Ground report: Widespread public perception of military links to ‘grease devils’?

Image released by Police Headquaters which was saved allegedly in the phone of a 16 year-old who was arrested for a number of robberies in the Uva Province.

As we post this article, there is a tense situation in Kinniya, spilling over from yesterday on the issue of ‘grease devils’. A Daily Mirror SMS update notes that,


Daily Mirror SMS update – Hundreds of people in Kinniya surrounded the GA’s office demanding release of 25 people arrested last night (1)less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac Favorite Retweet Reply


Daily Mirror SMS update – Reinforcement forces called in – Sources – Daily Mirror (2).less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac Favorite Retweet Reply

As this Reuters report notes,

“Historically, a “grease devil” was a thief who wore only underwear and covered his body in grease to make himself difficult to grab if chased. But lately, the “grease devil” has become a nighttime prowler who frightens and attacks women.”

The news reports are as bewildering as they are increasing in number, especially from the East. People are being killed, for no apparent reason. ‘Grease devils’ have been arrested, vigilante justice has been meted out (ironically leading to more deaths), curfews imposed, the STF is on the look out, but the mass panic persists. Well-known columnists have flagged these incidents as ‘an unbelievable collapse of confidence in law enforcement‘. Mainstream newspapers last Sunday covered this disturbing story (What the devil is going on?, The Grease Yaka Sightings: Fact Vs. Myth), but there’s generally confusion amongst the public that is fuelling anxiety and fear.

We received a report from a source in the East on this issue in Tamil and English, with the content in Tamil translated by him into English. We reproduce this content not as verified fact, but for open debate and discussion as dire markers of tension on the ground that we are very concerned can contribute to large-scale unrest and more deaths.

With verification of incidents extremely challenging given the context, law enforcement itself sans public legitimacy and many, rightly or wrongly, who believe that the ‘grease devils’ have links to the Sri Lankan military, it remains to be seen how the government will deal with this emergent threat to public order and security.

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இன்று அதிகாலை செங்கலடி பொலிஸ்பிரிவிற்குற்பட்ட சந்திவெலிபிரதேச திகிலிவெட்டையில் வீடொன்றினுள் புகுந்த மர்ம மனிதர்கள் வீட்டிலிருந்த இரு பிள்ளைகளின் தந்தையான இளையதம்பி புலெந்திரன் – (35) என்பவரை வாளினால் தாக்கிவிட்டு தப்பிச்சென்றுள்ளனர். இச்சம்பவத்தினையடுத்து சந்தேகத்தின்பேரில் சந்திவெலி இராணுவ முகாமில் கடமைபுரியும் இராணுவ சார்ஜன்ட் ஒருவர் பொதுமக்களால் மடக்கி பிடிக்கப்பட்டு இராணுவத்தினரிடம் ஒப்படைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளார். நாடுபூராகவும் ஏற்பட்டுள்ள மர்ம மனிதன் தொடர்பில் பல உயிர்கள் காவு கொள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளதுடன், பலர் காயமடைந்துமுள்ளனர். இதன் பின்னனியில் உள்ளவர்கள் தொடர்பில் பல கருத்துக்களும் வெளிவந்தவண்ணமுள்ளது.

