranayake government-their Sinhala brethren. Let us remember that thereis a collective, group Karma we have to pay. Both the Sinhalese and Tamil have paid for their inhumanty. Let sanity prevail at least now! Let us live and let live if not under a federal system,then under an independant Eelam if that is what the Sinhalese want. Remember, history shows that
    self -determination can never be suppressed!

  • I feel deeply grieved by whatis happening in my beloved country where I spent the happiest of years . Igrieve at the blood that is being shed! I never passed a Buddha statue without folding my hands in prayer. In my school years, there were no ‘Sinhalese’ or ‘Tamils’. There were Pereas, Gautamadasas, Jayetillekas Nalliahs, Kandiahs from Point Pedro to Dondra. How did the present carnage happen? Why should we let it go on? Let us open the festering wound,clean it and heal it instead of trying to cover it. Liz

  • The Talking Frog

    “SomewhatDisgusted” tried to explain the events described by Marisa as a ‘bystander effect’, which is a specific form of the ‘free rider problem’ in economics. For the explanation to fit, people should not have acted because they thought someone else would act instead. Marisa’s story, however, suggests the problem was different: that people were just too afraid or too acclimatised, to be adequately moved by the horror.

    Many have contested Dayan J’s responses. Apart from those, this frog thought that categorising ‘AJ Perera’ as a “civil society type” type seemed a bit strange. Was it meant to insult civil society activists? (whither democracy?) Or simply to place DJs pennant close those who would like to silence civil society activists? More likely perhaps, a moment of thoughtlessness?

  • Sohan

    Thanks for speaking out Marisa. I’m particular referring to your realization that this is not just an isolated incident but rather a manifestation of a much bigger problem; i.e., a bigger problem (“attitude problem”?) which in turns causes situations such as the “deafening silence on the IDP issue”. Well, I ASSUME my previous sentence is accurately restating what you meant; but anyhow, regardless, that certainly was MY early reaction a couple of days ago upon seeing this Bamba drowning/murder video.

    I am sure there are many of us who have also thought similarly but often are reluctant to “strongly” discuss it with our friends and peers since that’d risk us becoming “unpopular”… no one wants people to spoil our Colombo Fun with rude reminders of these harsh realities of life; it’s another example of being just “a spectator state”, I feel.

    Well, I better stop being thus reluctant. So here goes:

    A couple of days ago I saw on some newspaper’s blog, some commenters were asking what the onlookers were doing without helping… and it struck me that while that was a very valid question, we SHOULD also see a “bigger picture”: and here’s an edited version of what I therefore emailed to a just a few small groups of friends (though I dared/dare not email to wider range of friends)

    1. Well I guess I [first] have to accuse myself that I’m an “onlooker” to the IDPs being brutally (though not as directly) treated, and so why am *I* doing so very little… just as bad as these drowning case’s onlookers.
    (E.g., at minimum, why haven’t i written to my religion’s “clergy leader” asking him why he hasn’t spoken out about the fact that they IDP are being illegally detained? My divine religious leader would have opened HIS mouth, that I know. why havent I bothered to point out that my religion is being somewhat racially differentiated in opinion, which is against my religion’s principles?)
    So i am an idle onlooker too.

    2. Or, consider this: the very few journalist who’ve opened their mouths, are one type of “onlooker” in the recent years: onlookers of other brutalities. And when they DID do something positive they got into major trouble because no one else had the guts to give support. (And see, in this sentence I’m not even daring to spell out any names; how pathetic, no? spectator state it is.)

    3. I guess it’s the same in general, with the “less visible” brutalities and injustices that are happening in our country and have been happening long before the start of the 80’s problems. Yet most of us sri lankans don’t do anything REALLY concrete; or worse we don’t know what’s happening, and/or we swallow the racist or otherwise distorted garbage that is fed to us and don’t believe the truth.
    E.g., with the IDP situation, or many other “bad stuff” that is/has going on, why are so many of us blinded – either for our own comfort or simply because we are naive? gullible? Even during the war, so many wrong ideas were held by many towards the war, supporting it even at certain periods of time where it shouldn’t have been supported.
    I can barely try to imagine some of those Bamba drowning onlookers being told, “Ah no no, that’s not a man being beaten it’s a dangerous shark” and then somehow being blinded enough to believe that. Worse, being told “ah he’s a mental case, so who cares what happens”, and then (wrongly) accepting that. Or, “hey he threw stones at me, he WAS a nuisance to me therefore let whatever happen to him, I don’t care” (which, I believe, is sometimes the attitude problem towards the IDP situation and/or towards the so called ethnic problem).

    But I feel there is also one more contributory factor for this “spectator” problem: often this is the reason for MY silence, not cowardice or convenience. That is, let me call it apathy (for lack of a better word). There is a sense of being fedup. What’s the point of opening my mouth. The few people who will talk talk talk rarely risk doing anything. Or maybe someone else will point it out. why should i keep wasting my energy talking about things and trying to dothigns that icant do on my own and that others arent interested in bothering about. it’s a vicious circle. that is one more danger we face now as a society, and it just exacerbates the problem which marisa has mentioned. convenience, fear, apathy, all are contributing and all are worsening each other.

    Apologies for the wordy and somewhat rambling comment. I’m too “apathetic” to bother rewriting and rethinking it; too frustrated and fedup.

  • Heshan

    Folks, this is an example of the feudal mindset at work. It is not our “Rodney King moment” as Dayan Jayatillake postulates. Rodney King was an example of police brutality. These same people who let the boy drown are the same ones who lit firecrackers and bowed before effigies of “King” Rajapakse. This feudal tribal mindset reminds me of “Kristallnacht” when Jews in Nazi Germany were harassed and their businesses were destroyed. This is the essential danger: that the State still has the power to rouse the citizenry and incite violence and destruction upon helpless minorities. But should we be surprised? There has been no voice against the government, no worthy opposition to speak, for several decades. The uneducated rabble have absorbed quite a bit of the Goebbelsian propaganda, and are ready to strike at a moment’s notice. In short, suffice it to say that another 1983 is quite possible, and episodes like this are merely a fractional representation of a much grosser scenario.

  • Marisa de Silva

    AJ Perera, Sohan and Kannan, I agree with you guys totally. I’m especially glad that you brought up the Police “version,” which if not for the footage, would have stood as the “official version” of what took place.

