De-greasing social speculation over “grease devils” in Sri Lanka: Part II

Read Part I here.

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Basically the whole plethora and all variations in media, from print to electronic to the web, from Sinhala to Tamil and English including the “updates” via SMS in some instance, broke the news of PC 61006, Navaratne Bandara of the Puttlam police station being assaulted to death by mobs in the town itself. First reports said he was at the time of the attack, returning after duties. Said to have been on “traffic duty”.

A few kilo metres away, in the adjoining “Maanangunduwa” islet, 05 people were injured from police shooting, in an incident that was about, a supposed “grease devil”.

In both reports, either the media had fumbled or the police sources have. Or both have, leaving a mess of reporting.

PC Bandara “was on his way back to the station after traffic duty when he was severely assaulted by the angry mob in front of the Sathosa retail outlet”. (DM – Unrest continues: angry mob kills PC / Monday 22 August).

Further on, the police spokesperson says about this same incident, “….a mob had targeted him (PC Bandara) shortly after he rescued a person who was being attacked near Palavi junction. According to him (who, the dead PC Bandara ? – writer’s question), the gang had pounced on him after the rescued person was taken by the police to the local police station.

NOW, why did the police leave PC Bandara and take away the injured civilian only, to the police station ? Usually the police don’t leave their colleagues, vulnerable like this. After all, PC Bandara was on his way to the police station.

The other Puttlam incident reported from “Maanangunduwa” islet, the DM report (22 August) says, the 02 police constables were returning on a motor bicycle, when they saw the people attacking a supposed “grease devil” and intervened in saving him. The DM report  says, “The people had then set fire to the bike and had assaulted one of the constables while the other had run away.” But it says, 05 people suffered gun shot injuries. According to ST “on line”, its “unidentified gunmen” who had opened fire on villagers.

There were other reports from Kalpitiya too. A Muslim woman in Vannimukkulam stepping out of the house for water in the night, scrapped by a stranger with “pointed nails” and a police constable in ‘civies’ supposed to be on duty at an Advance Level exam centre in Kudirippuwa, Nirmala Mariya Matha MMV, attacked by a mob in the night. Then again in Vavuniya, 02 civil defence force men attacked and handed over to the Vavuniya police for allegedly molesting Muslim women.

Puttlam is now under the military.  The police had emphasized says the “Island” of 23 August, “The military too, deployed troops along with armoured personnel carriers at Puttalam, to bolster the police.”

These have not lessened or loosened the situation in the East. The military there have also moved onto streets and are a very large presence in most parts of the East, reminding the pre war era. The “grease devils” have done their job right. They have once again got the military out on the streets, heavy and strong. Mind you, this military is no easy force to meet in a conflict. They are battle trained and just out of a “bloody war”.

The media again

Traversing the path of this “grease devils”, one comes across many pathways, one could walk along that seems interesting at first, but scary too. First is that of the media that is more than irresponsible. They are also sensationalising the issue, the way they report.

The language, the stories collected, the ghostly and greasy visuals created in narrations, all adding more fear than rationality. The media has also confused the issue with reports that contradict each other in limiting to stories and tales with no clear evidence given in any incident.

No media has questioned, how many of the so called “suspects” handed over to the police have so far been produced in courts and on what crime or violation ? Or else, what is happening to these men ? Have they been let loose again, as people in some parts of the East claim ? That part of the information remains extremely sketchy and unaccounted for, in all media reports and in the recent editorials too, that is not questioned or raised as important.

Meanwhile, the Divayina publication is bent on giving an anti Muslim spin to the “grease devil” conflicts. Its 23 August news item about the killing of PC Bandara in Puttlam is captioned, “Constable attacked while pleading not to” with a qualifying title that says, “Religious place incites mob”.