1. துட்டகைமுனுவின் தங்க கிரீடத்தினயும், வாளையும் பெறுவதற்காக இளம்பெண்களின் இரத்ததை தேடி சிலர் செயற்படுவதாகவும் இவர்களுக்கும் அரசுக்கும் சம்பந்தம் இருப்பதாகவும் பாராளுமன்ற உருப்பினர் விஜித ஹேரத் பாராளுமன்றில் தெரிவித்தமை குறிப்பிடத்தக்க ஒன்று.
2. இதேவேளை ஜனாதிபதியின் ஆட்சி நீடிக்க வேண்டுமாயின் 1000 இளம் பெண்களின் இரத்தபிசேகம் செய்யப்படவேண்டும் என ஒரு வதந்தியும் உலாவருகின்றது.
3. அரசியல் ரீதியாக கருத்து தெரிவிக்கும் சிலர் நாட்டில் அவசரகால நிலைமையினை நீக்கவேண்டிய நிலையில் அரசு சர்வதேச அழுத்தங்களை முகம்கொள்வதால் இவ்வாரான நடவடிக்கைகளினால் மக்களிடம் பீதியை எற்படுத்தி அவசராகால சட்டத்தை தொடர்ந்தும் தக்கவைப்பதற்கான நடவடிக்கையில் அரசு இராணுவத்தை பயன்படுத்துவதாக கருத்தும் தெரிவிக்கின்றனர்.
4. இன்னும் சில ஆய்வாளர்கள் அண்மையில் இலங்கை சர்வதேசத்தில் எழுந்துள்ள போர் குற்றச்சாட்டுகளை எதிர்கொள்ள பெரும்பான்மை சமூகத்தின் ஆதரவினை பெற்றுக்கொள்வதற்காக இவ்வாரான நடவடிக்கைகளின் மூலம் இனக்கலவரங்களை உருவாக்கி கொண்டு அதன் மூலம் அரசியல் பலத்தை பெற முனைவதாகவும் தெரிவிக்கின்றனர். இதன்காரணமாகத்தான் மர்ம மனிதன் தொடர்பான பிரச்சனைகள் கூடுதலாக தமிழ் முஸ்லிம் பிரதேசங்களில் இடம்பெருவதாக குறிப்பிடுகின்றனர்.
5. மத அடிப்படையில் சிந்திக்கும் சிலர் கடந்தகால வன்செயல்களின் போது வன்மையாக கொல்லப்பட்டவர்களது ஆவி உரிய முறையில் அஞ்சலி செய்யப்படாமையினால் அவை அலைந்து திரிந்து மக்களுக்கு தொல்லை கொடுப்பதாகவும் கருத்து தெரிவிக்கின்றனர்.

இது இவ்வாறிருக்க இதேபோன்ற நிகழ்வு சுமார் 3 வருடங்களுக்கு முன்னர் கலாவத்தை பிரதேசத்தில் இடம்பெற்றதாக தகவல்கள் தெரிவிக்கின்றன. இராணுவ சிறப்பு பயிட்சி பெறும் படைப்பிரிவினர் வன்முறைகளின் போது எவ்வாறு தப்பித்துக்கொள்வது என்ற பயிட்சி நடவடிக்கையின் ஒருகட்டமாக பொதுமக்களது வீடுகளை தட்டிவிட்டு தப்பிச்செல்லும் பயிட்சில் ஈடுபட்டிருந்தமை பின்னர் தெரியவந்தது. ஆனால் தற்போது மர்ம மனிதனால் சிலர் காயங்களுக்கு உள்ளாக்கபட்டுள்ளமை கேள்வியாகவே உள்ளது.

எது எவ்வாறுரிந்தபோதும் இவ்விடயத்தில் பொலிஸாரின் கடமை சரிவர மேற்கொள்ளப்படவில்லை என்ற குற்றச்சாட்டு எழுந்துள்ளமை குறிப்பிடத்தக்க அம்சமாகும்.

Whatever the motive behind is, the victims and mass strongly believe that there are strong links between government, security forces including police and grease men, they point to the following as evidence of this;

  1. When these grease men have been caught they were carrying military/army identity cards
  2. Irakkamam, Pottuvil, Otamavadi, Valaichanai and in a few other places where people did manage to catch some of these “grease men” and people believe that they were not brought to justice and the police or security forces released them.
  3. When people tried to catch “grease men” in Samanturai and some other parts of Batticaloa they enter the police station or army camps of the respective village and the forces protect these “grease men” and blame public.
  4. Last not the least, the government is blindly refusing to put in place any security measures in order to restore law and order in the affected areas and instead are blaming victims and demoralizing them.

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English translation of Tamil content provided by author (we have not checked for accuracy. Readers are kindly invited to cross-check)

This morning, “grease men” have entered a house in Thihilliverdhai in the Chanthivelli area which falls under the Chengaladi Police division and attacked Illaiyathambi Pulenthiran (35) a father of two with a sword. Soon after this incident, civilians in the area overpowered and apprehended a military sergeant from the Santhivelli camp on suspicion that he was one of the “grease men” and handed him over to the military.

Similar incidents took place three years ago in the Halwata (Chilaw) area. It was later learnt that escaping from civilians houses was a stage in the Special Forces training designed to help them escape when engaging in attacks.

Many lives have been lost and many people have been wounded in several parts of the country due to the presence of grease men. Many facts have also been revealed about the background to this incident.