    Tnx Dayan, but at the time I wrote the story, no paper had mentioned his name as yet. I’d also like to clarify that his name is Balawarnam Sivakumar and not Sivakumaran as I’ve mentioned in this post.

    Although not directed at me personally, I too take offence at your labelling of “civil society types” being “way over the top,” as I’d assume I too would fall into the same bracket. What exactly did you mean by both those references Dayan?

  • Panglossian reinterpretations

    Yup – this is the perfect extension of the kristallnacht mentality that seems to be the mainstream of Sri Lanka today. As an entire nation cheered on the wholesale slaughter of up to who-knows-how-many-Dayan-says-there-were-none-apparently -they-was-all terrorists-collateral-damage-didn’t-you-hear?-can’t-make-a-murderous-totalitarian-omelet-without-massacring-a-few-thousand-you-fool -did-good-at-UNHRC-beat-western-hypocrisy-by-showing-we-could-kill-as-good-as-those-white-buggers -do-better-even-well-done-boy who the &*(*&^(^*^ cares about one poor, handicapped soul being de-humanised in the centre of Colombo? The fact that he was tamil is actually irrelevant in this case. We are cleansing the Underworld (muslims) soon we will destroy the other non-believers (christians) thank god the others (burghers) had enough money and sense to leave, or we would have had to re-sharpen our teeth. Nirvana in action – right here, right now. welcome to the happy Buddhist homeland. The tropical paradise. Serendib. This is Sri Lanka. This is what happens here.
    If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.

  • Manushi

    To: Marisa de Silva,

    This beating death in broad daylight in front of onlookers who allegedly did nothing to help the victim is, indeed, very sad.

    I am reminded of an incident that took place two weeks ago on the streets of downtown Toronto, in the entertainment district, where a young visibly gay man was first beaten by a bunch of mucho guys who later ran over him with their SUV as he lay there unconscious. According to spectator reports and surveillance cameras, we are now learning that the killers became enraged when the victim, who happened to step onto the curb to hail a cab, accidentally touched the hood of the killers’ prized SUV as it was passing by. The gay community in Toronto are calling this murder a hate crime, and Torontonians, in general, are left wondering why on earth no one came to this young man’s rescue. What’s worse, many of us cannot even begin to understand the hatred and utter disrespect for life this crime has revealed in the perpetrators.

    Now to police brutality – too many incidents to mention – the beating deaths of the mentally ill happen all too often here in Toronto. The much publicized case of Otto Vass, a mentally ill man, who died in the year 2000, as a result of being beaten by police officers outside a convenience store, brought on much discussion about police “mishandling” such cases. Sure, Mr. Vass was unruly and reportedly threatened the officers, but for the entire group of them to beat on a man already fallen and clearly out of his mind is, in my view, is inexcusable. I remember participating in the protest march for Mr. Vass outside the Toronto Police Commission and thinking that police brutality against the mentally ill is too often swept under the carpet.

    Having said all this, I would like to emphasize that Toronto is a great city to live in. However, I could as easily demonize this great city and its people if I choose to by branding all Caucasians and Christians as the perpetrators of brutal crimes. I would never do so, as this would, in my heart, be the thinking of a racist, uneducated loser! The choice is always up to us.

    Therefore, dear writer, I fail to understand your connection between the beating death of Balawarnam Sivakumar and the Vanni people and the IDPs. In making this tenuous link, I am afraid you have paved the way for many racists to instigate hatred toward the community they love to hate. Our words can do just as much damage as can our actions.

    The way I see it, assigning blame, especially on any majority, is a piece of cake; but to really look at the root cause of violence takes great effort and non judgment as we (all of us) are the society we create.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Talking Frog,

    “For the explanation to fit, people should not have acted because they thought someone else would act instead.”

    Actually, the Bystander effect could be caused by a variety of reasons, such as diffusion of responsibility, fear of legal consequences etc. (I wouldn’t compare it directly to the free-rider problem, although it’s very similar). Please read the links I provided for further information. The recent gang rape case in the USA in which no one reported the ongoing assault for over 2 hours is a gruesome example of such a situation.

    However, I agree that the underlying reasons for the bystander effect to manifest itself may be due to more serious maladies in our society. There is no doubt that we are very acclimatized to violence, having been regular witnesses to bombs, general lawlessness and impunity from legal consequences etc. I hope my previous post did not come out as suggesting that those factors be dismissed.

  • Marisa de Silva

    @ Manushi,

    Tnx for your comment but clearly, you seem to have misunderstood me. Never in my post have I brought up the racial card here. Neither have I implied that the boy who was killed was done so because he was Tamil. My emphasis as you might have noticed from my title itself, is about US, the people of this country and our complete apathy, indifference, inhumanity……and silence about everything that happens around us! It could be injustice against Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers…. whoever. What I was trying to highlight was that we’ve all just got into this sort of comfort zone where it’s become “okay” to just play the role of the ‘spectator,’ hoping that things will just sort themselves out, or worse yet, not even care about the repercussions of their actions.

    In this light, I hope you “understand your connection between the beating death of Balawarnam Sivakumar and the Vanni people and the IDPs.” The “link” is, We, the People as a whole. It’s got nothing to do with blaming the majority or the minority. Each and every one of us ‘spectators’ must bear the guilt of creating such a State.

  • lash

    after being pickpocketed on a bus in borella junction, my cousin told me that one time he saw a pickpocket caught by a crowd in fort and beaten to an inch of his life. he had lost all his teeth or was not moving on the ground and still being beaten. he (my cousin) thought that the pickpocket deserved it.

    Violence is so ingrained in our society that a lot of people think that violent retribution is OK against (real or perceived) criminals. After blaming violence on terrorists, thugs, politicians, for so many decades, maybe we should realise that we’re not the peace-loving, innocent people that we like to believe we are.

    I think what made this incident so shocking is the fact that it was recorded: it’s like a mirror reflecting Sri Lankan culture to show us how ugly we have become.