Another very speculative media coverage of the “grease devil” issue appeared in the columns of Sunday “Divayina” of 21 August. The “defence column” insisted that the “grease devil” is a conspiracy by the Tamil Diaspora. It implicates 02 TNA MPs in spreading false stories against the GoSL and trying to destabilise the regime. The column also claimed a “Tiger news web” in Switzerland is run by a brother of one TNA MP,

The Kinniya Muslim mobs that attacked the navy Camp were supported by a Muslim fundamentalist group, “Jamat Al Islam” the same column said. The picture it creates is that of East going under “Muslim fundamentalism” asking whether it has to be like under the “Talibans”. The columnist therefore proposes, the East should be brought under one of the “top military brass” who routed the Tigers in the Vanni.

The “grease devil” route

Meanwhile the most conspicuous route this whole phenomenon took, and its metamorphosis, is also a crucial factor, to look into. This originated from Ratnapura district in Kahawatte. Serial killing of elderly women and the killer(s) unknown, the killer was first given the term “Boothaya” (Devil or Demon) and established so by the media. This night stalker thereafter moves through Haputale in the adjoining district, to Uva province, despite 02 suspected killers being arrested by the CID for the serial killings in Kahawatte and their identities established.

In Uva the “boothaya” becomes a “Grease Devil” and its “ghostly” facade drops off to be a “human” form. Thereafter “suspects” are arrested, confronted with, or are seen in across Uva in as many as dozen or more villages and estates, from Uduwara in the Ella police division, across Badulla and Mahiyangane to Girandurukotte. Meanwhile there were reports from a few places in the Central province, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy. Not that there were no isolated incidents in few other villages that were talked of, but never officially accepted.

The next major leap of this now popularly called “grease devil” from Uva, was to the Eastern province. It was in the East that the issue became a serious and a sensationalised social conflict. It was in the East, it became a conflict between the civilian people and the police and security forces. It was in the East it became a conflict between the Muslim people and the State forces.

The “grease devil” then moved to Puttlam, another Muslim area. Again the conflict is between the police and the Muslim people. For the first time a police constable is killed and another brutally attacked, to be warded in hospital. In Vavuniya too, the incident was related to the Muslim community and women.

Meanwhile, the “grease devil” has metamorphosed into a “Mystery Man”. In the East, they don’t any more talk of “grease devils”. Now there is no doubt in the social psyche, its very clearly a human stalker, and the “mystery” is, who is nurturing him and safeguarding him. People in the East, the Muslims claim, this “mystery man” is from the ranks of the State security forces. The pointing finger is clearly towards this Rajapaska regime.

Back to the military

This whole “boothaya” to “grease devil” and now to a “mystery man” crusade of social violence have once again provided this regime an opportunity to run with military muscle. With the Muslim society having their daily, late evening prayers in Mosque congregations during this ‘Ramazan’ fasting period, these “riots” have disturbed their whole religious life, prompting the top Moulavis to sit with defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in asking for firm security measures.

In terms of security, the defence establishment could only provide more armed personnel, for more places. Thus the immediate decision to strengthen armed security in whole of Eastern province, Kurunegala and Puttlam. This afternoon (23 August) the defence secretary has arranged for all Mosque Federation religious leaders from Ampara, Batticoloa, Trincomalee, Kandy, Kegalle and Puttlam to meet him on security issues.

 

It would turn out as one, where the Muslim religious leaders, including the “All Ceylon Jamaiyathul Ulema and Muslim Council of Sri Lanka” would accept heavy military patrolling of their areas, to curb the now disturbing “mystery man”. These Muslim religious leaders would now be held responsible, to have their “brethren” from taking on to the streets. All civilian protests and violence, are hence termed, “subversive”.

The Tamil Diaspora, that is often referred to as the “LTTE rump” by this regime and its defence establishment, was publicly held as culpable in the present chaos in the East, by DIG Pujitha Jayasundera. ““We won the war, and these people [the Tamil diaspora] are telling us stories of grease devils” the DIG is quoted by media as saying, addressing a gathering of civil society representatives in Batticoloa. Now the people should support the State security forces in maintaining security and enforcing law and order, had been the message, at this meeting.

Yet remaining “mystery” and Muslims

All of it begs answers to two important questions. What made the “grease devil” travel East and not South, from Kahawatte ? Why was the Muslim community the most sought after community by the “grease devil” and not the Sinhala or the Tamil communities ?