  1. MP Vijitha Herath stated in Parliament that some are attempting to get female blood in order to obtain the legendary gold crown and sword from Dutugemunu and that there is a connection between the Government and these incidents
  2. At the same time there is another rumor spreading that a blood offering of 1000 young women is required for the reign of the president to continue
  3. Some political commentators have stated that since the government is being pressurized by the international community to get rid of the emergency rule, the government is using the military to create a tense situation to justify the continuation of emergency regulations
  4. Other researchers are of the opinion that this is an attempt to gain the support of the majority community and create ethnic disharmony among the communities in the light of the immense international pressure against the government on war crimes and gain political power. This could be the reason why the incidents relating to grease men are prevalent in Tamil and Muslim areas in the East.
  5. Those who think on religious lines say that these are the spirits the dead coming to haunt us, particularly the spirits of those who faced violent deaths in the past.

Some of these “grease men” have also suffered injuries. Whatever the reasons may be the police have been accused of not carrying out their duties. 

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    We do not know the truth of these allegation as everything is so confused at this hour.

    However, appearance of ‘Grease Devils’ all over the country at the same time shows that it is something organized by a powerful and capable group. Today, in Sri Lanka, there is only one institution who is capable in organising and executing such activities. And we know that they always engage in such clendestine activities with a purpose in mind, which at this point in time is anybody’s guess.

    These ‘mysterious’ phenomena are not strange to Sri Lanka although people (at least the majority) did not mind about them becasue the victims were confined only to a section of the community. This time people talk about them because they do not understand why and who. During the second JVP insurrection ‘Pra’, ‘Kola Koti’ and others targeted the JVP youth. ‘White Van’ targeted tamil buisness men. Another group tartgeted and still target the Media Men. A group started to kill the ‘beggers’ in Colombo town. Who talked about them?

    This will go on until the purpose is fullfilled. Then people forget about it. However, meanwhile the ‘violence love’ majority in our villages would rejoice in the oppertunity they are given to inflict pain in the fellow humans and obtain a sadistic plesure.

    The lesson we can learn from the reaction of the village folk all over Sri Lanka to this notorious ‘greas devils’ is the general breakdown of the lawlessness in our socieity. It percolates down from the higest level of the Government to the lowest level in the villages.

  • sabbe laban

    As you say if there is a “break down of lawlessness”, it is a good thing, isn’t it?

    This is another big joke from the voodoo island! Shall we “raise the devil from the hell” as Papa Doc did in Haiti? Maybe our Papa Doc can stage a mass Thovil and invoke the wrath of Mahasona on all the Holy Goats in the West!

  • http://www.indi.ca indi

    Are you guys serious? You’re using mass hysteria to implicate the military and spread rumors about virgin blood?

    • Sad but Sane

      indi, do you mean, “Are you sri lankans serious? sri lankans’re using sri lankan hysteria to implicate the sri lankans and spread rumors about sri lankan blood?”

    • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

      @ Indi,

      We know what the military has done in the past. Do you want us to believe that this is another “International Conspiracy” to tarnish the blah blah blah of the country blah blah blah?

      Head of the UNP Communications Division parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera told a meeting on the 14th that he was in possession of information that proves the whole terror tactic of “Grease devils” was put together by the Army intelligence units following a directive by Mr.Zero Casualties.

      Samaraweera said the group that was behind the “White Van” menace was now operating the “Grease devils.”

      A large number of persons captured by villagers while posing as “Grease devils” have been identified as Army personnel once they were handed over to the police. Samaraweera said that some of the “Grease devils” have been released by the police after they had identified themselves as Army personnel.

      Samaraweera explained that Mr.Zero Casualties was setting the environment to establish military bases at village level by creating a fear psychosis about the “Grease devils.” He added that 5,000 Army personnel have already been deployed to the East and security committees have been established claiming to provide security to the area.

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    Absolute madness & based on the fact that he was unresponsive – https://twitter.com/groundviews/status/103121802888359937

  • Ravana

    PP,
    “During the second JVP insurrection ‘Pra’, ‘Kola Koti’ and others targeted the JVP youth. ‘White Van’ targeted tamil buisness men. Another group tartgeted and still target the Media Men.”

    You seem to be aware of events in the infamous late 1980’s. Could you provide more information on the activities of groups like PRA?

    As far as the intrinsic sadism of Sri Lankans go… Well the name Raksha fits doesn’t it? You can take it from me : )

  • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

    Looks like Sri Lanka (and its bloggers) are bored with all this peace and quiet. Scraping the barrel here, aren’t we?

    • PitastharaPuthraya

      Sanjaya,

      I do not agree with you on this point. GV has done a good job by writing an article on this problem as a responsible media organization they should address the issues faced by the ordinary Sri Lankans.