  • Sohan

    Manushi, I see what you mean; about not judging the entirety of society;
    and let me clarify I do NOT think that the ENTIRETY of Lankan society is all horrible or something.
    But I think you have missed the “connection between the beating death of Balawarnam Sivakumar and the Vanni people and the IDPs.”; the connection that Marisa had in mind. The connection is the that, both kinds of problems are rooted in the same ATTITUDE of mind, or perhaps also a lack of correct attitude of heart, which:
    1. caused that cop to have BEcOME the kind of person he is;
    2. caused so many onlookers to be unwilling to try and lend a hand .
    c’mon, you seriously expect me to beleive that out of those hundreds gathered there, there weren’t a few good swimmers who could have got together as a crowd and told each other “look let’s go and drag that chap out and promise the cops that we won’t let him escape but please dont beat him”?
    According to one newspaper this saga took place over one hour – i will take that with a pinch of salt and assume it was only 20 minutes or 30 minutes but that’s still lots of time. No onlooker had contacts in the police or navy whom he/she could have phoned and told to go and get involved? i don’t beleive that. And at least, why didn’t other authorities go in?

    It’s partly due to a wrong attitude our society (as a whole) has towards many things including:
    A. revenge, and/or “u hit me, i hit u”
    B. my rights my rights my rights (rather than my RESPONSIBILITY to help OTHERS via my rights)
    C. wrongful bias when the victim is “different” from me (different mental state in this case, different kind of behavior); in other cases, different social class, or caste, or ethnicity, etc.

    how does that connect to IDPs and other related matters? (I thought its obvious – but seeminggly it’s not so obbviosu to some: and that what i meant by saying its terrible that peopel are blind – and no i am NOT insulting you Manushi; seriously, i’m not; I’m just saying that certain facts and realities have become invisible or swept under the carpet for many of us, not necessarily directly due to our individual faults.; thus we are blind or blinded sometimes, and it’s a shocking amount of blindness).

    OK, So, how DOES it connect? OK, example: repeating my words, “the same ATTITUDE of mind, or perhaps also a lack of correct attitude of heart, is what:”
    1. caused many terrorist tigers as well as SOME extremist Sinhala racists (or tamil racists for that matter – Prabhakharan being just the tip of the iceberg) to become the kind of brutal people that they are.
    2. caused so many “onlookers” to be unwilling to open their mouths when “in their heart” they jolly well know that SOME wrongdoing was done by SOME government forced (OUCH. GV, please protect my identity now); or perhaps even members of the forces who jolly well knew it and didn’t agree with it and were afraid to open their mouths: C’MON DONT TELL ME tHERe ARENT ANY SUCH PEOPLE. (And teh same goes for SOME tiger supporters who were carried away my ideas of ‘rights” and turned a blind eye to violence which in their hearts they did NOT really believe in).
    i cant be botehred filling in 3,4,5,etc; and I dunno how long the list is. Someone else please feel free to do it, someeone who can write more succinctly than I.

    ALSo part of the “connection”, is: repeating my points A,b,C, above:
    “It’s due a wrong attitude towards many things including:”
    A. revenge, and/or “u hit me, i hit u”: e.g., some felt “those tamil tigers in the north killed 13 sinhal sodliers, tehre we will react” in 1983. (YES “WE” AS A HUGE PART OF SINHAlA SOCIETY; very different from your Toronto example) Not everyoen did? true, but, well let’s pretend I’m a Sinhalese who sheltered a tamil; well that’s NOT good enough. wrongdoing isnt just the actions of violence; there is guilt in inaction and silence too: that’s part of our social responsibility. Anonymous comments like mine, in a blog here, are NOT enough; at least i should use my full name but I’m not.
    Revenge, different perspective: “some sinhalese mistreated our Tamil brethren, threfore we will in a big way massacre Sinhalease as well as any Tamil who aren’t supporting our cause…”

    [sorry i am NOT gonna bother correcting spelling, i am way to fedup and just typing at high speed; apologies]

    B. “my rights my rights my rights (rather than my RESPONSIBILITY to help OTHERS via my rights”. so, if i am a racist or extremeist sinhalese who beleives that the land belongs only to the sinhalese or primarily, well then that ownership becomes (in my mind) my RIGHT; but nevertheless , if i was half decent, i would knwo my rights come with RESPONSIbILITIES towards others, even “supposeldly inferiror people” such as Tamils (or people who throw stnes at me). Thus, I would not agitate SO much for my right, such that a brutal war results. I have to be willing to compromise my “Rights”, back down on them, for the sake of letting others (e.g North-east/other Tamils) have some rights which i dont beleive they deserve.
    (NOTe; I am NOT such a sinhalese! but i[m just saying, even if i was, i should adopt that rights versus resposilbity attitude.)
    secondly, if i was a extremist TAMIL who beleives that the entire northeast should belong to the Tamil race, well even then, if i am half decent, i woudl realize that this RIGHT of mine, does come with responsiblitties – and if otehr “inferior sinhala” people (and as bad, my own people) are being caused great harm by a war, then i am NOT gonna in anyway allow a war to take place in order to get my rights; i woudl compromise my rights.
    For Christians: Sermon on the Mount, Maththew chapters 5,6,7 somewhere there, conveys this ATTITUDE; as well as genesis chapter 11 and many other places. I am pretty sure Buddhism teaches this ATTITUDE of heart/mind. Judaism does. i would imagine Islaam and Hinduism do teach it even if perhaps its not as obvious. And anyhow, it is a ingrained attitude in all humans even aethists – we jsut have stifled it, and that again is the problem of “sri lankan society as a WHOLE”.

    BUT: WE DO NOT HAVE THAT attitude, as a society. THAT is why we as a society (sinhala, tamil, ALL of us), ARE as guilty – no: we are MORE guilty – towards the IDPs plight (etc etc etc), as are, perhaps, some of the onlookers of the drowning situation; and certainly as much guilty as those the cops were.

    C. “wrongful bias when the victim is “different” from me (different mental state in this case, different kind of behavior); in other cases, different social class, or caste, or ethnicity, etc.”
    Need I exemplify? Ok, how can anyone seriosuly beelvie taht thsi war of late last year to early thuis year woudl have gone on the way it did, if the human shields which the TIGERS were using, were SINHALA people? c’mon…. there are things we cant prove with concrete facts but which we most certainly know in our hearts are true. if a small part of colmbo was udner siege with potential lakhs of people held hostage, the country would NOT have been so keen to proceed with the war: instead we’d have paid heed to int’nal cries to go easy on the war. and the various religions of our country (i mean the human leaders, not the religion itself; and also lay people like myself) WOULD have opened their mouths much more. Why the difference? class, race, is a key reason, I feel.
    Or if a 200,000+ people in colombo area were held unabel to move freely until we are “screened”; waht then? let’s say it was even in our own comfy homes where sewage doesnt flood our houses during flood season, we would still NOT tolerate being thus held as IDPs. Why the difference in attitude towards the “somewhat poor, somewhat rural, and somewhat Tamil” IDPs?

