Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The killing of planter Nihal Perera: still no justice

It was just over a year ago that a senior planter, Secretary of the Ceylon Planters Association was brutally murdered by - surprise, surprise: the Chairman of the local Pradeshiya Sabha, Anil Champika alias ‘Atha Kota’.

The eyewitness testimony makes for harrowing reading, yet despite public outrage and local protest, absolutely nothing seems to have happened.  The local press took a couple of weeks before even reporting the story properly, but at least they eventually did get around to giving it some proper coverage - although, they shied away from giving it proper publicity.

Coverage and publicity are not the same thing. This story should have been front page, headline news for several weeks. Whatever legal processes should have been followed up closely and questions should have been raised as to why nothing was happening.

Naturally this is far too much to expect from the local media, 'independent' or state. It is some consolation that they did report the story fully (even if it was in the back pages), albeit a couple of weeks after it happened.

A year later, the far more serious anti Muslim violence in Aluthgama and Beruwala did not merit even this limited coverage. The media have mostly concerned themselves with reporting some of the aftermath with no investigation of causes or proper reporting of the incidents themselves.

Most editorials condemned the violence, as did several columnists, which is all very well and may satisfy the conscience of the journalists but the fact remains that editorials and features are not often read. What is mostly read is the news, especially on the front page and in this respect coverage was woefully inadequate. First and foremost people need to know the facts, if they know exactly what happened they will be less ready to blame the victims, a view that is worryingly commonplace and may seed more widespread violence later. (For some good summaries of the Aluthgama violence see here and here)

As with Khuram Shaikh, as with Nihal Perera, as with the Trinco 5 and countless, nameless other victims of the state. These were ordinary people going about their lives in a perfectly normal, ordinary fashion. They broke no laws, were not reckless is behaviour, yet a chance encounter with the agents of State lead to a brutal death.

I hope the killers perish in hell, but that is the best we can expect. With no accountability there can be no justice, past experience testifies. With no news, people will forget and move on. They may only remember, if they or some one they know falls victim. It could be anyone really, even you or me, victims of a bandit State.     

A good piece on the Nihal Perera murder, by a former colleague of his is here, my original piece on Nihal Perera's murder is here.

Update 19th July
I was pleasantly surprised to note that the murderers of Khuram Shaikh have actually been convicted. Lets hope this signifies a change in the system and that other victims may also hope for justice.

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