      Living in a country where every move of the politicians, both from the government and opposition, is preceded by a visit to a South Indian Temple, astrologers are harrassed because they predict something not to the likings of government politicos, all the crookes, thugs, and criminals go on annual pilgrimage to Kataragama, professinals including the doctors and scietists hang limes and chillies from the bonnets of their duty free cars, university adacemics publish scietific papers based on ‘clairvoyance’ etc. GV does not have any other choice but to report on these ‘stupid’ tendencies on our society.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        There’s a difference in reporting ON superstition and nonsense, and simply reporting superstition and nonsense.

      • Sanjaya Senanayake

        Dear Pitasthara Puthraya,

        In this instance GV has not behaved like a responsible media organisation at all. Publishing information without verification is something that no responsible media organisation, or even a great many irresponsible ones would do. And saying in your publication that this information is not verified and could be inaccurate is not an excuse.

        It is journalism like that has got us where we are. When the shit hits the fan people publish rumors and unverified stories, create a panic and people get killed. If more reporters had stopped for a moment to think about what they were publishing, and how it’s going to impact what/how people think, then the world would be a better place.

        Particularly in a situation where there is a lot of tension continuing (this is not something that is over yet) it is unethical, stupid and dangerous. When two men chased a woman in Oddamavadi it was the media that took the grease yaka angle of the story and gave it weight. If that had not been done it would have been a straightforward case of sexual assault. Had it been reported properly then we would not have had this panic, and we would not have had people getting killed.

        Yes there are problems with the way the police/military behave/operate and are perceived by the people. There are clear issues with the rule of law and faith in the legal system. In the east and north there are clear conflicts between the local communities and military/police who are stationed there. All of these need to be addressed and resolved and perhaps if these conflicts did not exist then this grease yaka nonsense would not have gotten as intense as this.

        Without looking at the specific sociopolitical issues that have led to the unrest and the lynching, GV here gives equal weight to the rumors of blood rituals and human sacrifice.

        Use Occam’s razor:

        a) There is a coordinated islandwide military/state operation involving special troops who have painted their faces attempting to steal blood/organs/people for blood rituals/human sacrifice/immortality and to chase women about and scratch them.

        b) There was an incident in Oddamavadi where a woman was almost sexually assaulted and because someone there called the culprit a grease yaka the media gave that angle undue prominence and suddenly every incident of robbery/sexual assault/walking alone in the night is seen as a grease yaka job and innocent people are dying.

        GV should by all means talk about the underlying causes for the unrest but they should also unequivocally squish all rumors of Indiana Jones stories.

        In this post not only have they failed to do so, but they have gone so far as to indirectly validate some of the rumors.

  • Sanjaya Senanayake

    I think it’s shameful that Groundviews too has chosen to add to the Grease Yaka related bad reporting spree.

    Particularly in a situation as tense and complicated as this it is imperative that any reportage be based on facts and data. By going with speculation and panic-inducing-fantasy you have actually added to the problem.

    Yes there are issues of law enforcement and people’s trust in the legal system, but to give weight to stories of blood rituals and human sacrifices is just stupid, irresponsible and downright dangerous.

    Sadly in this instance you have acted worse than most of the media in Sri Lanka.

  • http://angelwithapitchfork.blogspot.com Angel

    While I have had both my agreements and disagreements with the content published on Groundviews, I think that this particular posting stoops to the utterly ridiculous. “Organisation by a powerful group” is not the only explanation. Like in any other society, Sri Lanka has its share of perverts, rapists and opportunists. The island wide “sightings” could very well be by copy-cat opportunists who use the cover given by grease for their own perverse pleasures or to rob/loot.

    What evidence is there that the blood of a 1000 women is being collected? Are they being collected in EDTA bottles or blood donation kits for storage until the requisite number is reached? Or is the dried blood mixed with grease scraped off the perpetrators?

    Publishing such inflammatory material while disclaiming all responsibility (“for open debate and discussion”)would only encourage mass hysteria.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    ‘Grease is the Word’? ( Travolta)

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    This guy looks a homegrown version of the Joker in Batman.

    • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

      What is it with you guys? Deaf, dumb and blind? Can’t you see what is happening? No smoke without a fire…just like no grease devils or white vans without the tacit support of the majority. The Germans turned a blind eye to what Hitler was doing…under Rajapaksa and Brothers and Sons, business might be good…but it’s just that. Don’t delude yourselves. Let’s not be another North Korea.

  • Dilshan Perera

    The indian Government as well as the West continues to throttle SL to remove the emergency law.