    YES, NOT everyone would have thsi difference. Jolly good, for such people. That’s the kind of people we need our society to becoem: but it’s not enough, to just have that righta ttitude; instead we are expected to affect the rest of society positively and if we don’t open our mouths then we are also still guilty to some extent for the bad state of society as a whole. We ARE our brethren’s keeper, apologies to Cain.

    yet msot of hte time even such ‘right attitutde” people are afraid (somewhat udnerstandably) to galvanize others – even their near and dear – to also start adopting such right attitudes. Therefore, society as a whole IS in a horrible state; and Marisa’s observations (far more succinct than this crazily long post of mine) are therefore accurate, and Manushi and others like her are mistaken and somewhat “blinded” (though I’m not being insultting here, I do realzie that much of such mistaken views ARE well intentioned; so dont misunderstand me please).

    oh by the way, DISCLAIMER and CLARIFICATION: i am seekng herein to OPEN the hearts and minds of people to adopt PEACEFUL attitude of heart, and my intention is absolutely NOT to “pave the way for anyone to instigate hatred and/or violence and or anything bad towards any one else”. i better make that very clear else i stand at risk of being legally charged 🙁

  • Panglossian reinterpretations

    Yes – the problem is this revolting apathy and pathetic apologism for all manner of irreprehensible violence that seems to be spreading through the country like a virus. Everyone wants to pretend it’s really OK even when the most hideous acts are being committed in the name of our “security”. Unfortunately, it has just decreased our security, because we are open to the whims of the unstable and vicious regime, populated by crazy maniacs like Mervyn Silva (who’s emotionally unhinged son is allowed to roam around night clubs pulling out guns and assaulting women).

    But none of the chattering classes seem to be concerned about the security threat of corrupt politicians being able to kill/silence/abuse anyone who they find interfering with their own agendas. They think that by being silent they won’t suffer the fate of loud-mouthed journalists; muslims on the wrong side of the political fence; young tamil men who are the wrong age/ethnicity and get arrested for no good reason.

    Well, now the waddling, SUV driving middle classes dependent on the garment industry are going to take a hit for the sins of the father. Sri Lankan airlines is tanking after the ego-maniac driven aeronautics pet project of the great leader is falling on its face. the economy is creaking and moaning. Unemployed graduates are protesting, saying if it was all in my name, where’s my job buddy?

    Sit quietly and let these psychotic murderers mis-manage this island into the ground because you don’t give a crap about someone who speaks a funny language who’s in a part of the country you don’t live in. Or some muslims who must be bad people right? (You want to ask the police for evidence on what crime they committed before they extra-judicially executed them?) or some poor handicapped boy who’s beaten to death in central colombo.

    So you are going to sit nervously and hope they don’t turn on you?

  • sinhala_voice

    As a Sinhalese-Buddhist I’m ashamed of the conduct of these so called Policemen.

    At the same time PLEASE DO NOT POLITICISE this tragic violent event.

    If it was B.Kumara or B.Sirisena we ALL MUST also deplore it.

    This has nothing to do with a federal state for the Tamils or Tamil Rights at ALL.

    What if these Policemen were Tamil ? Does it make this event any better ? NO. It would still be a tragic violent event which saw the demise of a an unfortunate person.

    We have to do better at instilling simple HUMAN VALUES on ALL of us.

    YES personally was , is and going to be against TAMIL SEPARATIST MILITIAS.

    But Am I ever going to say that ALL Sri Lankans should have EQUAL RIGHTS. NEVER EVER.

    From this standpoint we must work together to bring about a nation that reflects your communities BEST VALUES. And REJECT THE WORST tendencies amongst us.

  • georgethebushpig


    It is always a difficult proposition to make direct links between specific incidents and larger societal problems.

    If you were sitting inside the barricades with the Mohawks in Oka in 1991; if you were the mentally disabled Chinese guy that got shot inside the bus by the police on Spadina Avenue; if you were any one of the black youth that got killed by the police during the 1990s for petty theft or just running away when being asked to stop; if you were the dead Wade Lawson hearing of the acquittal of the cops that killed him (that led to the so called Toronto riots); if you were the mother of the Ismaili kid who made the fatal error of asking the cops to discipline her son, which led him to be shot in the head and so on and so on….

    One could easily argue that systemic racism and discrimination is what led to the above cited incidents being dealt with in the way that they were. These examples in Canada and Toronto are more analogous to the problem faced in Sri Lanka rather than the case of the unfortunate gay man who was murdered. You would be a “racist uneducated looser” to draw such a conclusion looking at the case of the gay guy, not because of anything else, but the fact that you are looking at the wrong example.

  • Disgusted

    Wow! Must be the longest post in GV ever! But worth every word.

    Agree with you that the Canadian example cited was incongruent with the SL incident.

  • The Talking Frog

    Dear SomewhatDisgusted,

    If my understanding of the ‘bystander effect’ — as a special case of the free-rider problem — was incorrect, then this frog accepts your correction; and thanks you for it.

  • Marisa de Silva

    @Sohan, I’ve shared this sentiment for a long time now and have on countless occassions asked my friends the very same questions. More often than not, my question has been met by pin drop silence, as it’s quite obvious things would NOT have been the same if the tables were turned and the “human shields” were in fact a Sinhalese community.

    I also strongly agree with your comment “…if a 200,000+ people in colombo area were held unabel to move freely until we are “screened”; waht then? let’s say it was even in our own comfy homes where sewage doesnt flood our houses during flood season, we would still NOT tolerate being thus held as IDPs.” Tnx!

    @Panglossian reinterpretations, ur last comment was spot on!

    @sinhala_voice said, pls check my last comment to Manushi. I think you’d be able to better understand the essence of this post that way. I’m not “politicising” anything. I’m merely calling it for what it is. And yes by all means “B. Kumara or B. Sirisena” would have been just as “deplorable.” And no, if “these Policemen were Tamil” it wouldn’t have been “any better.”