The two questions, seem to have one plain answer. The regime needs justifiable grounds, or a reasonably justifiable situation to have the military as its most powerful political factor in maintaining power, in a society that can have very little in terms of peace, or post war dividends. That military to be out on the streets with enough muscle strength, needs another “chaotic” conflict.

Such a conflict can not be afforded in the South. The “grease devil” therefore would not come to Galle, Matara or Hambantota. It would not come to Kalutara or Gampaha either. There is also no necessity in having such chaos in the Vanni or Jaffna. The Tamil society for now is rudderless and the military presence there is firm and wide spread. Therefore, the only area where such a conflict could be created adequately to ask for stronger military presence was the East, where the Muslim society is in their largest concentration.

A few months ago, few isolated incidents of unidentified gunmen shooting at a rival political cadre or two in the East around Batticoloa was hyped through media, as an issue of “numerous armed groups” operating with illegal arms. The Eastern Commander declared a dead line for the surrender of such arms and threatened to use force, if arms were not surrendered. It was made into a loud issue, but not loud enough to have the security forces out on streets, in this way.

It was the Muslim factor that actually gave the regime what they speculated for. The Muslim culture have proved they are more robust and aggressive than both the Tamil and the Sinhala cultures, when provoked. The spread of rumour targeting women in Muslim society, was also a sensitive cultural area for the Muslim men to get agitated against. And Muslim religion remains the only religion in the world that can have all their faith gathered consistently in mosques on every Friday afternoon and now during Ramazan fast, every evening. They therefore stand mobilised, even in the absence of political parties and other civil society forums and associations.

 

From “grease devil” to “mystery man”, it seems the Rajapaksa regime has got their agenda working. The justification for the military and security forces to be out on the streets, not only in the East, but from the Eastern coast to the North Western coast, including the Central province, has been well established for now. The Emergency Regulations extended or not, the Opposition for sure and this society as well, for another round of events, would not challenge the military out in force and in control of the society. It gave this regime enough justification to have the military back on the streets with some social acceptance and the Muslim leaders asking for security. This seems the end of this “greasing” of society for now with the military back in strength.

  • baduge

    Why should it have only “one plain answer”? Why would the government launch such a covert operation to agitate the Muslim community while it’s been accused of crimes against Tamils? Without enough evidence what you are doing is just speculating (very Sri Lankan). One can just as well speculate the anti government elements (LTTE rump, Tamil diaspora, the West and some western NGOs, anti government Sri Lankan — including Sinhala elements etc.) scheming to push the government further into trouble. That makes more sense than your theory.

    • Zorro

      Baduge, what are you doing as a reply to the essay? providing evidence for anything?

  • Manjula

    This very author is accusing media of misreporting (trying to pretend he is a saint) while he is doing exactly the same mistake by suggesting without any substantial evidence that the current government is creating and protecting grease devils. Where is the evidence except for your own imagination?

    What a shameful attempt to rape true journalism in broad daylight. He must be a great candidate for the known lie factories such as Tamilnet of Channel 4 in my opinion.

  • Candidly

    Whatever the truth of this complex situation some of the mass media in Sri Lanka have reported the situation in a very harmful way. Shakti TV for example have used spooky music, scary pictures & so on to present these incidents like an advertisement for a horror movie. This is not a horror movie! People are being killed and thousands are terrified & panicking. It is the duty of people with positions of responsibility (such as owners of newspapers & TV & radio stations) to calm people down, not incite & frighten them.

  • Panabokke

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2011/08/110823_jaffnaarrest.shtml
    Mass arrest following attack on military camp, 23 August 2011:

    “We were pursuing grease devils who came to the village. They ran in to the army camp. We were demanding the security forces not to give sanctuary to grease devils.” villagers told the BBC.

    • Hikz

      It must be true if a paranoid mob looking beat yet more people to death said so!

