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.