    And why would you “never” say that “ALL Sri Lankans should have EQUAL RIGHTS???” Shouldn’t they?

  • AJ Perera

    Dyan’s silence is quite deafening given not just my clarification, but also the questions from several readers, or “civil society types” as Dyan would rather characterize, I suppose. Here is a sampling: From Marisa: “AJ Perera, Sohan and Kannan, I agree with you guys totally. I’m especially glad that you brought up the Police “version,” which if not for the footage, would have stood as the “official version” of what took place”; From the Talking Frog: Many have contested Dayan J’s responses. Apart from those, this frog thought that categorizing ‘AJ Perera’ as a “civil society type” type seemed a bit strange. Was it meant to insult civil society activists? (wither democracy?) Or simply to place DJs pennant close to those who would like to silence civil society activists? From Nandasena: DBS’s article (that Dyan refers to) on Pottu Amman is what DBS has heard from “some source”. He is not a witness to it or does not have a proof!!! It could have come from some anti LTTE sources!!!

    Dyan, perhaps a simple question might help open your eyes. Yes, it was no doubt barbaric that a “dissident” was murdered ruthlessly because he was a “dissident” (not different from what happened to the “dissidents” Lasantha, and several journalists because, well, because they were dissident’s to the cause, what ever that may be). Terrorism indeed! Recently there was a case of a father in Hambantota, left back home with his children while the mom went to slave in the Middle East. The eldest daughter was responsible to look after the siblings and other chores, and then the dad decided to rape her. Is that Dad a lesser terrorist than Pottu Amman’s cadre who butchered a dissident? I suspect your “truer terrorist” will be different than mine, I being the “Society type”. Let me take it one more step. The country’s powerful, incapable of generating productive opportunities for the masses within this resourceful, resplendent country, instead, promised (an election promise) to find 50,000 near-slave jobs abroad whereby these mothers, wives and sisters would be torn off from the families, so that the powerful can get their agency fees and the State can fill the coffers with FX, now that the tea, rubber and coconuts are in the dog-house. So, between that particular Dad and the State, who is the truer terrorist? Who is more dangerous to the society? Again, I guess your opinion will differ from that of the “civil society”.

    The clan of Praba and Pottu was the result of a society where the bark of the sanctimonious, patronizing nincompoops overshadowed all the soft spoken “civil types” that you so revile and you want to silence again. It was not too long before Praba showed up that the civil society in the South characterized, rather fondly, the Demelas as “thala thel” and with good reason. Do you frankly think they metamorphosed rather spontaneously?

    A news item yesterday jogged my memory. Yesterday at Peradeniya, the thug-escorts of the Minister tried to pull their weight over the University residents, and apparently got thrashed (incidentally, you can decide who the “truer terrorist” is!) In the sixties and seventies, it was a regular practice that during special events in Kandy that required additional security-support such as Perahera, Independence Day celebrations, etc., forces and police contingents from outstations would be accommodated at the Peradeniya Gym. At that time, hardly any of the foot soldiers so accommodated had the academic eligibility to ever “enter” a University, except at these occasions – SSC was a top-notch achievement for most, if they ever got hat far. So, being in such hallowed grounds, with the rifles in hand, free food, and a handsome bata – they were all kings for a day! They made passes at the lasses, and sure enough hormones collided: students rebelled against these miscreant “guardians” of the society, to the embarrassment of both administrations, that of the Forces and that of the University. After two or three recurrent incidences, the practice of getting the forces and the student-rebels within 20 miles of each other was dropped. A wise decision indeed – and the embarrassments ceased.

    Now, Dyan, think what the Jaffna students, the business community and the civil population in the North would have had to endure with this marauding Police and the Forces in the days prior to Praba – and possibly, now, in the new, just-evolving post-Praba period. To top it all, we have “non-civil-society” apologists like you doing everything to silence any civil-society complaints either from Jaffna or from the South. Yes, Civil-society murmurs are indeed an inconvenience, but only, if your actions are uncivil to start with. Who do you think needs to change for the long-term health of the country and all the citizens within this sovereign State we want to preserve?

    In my opinion, the civil-society mumblings should get louder and louder, and not be subdued by the barkings of the pseudo-patriots, prompted by pseudo-intellectuals. That is the only hope, if the country is to turn a page. I am truly encouraged by the several responses that in fact show that trend, despite your pseudo-intellectual interventions! I think you are an exemplary proof that book-learning is quite different from being educated.

  • Manushi


    Thanks for the interesting sermon, Amen!

  • Sinhala_Voice

    It is a mis type WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS THAT:

    I am for and FULLY SUPPORT 100%

    “ALL Sri Lankans should have EQUAL RIGHTS and EQUAL OPPORTUNITY”


    That’s ALL

    especially in programs funded by the state. Private organisations, socieities can do whatever they want to justify their members. Eg: YOu can not expect a Buddhist to be an Archbishop of Colombo or a Mullah…

  • Manushi


    Where have you been all this time? I am so glad you came out of hiding. At least now, people, who’ve been extolling the West while condemning Sri-Lanka, will learn a thing or two about systematic racism and human rights violations in the West. I think now that you are chumming around with Colombo “activists” you must educate them about how the West was won. Thank you for bringing this out into the open!

    As for the murder of the young gay man, Christopher Skinner, in Toronto, I am sure his mother would not see his cold blooded murder as the “wrong example”. If this makes me a “racist, uneducated loser”, I am glad to be one. I am well aware of systematic discrimination, as even today, on Yonge Street, one can see how the cops are roughing up Native people.

    However, blaming “the system” and “the Man” is what we do when we’re sixteen. As proactive adults, we should know how violence has become ingrained in every one of us – from nationalism to identity politics our divisive thinking has created the violent society in which we live.

    Besides Colombo people, do other Sri-Lankans have a say in the matter?

    Please don’t jump the gun hereafter without correctly interpreting someone’s comment.

    Ding…Ding…I am getting off at College and Spadina, and making a dash to that good ol’ second hand bookstore.

    See ya!

  • Manushi

    To: Marisa de Silva,

    Perhaps I was wrong to mention that you’ve made an unfounded link between the beating death of Balawarnam Sivakumar and the Vanni people and the IDPs. Of course, you did not mention he was Tamil, but as a Tamil I know that “Sivakumaran” – as spelled out in your article – is a Hindu Tamil name. Anyway, I am glad to see how concerned people are over the IDP issue!