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

    The problem in Sri Lanka today is that everybody and his uncle is in the armed forces, police or civil defence force. Sri Lanka has become one big camp and playground for uneducated gun toting boys and men from the village. The Rajapaksa Brothers & Sons government I’m sure have been observing the regime changes taking place in the “Muddled” East and know that people power is all that is needed to topple them from power one day.Though the fall of Tripoli and the capture of Gaddafis sons is the main story doing the rounds in the World media, in Sri Lanka there is not a word about it…about 2 days ago the daily mirror online carried it as their TOP story in the morning, but when I came to office and checked again, it had been taken off and the lead story was about Puttalam being under army control. The funny thing is that this story was nowhere to be found. Not even in the ‘more news’ section either. I believe this was because of self censorship or because of the Government warning the media not to carry it as their lead story since “You Know HOO” was once a bosom buddy of Gaddafi.

    Coming back to the “Grease Devils”…it’s just a government ploy to install more army camps around the country. That will be the only way to stop a revolution from taking place. I am willing to bet my last ‘HOOmanitarian rupee’ that it happens, it will not take as long as 42 years like it did in Libya.

  • Tharind

    It’s embarassing to think that people in rural parts of Sri Lanka still believe in the existence of grease devils. I think it’s even more embarassing that so many people in Colombo are even prepared to consider that the government is involved. The government has come under heavy pressure from India to remove the emergency laws, and has indicated that they will be removed in the near future. It’s ridiculous to think that public concerns about ‘grease devils’ will cause them to change that decision.

    Most disappointing of all, has been the conduct of the Tamil diaspora media outlets. Ever the opportunists, they have not missed out on this opportunity to defame the government of Sri Lanka, and the Sinhalese people. They have failed to consider that former members of the Tamil Tigers, who have formed armed gangs militia groups, still roam parts of the east and north of the island, two years after the civil war eneded. Despite there being no information on the ethnic background of the so-called ‘grease devils’, the Tamil diaspora media has repeatedly stated that they were heard speaking Sinhalese.

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

    @Tharind

    So are these people from “rural parts” delusional? Who or what have they been chasing into navy and army camps? Extraterrestrials or International Conspirators who want to tarnish the image of the “Brothers & Sons Government?” Would you like to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the X-Files investigate further regarding these “Grease Devils?”

    There is no smoke without a fire Tharind…remember the WUFOs (White Unidentified Four wheeled Objects) aka ‘White Vans?’

    ps. out of curiosity…are you a Sinhala Buddhist, and did you vote for Mahinda and the UPFA in the Presdential and General Elections?

    • Jayalath

      Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance. Its people like Tharind who are delusional for deliberatly denying the very existence of Grease Devils. How did so many women get injured? Did they self inflict those injuries? The current government has an hidden agenda. They want to subdue the minorities & even those who oppose them in Sinhalese communities. They think by militarily defeating the LTTE terrorist they have subdued whole of the Tamil people. Now they are marginalizing and discriminating the Muslims as well. One think though Sri Lanka will never progress or develop as long as Sinhala Buddhist only attitude is upheld and the present chauvinist & racist ideology kept alive. The sooner they realize it its better for Sinhalese people and the country as a whole. Grease devil phenomena is true and I pity all those are deny it (they are like frogs in the well). Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position but denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd. Our self-anointed King Mahinda will never achieve his goal of making Sri lanka a miracle of Asia if he & his clan continue in this path. Let me quote a few passages of Lee Kwan Yew who was credited with developing Singapore about what he had to say “Sri Lanka. It is not a happy, united country. Yes, they [the majority Sinhalese government] have beaten the Tamil Tigers this time, but the Sinhalese who are less capable are putting down a minority of Jaffna Tamils who are more capable. They were squeezing them out.” About our President Mahinda “I’ve read his speeches and I knew he was a Sinhalese extremist. I cannot change his mind.”

  • http://www.pattapalboru.blogspot.com Patta Pal

    The media also has a role to play in this, as rumors that already exist are given additional fuel by reporting, which leaves more questions asked than answered. If one reads the news reports carefully, it is shrouded in more mystery.