    So, The “GREASE DEVIL” is a great move by the Rajapaksa Government to keep the emergency law

    Simple as it is..

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Sanjaya,

    Perhaps the objective of GV’s report on ‘Grease Devils’ was to make the readers understand how conufusing the whole issue is. When I read the comments I also feel that nobody has any clear idea about what is going on. However, nobody seems to beleive that this has something to do with any form of human sacrifice or some form of ‘black magic’. Therefore, I do not think that GV has put hay in to the blazing fire.

    • Sanjaya Senanayake

      If you want something with more than sensationalized, unverified and ‘possibly inaccurate’ claims from anonymous sources read the Sunday Times: http://sundaytimes.lk/110814/News/nws_15.html

      Notice how the Sunday Times manages to actually put together a news story with all the details and a coherent timeline of incidents, without going into the mumbo-jumbo. They convey the confusion and the complexity of the responses without talking about blood rituals and human sacrifice.

      Even the Daily Mirror, which I constantly criticize for a lack of ethics and inability to produce good journalism, have on this occasion been very careful about what they publish, sticking only to well sourced material and not giving any space to rumors and fantasy.

      Groundviews should hold themselves to the same high standards that they demand from mainstream media. When you’ve got to the point where you’re saying ghost stories have not been checked for accuracy, it’s just hypocrisy.

  • Lankan Thinker

    Groundviews,

    You should have made an effort to do some basic fact checking before publishing the account of your correspondent in the East. I don’t know if it is true or false – but it certainly appears far-fetched and does nothing to help the whole ‘Grease Yaka’ situation.

    For example, at the very least you should have waited to check in Hansard if Anura Dissanayake actually made the statement alleged in point (1) of your correspondent’s write up.

  • Groundviews

    A quick note on the comments submitted in condemnation of this article:

    We have not stated that the content of this article should be considered as gospel. The model of GV and our approach to citizen journalism is to publish content for open debate and discussion, and not that any one published version is the absolute and unquestionable truth. As we have stated in the past, anyone is free to comment, including the military. To date, the military has not done so.

    Thank you.

    GV.

    • Sanjaya Senanayake

      Is the debate and discussion that GV wanted to create about what was more likely, blood rituals or human sacrifices?

      Please clarify what exactly the thinking was behind publishing unsubstantiated rumors and superstitions, and how you hoped to create debate and discussion around that.

      Other media reports (DM, ST and Leader) have all stayed away from the mumbo-jumbo of the story and reported on the breakdown in law and order and created discussion and debate about the underlying causes for this mayhem. In this regard they have responded with a much more professional and ethical manner than GV.

      This is not an external writer’s contribution. This was information that came in to GV and someone made an editorial decision to publish it. Therefore GV is inextricably bound to verify and ensure the accuracy of the story.

      Yes, you can defend this in many ways. You could even invoke your right to free expression. You could say this is your website and you can damn well say whatever you want, but the we-never-said-it’s-the-truth stance lies at the start of a slippery slope towards tabloidization.

      You could on the other hand admit that someone made a mistake, say that it is not your editorial policy to give weight to such superstitions and rumors, pull the story or run a retraction or correction, and generally come out looking professional and serious.

      Your call.

    • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

      Come on, GV, that’s unworthy of you. That’s the old “when did you stop beating your wife” trap for the military. Journalism (whether by citizens or cliched hacks) should at least attempt to have a fleeting relationship with facts and verifiability.

      If you can’t do that, create a ‘fiction’ section on GV or all the good work you’ve done risks being undone by this, frankly bizarre descent into Mervyn Silva-land.

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

    Has Groundviews finally ‘jumped the shark’? :) :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark

    Running this story in the manner you’ve done it is hugely damaging to your credibility and is a gift to anti-GV crowd. I’ve often accused GoSL of not being under adult supervision. The same accusation can be made against GV.

    For a fact-based report on the grease yakas, an infinitely better account’s provided here:

    http://pcolman.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/the-beast-of-badulla-copy-cats-and-mass-hysteria/

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    For a serious responsible bit of journalism on this, please read Padraig Colman.

    Going by PresiDunceBean, the Monkey man madness in Mumbai (since disproved as without foundation in fact) must have been caused by the Hitlerian Sinhala government!

    • http://pcolman.wordpress.com/ Padraig Colman

      Thank you for your comment Dr D!

    • http://pcolman.wordpress.com/ Padraig Colman

      Thank you also Mango.