    It may well be that your concern also lies with the scores of impoverished people in Sri-Lanka undergoing all sorts of discrimination ranging from caste oppression to poverty. There was the tragic case of two young girls, working as “domestics” (I think this is the “in” word today in Colombo for servants), from upcountry, who were found drowned in a canal in Colombo. I did not see the most vocal segment of the “activist” community making a fuss about this as they should’ve. Are the lives of “domestics” hailing from upcountry tea estates not relevant to the current debate on “human rights”?

    Can you expect a society which tolerates child labour to have a clean record on police brutality? It seems the new euphemism for exploitation is “domestics”.
    Yes, in this case, we have all been spectators for far too long.

    In addressing one spectator to another, the sheer existence of the poor and the exploited reveal that we have tolerated far too much garbage for centuries.

    Let’s stop playing spectator sports with the lives of the voiceless.

  • AJ Perera

    Dear Sinhala voice – you left us dumfounded. Thanks for correcting yourself!

  • Leon

    Thanks Marisa. I wish there were more people like you . Have the Sri Lankans got so desensitized that no one even attempted to save that mentally challenged boy – it does not matter whether he is a Sinhala boy or a Tamil boy.This is not the Sri Lanka that I knew when I was there some 30 years ago.It is a sad day and those people who watched the incident and did not do anything must hang their heads in shame.

  • Charith De Silva

    Woah …… I think we love to comment and give your opinion on things like this, just to see what others will have to say about your opinion, and in most cases we forget why we are commenting.

    We are all the same….All of us here would have done the same thing.

    Just stood there and watched.

    What we are doing here now wasting a lot of time typing and giving our point of view for me is very similar to standing there watching that man die. Why not use this time to do something about this? No it’s more fun this way isnt it? We just pretend to love this country, pretend to care…thats about it. We are all the same.

    In a few weeks we will forget…..until another one takes the news.

    All the best 🙂

  • Marisa de Silva

    I agree that I personally did not write anything about the 2 girls killed and thrown in the canal, even though it made me sick in the stomach, when I heard the news. It had nothing to do with the fact that they were “domestics” or “poor up country Tamils,” but, more to do with an oversight on my part, I guess. I apologise profusely for it.

    My point though is clear in that case or any of these cases, all we’ll do is “spectate.” How bad do things have to get to push us over the edge???? Or will we ever come to that state? Is our resilience so great that, it will always be “someone else’s problem?” Are we always going to sit around as Charith very rightly put it, “type away” (myself included) and battle it out online, rather than take to the streets in protest of anything, or show humanity towards another living being? I guess we’re never going to be able to answer these questions right? So, let’s at least write, right?

  • Heshan

    “At least now, people, who’ve been extolling the West while condemning Sri-Lanka, will learn a thing or two about systematic racism and human rights violations in the West.”

    Can you back up your argument with direct evidence, as opposed to isolated incidents? Let me demonstrate what the difference is between the West and Sri Lanka. This is just one example; I could give hundreds.

    From the American Bill of Rights:

    * Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    What about Sri Lanka?

    6.(1) Any police officer not below the rank of Superintendent or any other police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector authorised in writing by him in that behalf may, without a warrant … notwithstanding anything in any other law to the contrary –

    (a) arrest any person;
    (b) enter and search any premises;
    (c) stop and search any individual or any vehicle, vessel, train or aircraft; and
    (d) seize any document or thing…


    [Certified on 20 July 1979]

  • mani

    are they buddhist or butchers? why these people take law into thier own hands and thrashing that mentally unstabled person? where is humanity in SRILANKA the land that preaches peace in the name of LORD BUDDHA they are wipeing tamils.

  • Heshan

    My post of November 2nd is directed towards Manushi.

  • so sad

    this is very pathetic and the policemen who commited this crime should be punished. this is against humanity. however i would like to tell others who commented here that please do not think this is a sinhala tamil issue (this incident). this is another example how our police service has degraded and dont forget recently 2 sinhala youth were killed by the police for no reason and there are many atrocities against sinhala people by the police. This is the sorry state our country has fallen into.

  • Sohan

    @Charith: I partly agree with you; many commentors MIGHT fit your description: SOME of them/us, SOME of the time.
    but I believe there CAN be some useful purpose in such commenting (as long as it doesn’t get “personal” etc.), in that
    1. it may help others to change wrong attitudes. E.g., it’ll be good if someone’s observation causes another to realize that “not being violent” is NOT good enough: that silence/passive inaction/its-not-my-problem/etc might be almost as bad as active violence.
    2. Or, for someone who DOES have a strong realization of some of these important but subtle truths but faces frustration/”blindness”/”apathy”/”denial”/etc from his/her friends/peers/whatever, it can be useful and reassuring to realize that “OH WOW, I’m not the only idiot who thinks like this”….
    …. Which is why I said thanks to Marisa: it was good to see another “idiot” like me who thinks such “idiotic” things – If u see what i mean. And my thanks also to several more “idiots” among you who also give me great assurance and reduce my apathy/sense of futility. See, I’m even bothering to write more lucidly than earlier! Seriously: it can help, for us to DO the concrete things that Charith wants us to do, if we are reassured by having our convictions bolstered by others’.
    So i feel, there are several such useful purposes in such writing/comments. But yeah, it’s SOMEWHATtrue what charith said that we shouldnt spend so much time writing, that we don’t do anything else. I think we can safely assume that many bloggers/commenters here are most certainly not making the latter mistake.

    @some of you: Maybe Dayan didn’t respond to some of you because he too thinks like Charith 🙂

    @ sinhala_voice:
    Was good to see your corrected post.
    But even if – hypothetically – he DID believe that one part of the citizenry have greater rights, well, even then, I wouldn’t be TOO worried as long as i was sure that he and others WERE properly “work[ing] together to bring about a nation that reflects your communities BEST VALUES. And REJECT THE WORST tendencies amongst us”. As i said, or meant, before, it doesnt MATTER too much if one has wrong ideas about what one’s rights are, as long as one DOES still act with great responsibility and use one’s (perceived) rights for the good of ALL others; all other ‘different’ people too. In the case of the ethinic prblem, that good usage of (real or perceived) rights, was NOT happening; hence the problems.