    They report that persons apprehended have been handed over to the Police by the villagers and then the Police released them, creating a scene outside of the Police Station where the mob maintained these Grease Devils were given protection by the police.

    If for example these are innocent people who have been falsely accused by the mob, then they should be released for lack of evidence to hold them. The police are then doing the right thing. This therefore is also one possibility that the people full of the “Devil” in them cannot contemplate.

    This is but one possibility amongst many!!

  • Leela

    This is what the British PM, David Cameron said about recent riots in the UK in verbatim as ‘Christian Science’ reports:

    “More than 1,200 people have now been arrested across the country. We are making technology work for us, by capturing the images of the perpetrators on CCTV – so even if they haven’t yet been arrested, their faces are known and they will not escape the law. And as I said yesterday, no phoney human rights concerns about publishing these photographs will get in the way of bringing these criminals to justice. Anyone charged with violent disorder and other serious offences should expect to be remanded in custody not let back on the streets and anyone convicted should expect to go to jail.”

    To say the least about ‘Greeze Yaka’, it must be mentioned here that it is nothing new to Sri Lanka. In fact, it is an aged old phenomenon of sex maniacs. So much so, I remember my parents were talking about how people in our village caught one ‘greeze yaka’ and tied him to tree fifty years ago when I was a child. That ‘Greeze Yaka’ happened to be a perverted man from the neighbourhood.

    Leave current politics aside for a moment, there had been Sinhalese, Muslim or Tamil policemen in this country in the past. True, there are not many Tamil policemen right now; but that is no fault of Rajapakse government. What I am trying to say is; whosoever singled out a policeman on patrol, clubbed and killed him are no protesters.

    Be the culprits are Sinhalese, Muslim or Tamil no killer or any accomplice should be left out to become another Wijeweera, Bin Laden or Velu. All the criminals should be tried and jailed for a long term without parole. If Britain could do it, so can we.

    I agree that we don’t need emergency laws to keep them in. We should enact new laws to keep such culprits behind bars just like Britain if necessary.

    It is important we identify not just the so-called protestors but those that instigate them as well. Let me give a clue:

    Remember the manner in which the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) launched their ‘Pongu Thamil’ campaign in the immediate aftermath of Feb. 2002, at the behest of the LTTE signing that infamous peace accord. Remember, under ‘Pongu Thamil’ banner, civilians, including hundreds of students launched violent protests targeting the military and police in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. I think it must be emphasized that there a similarity of those events to what’s going on right now.

    I do not believe for a moment that JVP or its goons could have organised any these agitations for these are not areas where they could muster mass support. However, that doesn’t mean to say, they couldn’t have joined up with TNA, Muslim extremists or any other party to bring about mayhem. All JVP wants is pandemonium to be reigned in the country for them to capitalize it.

    Now, if one wants to learn about Muslim extremism, ask a Sufi Muslim about activities of Wahhabi sect or google ‘Wahhabism in Sri Lanka’. In my opinion, extremism by theists stems from bigoted readings by angel Gabriel to all prophets of ‘Lord God’ and Gospel preaching by his son.

    Anyway, is there anything not to suggest that TNA and Jihadists are capitalising the fright that spill over from misunderstanding of assaults by sex maniacs and/or robbery by bandits as attacks by devilish monsters to promote antagonism towards the very forces that brought about peace that prevails in the country?

    Now that thugs have not just created anarchy but they have harmed unarmed policemen and got even one policeman killed, we can only imagine what they would do next.

    I say, Gota should follow Cameron and clamped down on these so called bogus protesters hard as he could. Surely, it cannot be racism as some commentators try to project here. I shall comment separately on the misleading notion of Kusal’s political opinion later.
    Leela

  • Ravichandran

    Do not have any suspicion about the connection of grease man and the military. the stories are very clear. come and see and ask in Navanthurai and you will come to know what really is happening. They come and harass the people but the people are punished and they set free.It is not only in Muslim areas but also in all tamil areas. Is it to provoke the tamils and bring about another phase of violence?