    People are very unlikely to see eye to eye on who deserves which rights (and the Sinhala/Tamil issue was ONLY just an example); which is why I feel it’s mpre important to educate abut responsibilities. because then such lack of agreement (about rights/power/etc) is still not gonna cause any problem: IF people do still have the right attitude of “my responsibilities to use my rights for others’ good, is more important than my rights themselves”. “Others’ good” espeically does include other people who are different in some way; mental health or race was just one example, and the IDP issue was just one example. Which raises my final clarification (but don’t worry, i wont break my record…)

    @many commenters:
    clarification; I did NOT mean to suggest that i was only applying my “theories” (or whatever u may call it) just to ethnic/racial problems. Nor was i being political. And I’m pretty sure most who agree with Marisa’s original post, are also not thinking in political/ethnic terms.
    I mentioned the IDP issue simply ‘cos it is a pretty serious issue. i was trying to get across the idea that, what i feel about the rights/responsibilities and the “attitudes towards people different from oneself”, applies to a wider range of things than we usually would think. I was just trying to show that SEEMINGLY completely different incidents (e.g., the drowning; the IDP situ) are in fact largely ROOTED in one common problem of this spectator effect (as it were). Well, OK, let’s say 2 or 3 problems in common: not only the spectator issue, but that’s one huge part of this same problems; as also is the rights and responsibilities issue.

    I hadn’t even realized the drowned chap was a Tamil. I was only focusing on the “difference” of his mental state, plus the spectator effect and lack of realization of responsibility.

    OK, ok this time it IS really my final bout of verbosity:
    @Manushi. oh, THANK YOU 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the sermon, ha ha…
    Seriously, though, i realize I should have clarified: i DO understand where you were going with the examples of the two Canadian incidents; i do agree that your is logic valid: as I see it, your logic was:
    “just because ten particular people do soemthign atrocious, that does not NECESSARILY mean that the entire society is messedup”.
    and i agree that logic is valid; however I think the keyword there is “not NECESSARILY”. Whereas, in the case of Lanka, because there just happen to be a HUGE number of wide ranging types of “brutalities” in attitudes of MANY people, as well as even larger amount of “unacceptable silences (as it were)” – and a root problem of attitude/heart which IS common to all/many such problems – THAT what makes it correct for people to tear their hair out in horror at the state of Lankan society.
    As for sermons….. It’s rather disturbing that the clergy who SHOULD be sermonizing these ideas, just don’t seem to be doing so. I’m not commenting about other religions, I’m commenting on MY particular segment of my particular religion. [I ‘GaSPed’ and said “EUgh”, this morning upon hearing about a certain group gallivanting abroad to seemingly one-sidedly talk about a certain matter… i guess they’re an example of the kind of blinded group of people I was talking about; blind about the “bigger picture” of the bigger issues.]

  • Marisa de Silva

    @So Sad & Sinhala Voice (jst in case you didn’t find what I wrote to Manushi before), I’m just copying what I said to Manushi in an earlier comment. I think it’ll help you better understand the intent of my post.

    “Tnx for your comment but clearly, you seem to have misunderstood me. Never in my post have I brought up the racial card here. Neither have I implied that the boy who was killed was done so because he was Tamil. My emphasis as you might have noticed from my title itself, is about US, the people of this country and our complete apathy, indifference, inhumanity……and silence about everything that happens around us! It could be injustice against Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers…. whoever. What I was trying to highlight was that we’ve all just got into this sort of comfort zone where it’s become “okay” to just play the role of the ‘spectator,’ hoping that things will just sort themselves out, or worse yet, not even care about the repercussions of their actions.

    In this light, I hope you “understand your connection between the beating death of Balawarnam Sivakumar and the Vanni people and the IDPs.” The “link” is, We, the People as a whole. It’s got nothing to do with blaming the majority or the minority. Each and every one of us ‘spectators’ must bear the guilt of creating such a State.”

  • tis-a-small-world

    I feel that, This is what the 30 year civil war has inherited the society. The biggest destruction the war has ever made was the loss of humanity!!

  • Heshan

    “I feel that, This is what the 30 year civil war has inherited the society. The biggest destruction the war has ever made was the loss of humanity!!”

    Well said. It seems like the war has desensitized people to violence and corruption. The idea of defeating terrorism at any cost – we are seeing the cost before our very eyes. What is interesting is that the opposite trend has occurred in the West – the liberal, PC culture has found very strong roots. Of course this did not happen overnight – fascism had to be defeated (at the cost of 40 million lives), Marxism had to be overcome (in the form of a repressive superpower), and some facets of Social Darwinism had to be dismissed. So should we surprised that SL is going through this nationalist revival, this period of political upheaval, that it is reverting towards fascism… at least in my opinion, what is surprising is not that it is happening, but that is happening now, when ample precedent is there for it not to happen. In other words, moving towards democracy should be easier in 2009 than in 1945… as you can guess, the reason being that the greatest upheavals in history, as great as they are, are unlikely to occur ever again. In effect, we should be learning from history, not rewriting or recreating it.

  • Anuruddha Fernando


    Once again kudos for your efforts and providing a voice for the voice-less.

    The fear psychosis runs rampant in every tier of society it seems. But, we find ourselves victims of our own success. The powers that be, after all, are elected! And we, all of us, who have commented on this article would hardly engage in an actual physical protest, would we? Too much to lose – even if what is at stake is the mere vestige of freedom. Gone are the Henry Pedris’s of the world.

    However, it is not entirely hopeless; change for the better can take place. And I believe that our destiny is still in our hands; although ideological lethargy would choke us out of it.

    As for the poor bugger that’s dead (and there are many such poor buggers), let us hope and pray that the Nether World treats him far better than this one has.

    And for God’s sake let’s try and do something to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.


  • Space…d


    I read it. Finally. I also spent the last 27 minutes skimming through the comments…

    The question that remains for me is… Why should I care? Why should I care about a random boy that was beaten to death? Why should I care about IDPs that are swimming in their own shit with the onset of the rains?

    Is not clicking my tongue and shaking my head with a “sin ane” or a “sin men”. and a resigned and rhetorical (I don’t want an answer) “what to do?” thrown in occasionally, enough?

    Leaving a comment here is too much work. It makes me think. Feel. Whatever for?

    Let me go back to my life now. Don’t intrude again. Don’t call me and gush about your articles.

    I have enough to worry about without drowned randoms and faceless Tamils to not keep me up at night.

    Life is wonderful here. The sea is bluey-green (when not polluted by leaking bodies.) The sky still holds wonderful concerts at dawn and dusk. (The red does not mirror spilled blood Marisa. That’s just poetic nonsense. Sunrises and sunsets have been red ever since Cain murdered Abel.) The earth is soft and fertile and ripe for seed. Mother Lanka Marisa.

    We’ve been here before, and we’ll return again.

    I don’t want to moan and lament, to listen to the voiceless. Whatever for? There is a reason they are voiceless. A reason they swim in shit. A reason that I don’t care to think about. Don’t want to. Don’t need to.

    Give me rice on my plate, sugar in my tea cup, and testicles that can reproduce.

    I am comfortable. We are all comfortable.

  • suha cassim

    Its heartening to read these posts, civilised and full of empathy as i know the Sri Lankans to be. Gives me much hope for the future of our country. If i may add something. Recently there had been a study in the USA. They chose a group of young students and divided them into two. One group was allowed to bash the other ( I don’t know exactly what the experiment was about – the human condition perhaps?). These students did not know each other, but it had got so violent they were forced to call off the practical experiment.

  • I think the leader carried it on the front page. Good post. IMO It all stems from a corrupt justice system; people are reluctant to stand up for what is right. They know the law won’t stand up for them in turn. It’s the realization that you could very well be out on a limb because there is no authority that will take your side prevents them from doing it

  • AJ Perera

    Hello Dyan, I guess you learnt a lesson or two about correct perspective – I’ll take your silence as conceding, even though a little Thank you note would have been in order. Hey, that’s O.K. — not all Diplomats are “truer Diplomats”.

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Manushi,

    Sigh…. you’ve missed the point both on Marisa’s article and my response to your original comment. It doesn’t matter… your heart seems to be in the right place although your head might be a little askew.

    Take it easy eh.

  • Ananth

    “But instead, the five minutes of footage shows us the gory, pathetic end of a young life, for no apparent reason.”

    What do you mean there was no apparent reason? Being a Tamil is more then enough.

  • Manushi


    You said: “Sigh…. you’ve missed the point both on Marisa’s article and my response to your original comment. It doesn’t matter… your heart seems to be in the right place although your head might be a little askew”.

    Of course my head may seem “a little askew” to all those do-gooders who benefit from the ‘human rights industry’. I don’t make any money by working/writing on behalf of the poor and the marginalized, as I consider myself one of them. I don’t employ “domestics” from upcountry whose names I change from Sarasvati to Rita, and Balan to Anthony – depriving them of wearing thiruneeru, and all the while forcing them to memorize from the Good Book. Puhleeze!

    You, also, seem a little ticked off that I refuse to demonize all white people based on the several incidents of police brutality against the mentally challenged, the poor and people of colour here in Toronto. I am a strong anti-imperialist, don’t get me wrong; but, I don’t practice identity politics nor am I a nationalist of any kind. As for organized religion, it doesn’t interest me either.

    I care for the rights of all human beings. Perhaps my heart is “in the right place” afterall. Gee…thanks georgethebushpig.

    Sigh…my stop has already arrived. Ding…ding…College and Spadina!

  • Observer

    Marissa, at least Sinhalese kids don’t die as a result of Police brutality eh? Aren’t they a lucky bunch.

  • Space…d

    Yes. Sinhalese kids are exempt from police brutality.

    Tamil blood is a prerequisite for police brutality.

    The police has been issued a special DNA kit that can be administered on the fly, the suspect does not feel the prick amongst the hail of abuse and thudding battons/pipes/coconut shells/cloves of garlic. If confirmed to be of Dravidian heritage then murder becomes an option.

    Unfortunately if there has been any abomination in the suspect’s past… i.e. a great-great-grandmother being bedded by a Tamil. This will unortunately lead to possible death in custody.

    This is what happened to the boys in Agulana.

    Marisa, I owe you an apology. Thank you for getting me to read Ground Views. Its fascinating. I’m learning so much. Next time we meet, I’ll gush to you.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Space…d >>

    Good heavens. You take what’s essentially an anti-thesis as an example, draw a tenuous link to Tamil ancestry and generalize it to “Tamil blood is a prerequisite for police brutality”?? Capital! You’re fitting right in with some “contributors” to GV already.

  • This article, and Dayan Jayatilleka’s comment was picked up by the Brisbane Times on 12 November 2009 in What gain in stopping the boats? –

  • Marisa de Silva

    Anath and Observer, I must say I have to disagree with you both on this one, as I can’t agree that this act was committed on ethnic grounds, particularly in a country where over the years, what I’ve personally covered, heard of, and read about, more than proved to me that Police Brutality runs right across the board! Not just the Angulana case but, this article states that there are “over 600 unresolved complaints against Police officials..” I don’t have a breakdown of casualties by ethnicity, but, going just by the incidents of the recent past, I’d have to say, this particular issue is very much across the board!

    Of course this is not to say that our Police force is “blind” to ethnic differences, it’s just that their brutality isn’t limited to it.

  • Observer

    “I can’t agree that this act was committed on ethnic grounds,”

    Marisa, I think we’re in agreement. What I tried to say in my “sarcastic” comment was also that this incident may well could have been not racially motivated as many SInhalese and other ethnicities are commonly subjected to this.

    I just wanted to highlight that GV only published the incident against the Tamil youth, while the many “other” victims stories are unheard of here. An outside reader would think that police brutality in SL is purely and exclusively against Tamils. Which is bollocks.

  • Perviz

    How has this particular incident been turned into a racial issue?? This boy was not killed because he was a Tamil. He was killed because the issue of Police brutality has not been addressed in this country. Law enforcement get away with this type of behaviour on a regular basis in countries all over the world. In places like the United Kingdon and the United States there is more focus on it but by no means does it not exsist.

    Balawarnam Sivakumar was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Tommy Smith a young burgher boy from Matara, mentally challenged would have suffered the same fate if he was the one throwing stones at the police station that day.This is not an issue of ethinicity, it is an issue of Human cruelty. Every time one of you talented writers say its a racial attack, people on either side (Tamils/ Sinhaleese)get angry. They don’t get angry at you, they get angry at each other.

    You want to solve the problems in this country, make psychology and sociology mandatory subjects in schools.