  • alex fernando

    With police and security forces in excess of 300,000, Sri Lanka is the most militarised state west of pyongyang. The inability to keep the peace in minority regions is malicious or gross incompetence. Sri Lanka’s apologists would have you believe its the latter. The sooner Sri Lanka becomes just another state of India the better for all its peoples.

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

    In the the link given below you will see pictures of how the limbs of Tamils were broken when they protested against the inaction of the army.

    http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=11558

  • http://www.twitter.com/ThilinaRa Thilina Rajapakse

    HOW MILITARIZATION WORKS
    ‘The impact of militarization upon individual freedom is often sketched in the following terms: To militarize is to governmentalize. It is also to centralize. To centralize is to enhance the effective control of the executive over decisions, and thereby to reduce the control exercised by courts and legislatures. To centralize is to enhance the role of the military in the allocation of national resources. Continuing fear of external attack sustains an atmosphere of distrust that finds expression in spy hunts directed against fellow officials and fellow citizens. Outspoken criticism of official measures launched for the national defense is more and more resented as unpatriotic and subversive of the common good. The community at large, therefore, acquiesces in denials of freedom that go beyond the technical requirements of military security. It is, of course, admitted in discussions of the subject that the act of arming does not instantly create the abuses which have been outlined above. Abuses of liberty remain potential and not actual for some time in countries possessing a profound tradition of freedom. Where the social structure is relatively flexible and individual careers are mobile, the ‘road to ruin’ of liberty does not drop suddenly into the bottomless pit. Rather, it is a question of tiny declivities that eventually produce an effective loss of liberty’

    Does the Garrison State Threaten Civil Rights? ~Harold D. Lasswell
    The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 1951 275: 111

  • John

    The problems of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is not alien to that country. All countries of the Indian colonies have similar problems, may be economical, social or political. The prblem is Indian colonialism and imperialism.

    The time has come to decolonise Indian colonies.

    As londg as Indians are there the prblems will not go away. Look at Mauritius, Fiji, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda and so on.

    One stemp is to non Indians in those counries to unite and demand freedom from Indian colonialism and imperialism.

    • Amarnath Sunderagama

      John
      You are probably out of this world….Sri Lanka’s issue is not with Indians. This is about Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims in N-E of SL. You sure don’t know that SL Tamils are people of this soil. They are not from Tamil Nadu. So its always good to keep out of things that one doesn’t know.
      Amarnath S

  • Puran Appu

    What went in Pottuvil is a personal dispute involving one woman with two men. According to reliable sources, one moslim woman who recently came from middle east had an affair with two men. Incident happened when one man was inside the house of the woman, second came and got to know about the affair and inflicted cut injuries to the woman which had baptised & high flies as a ‘grease phenomenon’. Now the culprit has identified and apprehended.

    During the unrest moslim community was able to burn down a weekly ‘pola’ in the town of pottuvil mostly traded by poor vendors from adjacent sinhala villages.

    Meanwhile the two army guys assigned to elephant census were attacked as ‘grease devils’ and had subsequent clashes between army and civilians in the area which resulted one death. Pottuvil police station was also stoned in the process.

    Later politicos entered the scene and culminated the issue. This is how devils are born bred and nurtured to gain political milage by vested parties.

  • rashan

    all these journalist have their agendas , which ever side they are…
    some are just story tellers..

  • johnusa

    The world is watching and we all know who is behind this grease devil and what is the reason behind it. Please stop these kind of stupid and silly things soon. Then why didnt the grease devil did not take place in the sinhalese ares …matara, galle, yakkala, gampaha, other places.why they forgot these places or not in their agenda.

    Think what happened to saddaim hussain, gadaffi, milosivic, hosni mubarak and other leaders like them. so wake up and try to make a peaceful and to be proud one.

  • bandara

    We should help the minorities in our country , they are also our country men sri lankans. So why to discriminate these people. Since the muslim countries have been given us helping hands in all aspects. Being a sri lankan i am shame of these silly things have been happening in sri lanka. The government is aware of these things but no action yet.